Inside M.I.A.'s Documentary Premiere in Los Angeles


Earlier this month, I went to a screening of M.I.A.'s new, self-titled documentary. As I arrived, I was dismayed to see that the only seats left were in the far back, but just as I was complaining, Maya herself, along with a pose including Luca Sabbat, shuffled through the seats in the row behind mine, wearing a light-catching gold dress that screamed Matangi. I almost hyperventilated and continuously debated whether I should play it cool or turn around and confess my love for her. I chickened out, so this is my way of telling her what an inspiration she is in both fashion and activism.

Photo by Jacqueline Verdugo for iHeartComix

 The documentary was a biopic centered around the theme of once a refugee, always treated like a refugee. M.I.A. forged her way through the music industry writing political and controversial lyrics about the turmoil of her home country, Sri Lanka, because news outlets didn't care to cover it. 

Once she became popular, the American media tried to demonize her efforts by attempting to paint her as a sellout and a "foreigner." Being a foreigner, however, was where her determination derived and in that, she married a traditional culture to modern fashion and film, expanding her expression into a multitude of platforms creating an unmatched standard for other artists. But to those unaccustomed to a successful brown woman, she was a terrorist in bright leggings.

M.I.A in the documentary "Matangi / Maya / M.I.A." Photo by Abramorama

At one point, M.I.A. tweeted a graphic video of executions in Sri Lanka, but when the public turned a blind eye to the harsh reality that we happily dance to in "Galang," she released the "Born Free" music video depicting the imprisonment and mass killing of red heads. Obviously a metaphor for the tweet mentioned, there was outrage over ketchup being spilt rather than blood being spilt, again proving just how sheltered and corrupt the media can be. The video is even censored on YouTube.

Photo by Jacqueline Verdugo for iHeartComix

Privileged Americans have this idea that immigrants must remain immigrants otherwise they will eventually affect their untouchable whiteness. However, diversity is progression, so as long as we have trailblazers such as Maya who preach "pull up the people, pull up the poor" then we can certainly find the strength and compassion to believe in ourselves and "free up our love." Thank you to my personal icon, Matangi Arulpragasam.