M.I.A.

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Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam grew up in the midst of the Sri Lankan Civil War, moving frequently and eventually going into hiding from the Sri Lankan army. Her father, Arul - who eventually adopted the name Arular - became a political activist and founding member of the Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students, a Tamil independence movement. Eventually, Maya's mother moved them to India, where they lived in a derelict house. On the rare occasions that Arular was able to have contact with the family, he was introduced to his children as “Uncle,” to protect them. After attempting to move back to Sri Lanka, Maya’s mother, Kala, moved them to London permanently. Arular remained in Sri Lanka, becoming an independent peace mediator. 

Spending her adolescence in the Phipps Bridge Estate in London, Maya’s was one of only two Asian families and she was exposed to extreme racism. While at Central St. Martins College, she became passionate about making films and art that would be accessible to everyone and depict racism realistically, inspired by radical cinema and even being approached by John Singleton who was impressed with a script she had written, though she turned down his offer.

She began her artistic career in visual art, creating album covers for the British band Elastica. She returned to Sri Lanka to film a documentary about Tamil youth, but had to stop because of the harassment she experienced. In 2001, her first public art show featured graffiti and political street art from Sri Lanka mixed with consumerist images from London.The show received an Alternative Turner Prize nomination, a published book. Jude Law was among early buyers of her art. 

After being lent a drum machine by Elatica’s lead singer, Maya recorded a demo tape, including the single “Galang” which would reach no. 8 on the U.S. dance charts. Two years later, M.I.A. released her first album, Arular - named after her father - which she recorded out of her bedroom in London. The album addressed global conflicts and oppression, and reached number 3 on the U.S. dance charts. Her second album, Kala - named after her mother - came out in 2007, featuring the smash hit “Paper Planes” which reached number 1 on the U.S. dance charts, and the album itself was named best album of the year by Rolling Stone and Blender

In 2009 she was named Best Female Hip-Hop Artist at the BET Awards and was nominated for a Grammy for best record of the year. 

She began working with major Hollywood players such as Jay-Z, Spike Jonez and Danny Boyle. She earned an Oscar nomination for her song O…Saya” for the feature film Slumdog Millionaire, which was also the first song released by her own label N.E.E.T. In 2008 she performed at the Grammy Awards while 9 months pregnant. 

N.E.E.T. went on to sign Baltimore musician Blaqstarr and indie rock band Sleigh Bells, as well as visual artist Jaime Martinez. Her album, Maya, was released in 2010 and hit number 9 on the Billboard 200. She is known for her philanthropic work and achievements in music, film, graphic design and fashion. 

Clearly, Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam aka, M.I.A., is a BOSS ASS BITCH. 

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