Pharrell exclaimed, “She’s an OG!” at the very mention of Hirschberg’s name. After hearing the story, Williams, who was delightfully shocked, said bluntly. “She fucked with the wrong person.” We agreed, but then wondered if he meant Lynn Hirschberg, or MIA. “MIA, man! Do you have any idea how much weight Lynn pulls!?”
This morning, M.I.A. tweeted out writer Lynn Hirschberg’s phone number in response to a piece in this weekend’s Times Magazine. The tweet seemed to suggest that M.I.A. wasn’t much of a fan of the piece.
What was Ms. Hirschberg’s reaction?
“I find it kind of interesting that she would cast the spotlight on the story in any way, shape or form,” said Ms. Hirschberg. “I can’t say what she thinks of it. But it seems you would want it to go away.”
What did she think of the tweet?
“It’s a fairly unethical thing to do, but I don’t think it’s surprising,” she continued. “She’s a provocateur, and provocateurs want to be provocative.”
She also said that she found it “infuriating and not surprising.”
Ms. Hirschberg said she wouldn’t change her phone number.
“The messages have mostly been from people trying to hook up with M.I.A.,” she said. “If she wants to get together with John at Bard next week, I have his number.”
Some people have already drawn comparisons between the M.I.A piece and Ms. Hirschberg’s famous Vanity Fair takedown of Courtney Love from 1992. Any thoughts on that?
“I don’t think the pieces have anything to do with each other,” she said. “I think M.I.A. is a completely different animal—she’s closer to Madonna than to Courtney.”
And wait! Breaking! M.I.A. has tweeted again. This time, she tweeted, “NEWS IS AN OPINION! UNEDITED VERSION OF THE INTERVIEW WILL BE ON neetrecordings THIS MEMORIAL WEEKEND!!!”
“I have no idea what she’s talking about,” said Ms. Hirschberg.
Uh, yikes? You might have seen it making the rounds over the last day or so, but there’s an incredibly in-depth (8,000+ words) article in the New York Times about the “controversial” M.I.A., and she comes off looking terrible in every sense of the word. While it’s debatable that the Times is distorting both truth and context, at least some of what’s reported is completely real and unfiltered. So, what’s a pop star to do when they get blasted in public this bad? Take to Twitter, of course. Just a few minutes ago, M.I.A. posted the following tweet:
917.834.3158 CALL ME IF YOU WANNA TALK TO ME ABOUT THE N Y T TRUTH ISSUE, ill b taking calls all day bitches ;)
…Realizing we had nothing to lose, we called the number to get the “truth.” Rather than M.I.A.‘s number (surprise!), we were led to the voicemail of Lynn Hirschberg, who you might recognize as the writer of the Times article in question. You stay classy, Maya!
Three days later, her son, Ikhyd (pronounced I-kid) Edgar Arular Bronf man, was born. His father is Maya’s fiancé, Ben Bronfman, son of the Warner Music Group chief executive and Seagram’s heir Edgar Bronfman Jr. In one of many contradictions that seem to provide the narrative for Maya’s life and art, Ikhyd was not, as she had repeatedly announced he would be, born at home in a pool of water. As usual, she wanted to transform her personal life into a political statement. “You gotta embrace the pain, embrace the struggle,” she proclaimed weeks before Ikhyd was born. “And my giving birth is nothing when I think about all the people in Sri Lanka that have to give birth in a concentration camp.”
As it happened, Maya, who is 34, gave birth in a private room in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “Ben’s family insisted,” she told me a year later, when we met in March for drinks at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, in nearby Beverly Hills. Before the Grammys, Maya and Bronfman moved to Los Angeles from New York, buying a house in very white, very wealthy Brentwood, an isolated and bucolic section of the city with a minimal history of trauma and violent uprisings….
In January 2009, while the civil war in Sri Lanka was raging, Maya repeatedly referred to the situation as a “genocide.” “I wasn’t trying to be like Bono,” Maya told me. “He’s not from Africa — I’m from there. I’m tired of pop stars who say, ‘Give peace a chance.’ I’d rather say, ‘Give war a chance.’ The whole point of going to the Grammys was to say, ‘Hey, 50,000 people are gonna die next month, and here’s your opportunity to help.’ And no one did.”
