This weekend, on her record label’s website, the pop star released a couple of low-quality audio snippets of the interview, one of which gave a bit of context to a quote where Maya — M.I.A’s real name — waxes revolutionary while nibbling on an expensive snack.
Here’s the quote:
“I kind of want to be an outsider,” she said, eating a truffle-flavored French fry. “I don’t want to make the same music, sing about the same stuff, talk about the same things. If that makes me a terrorist, then I’m a terrorist.”
As profile-writing goes, it’s subtle and kinda brilliant. Problem is, the recordings, titled “War Crimes and French Fries” and “Here’s the Truff,” reveal that Hirschberg sort of pushed the fries on a poor, unsuspecting Maya, promising that The New York Times would be footing the bill and urging she should get whatever she wants. It’s now clear that Lynn was REALLY into getting the fries.
While the episode should be sort of embarrassing for Hirschberg, who is moving on to become Editor At Large at W Magazine, it doesn’t exactly vindicate Maya. In the rather long profile, titled “M.I.A.’s Agitprop Pop,” Hirschberg gives us plenty of reason to not buy wholly into the M.I.A. persona. Throughout the course of the piece, Hirschberg suggests Maya is exploiting an incendiary political situation in her native Sri Lanka to benefit her celebrity and a luxe life in Los Angeles.
Avoiding these sorts of contradictions has long been a problem for pop artists and celebrities who have used political causes as their material. The story’s cover line alludes to “M.I.A’s Radical-Chic Rap,” a reference to an awesome essay by Tom Wolfe that savaged the 1970s-era contradictions of the Black Panthers and its coterie of wealthy white supporters like Leonard Bernstein and Barbara Walters. (Here’s a link to the piece.)
For her part, Hirschberg has responded by refusing to change phone number, now exposed to the Twitterverse.
Finally, here’s Maya’s take on the fashion world:
“I am so tired of stylists,” Maya said. “They are ruining individual style. If Patti Smith was starting now or Debbie Harry, the stylists would try to dress them, to change them. Their style would be lost.” Maya, who was wearing jeans made out of denim that had been quilted into a tribal pattern and a loose crocheted top in red, wanted the Hermione de Paula girls to incorporate her ideas with their existing designs that she had seen on their Web site. “They have a jumpsuit that I like,” Maya said. “But instead of using their fabric, I want them to use a fabric that’s made from a document I found.”