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Pitchfork: When you're in Sri Lanka, do you feel like people identify you as a Londoner and vice versa?
M.I.A.: When I go to Sri Lanka-- I mean, I haven't been that many times-- but when I went, it was really difficult, just because of how I dress and what I look like. They go, "Oh my God, she's so Westernized." I have brown bits in my hair, and my Mom was practically on her knees screaming, "Nooo! You have to dye your hair before you leave the house or I'll kill myself!" I'd be like, "What are you freaking out about?" and she'd explain the Tamil Tiger girls have been in the jungle for so long that their hair goes brown, and if you walk out like this, you're going to get shot because people will think you're a Tamil Tiger girl. And I'd be like, [posh accent] "Mom, this is fashion! From England! L'Oreal hair color, like, get with it-- because I'm worth it!"
That's how they knew I was Westernized, because I'd be brave and I'd walk to the shops. And they'd be like, "No no no-- you just don't do shit like that around here. Get off the bicycle and quit it, 'cause you will get killed."
Pitchfork: But when you're in London-- or anywhere in America for that matter-- do people identify you as Sri Lankan first and foremost?
M.I.A.: I'm stuck in the middle with nowhere to go. Nobody wants me! So I have to throw myself out there and let anything happen, because I have no sense of home. Part of me wants to go through a mad journey because it's like I have nothing to lose. I have no one to disappoint if I get it wrong. And it's brilliant, because instead of being depressed about not having a home, you can embrace it and turn it into freedom. It frees me from having any cultural connections.
I didn't feel good growing up back in the day in London with Sri Lankans, 'cause they'd look down on us. They'd be like, "Oh, you haven't got a Dad. My Daddy's a doctor, and we're going to private school, and then I'm going to Cambridge to be a doctor." And I knew when I was a kid that was never going to happen to me. I had no parents helping me with my homework. My parents never came to a parents' meeting in school, I went to my own-- "How'm I doing this year?" [laughs] Then when I started doing art, and everyone was like, "Oh my God, your children are so thick that they have to take art!"