Her rhetoric rankles Sri Lankan experts and human rights organizations, who are engaged in the difficult task of helping to forge a viable model for national unity after decades of bitter fighting. “Maya is a talented artist,” Kadirgamar told me, echoing the sentiments of others, “but she only made the situation worse. What happened in Sri Lanka was not a genocide. To not be honest about that or the Tigers does more damage than good. When Maya does a polarizing interview, it doesn’t help the cause of justice.”...
“I’ve had my eye on some jewelry from Givenchy forever,” Maya told me, as we inched our way in bumper-to-bumper traffic. “It is millions of dollars’ worth of gold jewelry. To wear it for these pictures, Givenchy had to send a bodyguard. I liked the idea of a photographer shooting me in his council flat in all this gold, knowing that the jewelry requires a bodyguard.”....It was an exotic mix: her body was downtown and her face was uptown. “All of what I’m wearing is American,” Maya said. “If I was a terrorist, I wouldn’t be wearing American clothing.” She paused. This may have been a joke, but Maya rarely laughs. She speaks carefully, slowly, with a kind of deadpan delivery. Like a trained politician, she stays on message. It’s hard to know if she believes everything she says or if she knows that a loud noise will always attract a crowd….
But she needed to renew her U.S. visa, and until her immigration lawyer could resolve the matter, Maya was stuck in London. “I want to be back in New York by May 3,” she said, staring out the window. “I’m invited to the Met Ball, and all my girlfriends say: ‘Oh, the Met Ball! I want to go to the Met Ball!’ ” The annual Met Ball for the Costume Institute is a yearly black-tie gala held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is co-hosted by Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue. “I’m going with Alexander Wang” — the fashion designer — “and I wanted to wear a dress made out of a torn-up American flag,” Maya added. Wang made a hand-crocheted, gold-metallic dress over a black leather bodice instead….
Maya claims that she has not seen [her father] in years. Diplo told me a different story. “I met her dad in London with her,” he said. “He was very interested in sustainable living and was teaching in London. But he wasn’t a good father.” Whatever the truth is, Maya has gone from trumpeting her father’s revolutionary past in order to claim that lineage to playing down his politics to support a separate narrative. “He was with the Sri Lankan government,” she now maintained, when I saw her in Los Angeles. “He’s been with them for 20 years. They just made up the fact that he is a Tiger so they can talk crap about me.” (Her father could not be reached for comment.)...
She paused again. “America also has no sense of humor,” she continued. “There’s this show in England about kids who want to be terrorists. It’s brilliant! The kids are buying Ajax to make bombs and trying to think of new ways to do suicide bombings. It’s really, really cool.” She paused again. “Because I think that’s funny, I’ll probably be called a terrorist.” She sighed…
Unlike, say, her performance at the Grammys, which was a perfect fusion of spectacle (a nine-months-pregnant woman rapping in a see-through dress) with content (Maya’s fervor was linked to the music), the video for “Born Free” feels exploitative and hollow. Seemingly designed to be banned on YouTube, which it was instantly, the video is set in Los Angeles where a vague but apparently American militia forcibly search out red-headed men and one particularly beautiful red-headed child. The gingers, as Maya called them, using British slang, are taken to the desert, where they are beaten and killed. The first to die is the child, who is shot in the head. While “Born Free” is heard in the background throughout, the song is lost in the carnage. As a meditation on prejudice and senseless persecution, the video is, at best, politically naïve….
“With our video, we were really copying ‘Telephone,’ ” Maya says now, referring to Gaga’s recent video with Beyoncé. “Both our videos are road movies. We kill people, and they kill people. They start out in a prison, and we start out in a squat, hunting people down.” Maya zipped her lips again. “I can’t talk about Gaga anymore,” she said. “All I’ll say is, it’s upsetting when babies say ga-ga now. It used to be innocent. Now, they’re calling her name.”