Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam is on the cover of this month’s Paper Magazine
READ THE FIRST ENTRY written by Jonathan Durbin THEN BREATHE IN THE AWESOMENESS
M.I.A. is doing it wrong. For years critics and marketing execs have been telling her that if she were to choose a single medium — art, music, politics, whatever — she’d be more successful. But that’s success on their terms, not hers. And above all else, M.I.A. has made a name for herself over the past seven years by not caring about their terms. This is a woman who is deep-down, ground-in, almost genetically punk rock. She’s perhaps the most fiercely political performer active today, and that creates friction when the mainstream comes courting. The mainstream wants the music, not the message; the pretty wallpaper, not the hard questions; the style, not the substance. And even if M.I.A.’s substance is, at times, thoroughly inscrutable, there’s no questioning she presents herself the way she wants to, not the way she’s been told she needs to. She’s not safe. You don’t know what she’ll do next. Unlike many of her celebrity contemporaries, she refuses to fade into the background, and she’s been rewarded for her temerity. M.I.A. is the only artist ever to be nominated for an Academy Award, Grammy Award, Brit Award, Mercury Prize and the Alternative Turner Prize. More importantly, she’s raised awareness of the strife caused by the civil war in Sri Lanka — the conflict that displaced her family and precipitated her move to the U.K. as a child refugee.
Photographed by Jessica Craig Martin