BiographyMathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam (a.k.a. M.I.A.) was born in Hounslow, London, England, in 1977. Her parents are Sri Lankan, and when Maya was six months old, the family moved back to their homeland. Maya's father was one of the founding members of Sri Lanka's Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a guerrilla group fighting for the independence of the country's Tamil minority.
maya arulpragasam becomes m.i.a.As a result, Maya never got to know her father, who only visited his children for a few minutes a year, in the middle of the night. Maya and her brother and sister were told he was their uncle, to protect them from government interrogations.
Maya lived in great poverty with her family, first in Sri Lanka, then in Madras, India, when the violence in Sri Lanka became too dangerous. The family moved back to Sri Lanka, but by the mid-1980s, the fighting had escalated again. After repeated escape attempts, Maya's mother took her children to London, where they were granted refugee status in 1986. They still had next to nothing, but at least they were safe.
m.i.a. moves to britainThe Arulpragasam family settled into a crime-ridden housing project in southwest London, which was fraught with racial tensions. While Maya's mother did piecework stitching medals for the British royal family, Maya herself was introduced to western music for the first time, specifically hip-hop. Although she had excelled academically before she moved to Britain, Maya's lack of knowledge of the English language hindered her schooling and social life until she mastered it.
After high school, Maya enrolled in the prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, where she studied film and fine arts. She first found success through her art, as she was short-listed for a prize and had a collection of her art published under the title M.I.A. Maya chose the name because of its similarity to her own name, and because "so many of my cousins are missing in action in Sri Lanka," she later explained.
Maya returned to Sri Lanka to make a documentary film, but the experience was unsettling and she abandoned it, accepting instead a commission for another doc from her art-school classmate, electronic shock-rocker Peaches. Peaches introduced Maya to a crude electronic drum machine, on which Maya began to experiment. "I was bored and tried to write a song," she recalls.
m.i.a. releases arularEventually, Maya put together a demo tape, which was discovered by Pulp's Steve Mackey. Along with Ross Orton, Mackey reworked one of the songs on Maya's tape, "Galang," which became an underground hit with British deejays and critics in 2003.
As "M.I.A.," Maya signed with XL Recordings, then got to work on her next single, "Sunshowers," which was released in 2004.
In 2005, she re-released "Galang" in the U.S. and released her debut album, Arular, named as a kind of tribute to her estranged father.
m.i.a. releases kala and the hit track paper planes; makes the 2009 top 99 In 2006, M.I.A. recorded her second studio album called Kala, which was released the following year. Mags like Rolling Stone and Blender touted it as one of the best albums of the year. Then, she came out with the hit track "Paper Planes," which was featured on the soundtrack for the comedic flick Pineapple Express (2008). It garnered her a Grammy nod. She also contributed songs to the soundtracks of the hit movie Slumdog Millionaire.
Also that year, in addition to her work in music, M.I.A. dabbled in her other passion -- fashion -- and modeled for Marc Jacobs' Spring/Summer 2008 line.
It paid off -- AskMen.com readers voted for M.I.A. in our 2009 Top 99. She came in at No. 74 on the AskMen.com Top 99 Most Desirable Women list.
m.i.a.'s pregnant performance at the 2009 grammys A very pregnant M.I.A. impressed audiences with her energetic performance, along with Lil Wayne, T.I., Kanye West and Jay-Z, of their hit song "Swagga Like Us." Her baby was due that night and she went into labor shortly after returning home from her performance.