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It looks like Mr. Teller is up to his old tricks again, seducing the lovely Ms. Maya Arulpragasam into this voluptuous pose for the latest Marc Jacobs campaign.

That’s M.I.A., for the non-Pitchfork-educated. She’s been climbing the charts, soundtracking movie trailers, and getting big-upped as this year’s future of rap (according to Nas, the future of rap circa 1992). Add in a little subcontinental glamour and she should be the perfect spokesmodel, right? Well, almost.

The problem isn’t just her clothing line, which is mostly leggings and jumpers, and probably not much competition to Marc by Marc. Or the fact that she got the cold shoulder at his show earlier this year. Or even her penchant for eye-scorching Brazil-inflected color schemes. No, the real issue is politics.

It was only a couple years ago that M.I.A. was getting the full Lennon treatment, being barred from the country for terrorist ties. (Her father was involved with a Tamil militant group in India.) Her Timbaland collaboration faced some Homeland Security-related delays, but it ended up on the album despite her status as an enemy of the state. And eventually INS loosened up their grip enough to let her play Coachella, but she’s never stopped repping the third world, including its more aggressive elements. Of course, none of that would surprise anyone who’d been through her lyrics sheets, but it doesn’t seem as if Jacobs has bothered. Apparently all those vocal filters are there for a reason.

M.I.A. herself has cred for miles, and shouldn’t be worried about trading a little bit of it for cash. If Mr. Jacobs wants to be part of her rise to fame, he’ll get what he pays for, so he doesn’t lose much either. But as branding marriages go, this is one of the stranger ones we’ve seen.

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom