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Rina Sawayama ‘not British enough’ for British awards

The pansexual British-Japanese pop star says the news is "heartbreaking".

By Will Stroude

British-Japanese pop star Rina Sawayama has spoken of her hearbreak at discovering she will not be eligible for several prestigious British music awards.

The ‘XS’ singer, who has lived in the UK for 25 years after her family moved from Japan, has indefinite leave to remain in the UK and considers herself British, but because she does not hold a British passport, will not be considered for nomination by The BRIT Awards and the Mercury Music Prize.

“It was so heartbreaking”, Sawayama told VICE about the moment she discovered she couldn’t submit her debut album Sawayama for the awards.

“I rarely get upset to the level where I cry. And I cried.”

The pansexual singer, 29, added: “It was othering.”

Sawayama, who studied at Cambridge university before forging a pop career and winning widespread acclaim with her unique brand of Britney-esque pop twinned with nu metal and R&B influences, moved to the UK at the age of 4 and grew up in London.

“All I remember is living here”, she says.


“I’ve just lived here all my life. I went to summer school in Japan, and that’s literally it. But I feel like I’ve contributed to the UK in a way that  I think is worthy of being celebrated, or at least being eligible to be celebrated.”

Due to Japanese restrictions on dual citizenship, Sawayama is unable tyto apply for British citizenship and a passport without giving up her Japanese passport – something she briefly considered doing to make her music eligible.

“Because I wanted it so bad” she said. “But then I was like, it won’t solve anything. I fundamentally don’t agree with this definition of Britishness.

“I think I’m really British, and I don’t like just sorting out a symptom of something and leaving the cause to someone else to deal with.”

Soon after the interview was published, the hashtag #SawayamaIsBritish began trending on Twitter, as fans urged the BRITs and Mercury Music Prize to re-evaluate their current eligibility rules.

A BPI spokesperson commented: “Both The BRIT Awards and the Hyundai Mercury Prize aim to be as inclusive as possible within their parameters, and their processes and eligibility criteria are constantly reviewed.”