Zusette DeLeon of New Milford has always dreamed of seeing her name in lights.
Well, that day finally came over the weekend, when the 22-year-old saw her own billboard for the first time in Times Square.
The advertisement is for her new single "Special 4 U" featuring Tory Lanez, now available on Apple Music.
"It was insane," said the vocalist, whose artist name is simply "Z."
"To see that unfold in real life was the most insane thing."
The first person who noticed DeLeon's talent was her music teacher at the Memorial School in Paramus.
She was only in Kindergarten.
"My mom called me over to her one day after school and I sang for her," DeLeon recalled. "She asked me if I liked singing and I said I loved it."
So much so that she couldn't see herself doing anything else, even when she was supposed to be in class.
"I went to college for about a year," DeLeon said. "I would go to class, park my car at the building and just think to myself, 'I can't go in here. This isn't what I want to do.'"
Meanwhile, she released her first song "Nobody's Better" featuring Paterson rapper Fetty Wap.
It was clear to DeLeon that she could make it in the music industry as long as she put all of her efforts into doing so.
"I was like 'Mom, I love you and I want to do something, but not college,'" DeLeon said. "'I can't do what I want to do through college, can I please just pursue music?'"
Her mom's rule was simple: DeLeon could take one year off. But if her music career didn't progress, she'd be back in the classroom in the fall.
"Four years later, I haven't gone back to school," the artist said. "But my music career is flourishing because i've been able to give my 115 percent to music."
Trained in opera, classical, Broadway and pop, DeLeon has simple advice for others who also feel that college might not be the best path to reaching their goals.
"Follow your gut and give it your all," DeLeon said. "If you're really passionate and have the talent to be successful in that field, then don't let anything stop you -- and don't get discouraged when things don't go your way.
"In my industry, things aren’t guaranteed and you can’t make a plan for anything. But you have to stay positive and you have to be determined. You can’t give up."
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