BRITS and Mercury Prize change eligibility rules after Rina Sawayama snub backlash

Rina's "over the moon" at the news


Words: Jamie Tabberer; picture: Attitude

The BRIT Awards and the Mercury Prize are to change their eligibility rules following controversy over last year's Rina Sawayama snub.

The pansexual British-Japanese pop star scored one of the year's most critically-acclaimed albums with SAWAYAMA, but was not considered for nomination for the awards.

Rina was born in Japan, but has lived in the UK for 26 years. The 30-year-old holds indefinite leave to remain in the UK, but was told she was not eligible for the BRITS because she is not a British passport holder. She called the news "heartbreaking" at the time.

She also told the BBC: "I think a lot of immigrants feel this way - where they assimilate and they become part of the British culture... and to be told that we're not even eligible to be nominated is very othering."

"Over the moon"

Now the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has confirmed a rule change affecting the two ceremonies. As per Sky News, artists must meet one of three criteria to be considered: being born in the UK, holding a British passport or having been a permanent resident for more than five years.

Responding to the news in a statement, former Attitude cover star Rina said: "I'm over the moon to share the news that following a number of conversations the BPI has decided to change the rules of eligibility for all nominees for the Brit Awards and Mercury Prize.

"Starting this year, artists (like me) will be eligible for nomination even without British citizenship. The rules have broadened to include those who have been a resident of the UK for five years.

"I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for sharing the #SAWAYAMAISBRITISH campaign worldwide and igniting important conversation about Britishness.

"Without your collective voice this wouldn't have happened. In my 26th year of living in the UK I'm so proud that I can help make this systemic change for future generations, so that in years to come we can see a more diverse definition of British musical excellence. The idea that my music can be part of that is unbelievably exciting. I want to thank Zing Tsjeng for sharing my story and the BPI and Ged Doherty for having these important conversations with me. So one last time: SAWAYAMA IS British!"

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A post shared by Rina Sawayama (@rinasonline)

The singer will now be eligible for this year's Rising Star BRIT award.

Speaking about the controversy last year, the 2020 Attitude Breakthrough Award winner told Attitude: “The only reason I ever brought it up in the first place was because the BBC and The Guardian [did], and [then] Elton John did a post about the fact I wasn’t nominated, and I was on the snub list."

The star added: “I was, like, ‘This kinda sucks.’ I just wanted to tell my story, really, I didn’t think it would blow up like that.”

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