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Rina Sawayama nominated for BRIT Award after forcing U-turn on discriminatory rules

Patrick Kelleher March 11, 2021
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Rina Sawayama

Rina Sawayama performs on stage at O2 Academy Brixton. (Redferns/ Gus Stewart)

Rina Sawayama has been nominated for a BRIT Award after she forced the competition to change its discriminatory rules.

The Cherry singer has been shortlisted for the 2021 Rising Star Award at the BRITs, which counts Adele, Florence + The Machine, Sam Smith, Ellie Goulding, Rag ‘N’ Bone Man and Celeste among its former winners.

The pop icon was born in Japan but has lived in the UK for 26 years. Despite this, she learned last year that she was not eligible for consideration by both the BRIT Awards and the Mercury Prize because she is not a British citizen.

Both contests changed their rules in February after Rina Sawayama publicly criticised them for deeming her “not British enough” to be considered.

After her nomination was announced, Sawayama said: “I literally fell to the floor when I found out that I’d been nominated for Rising Star.

“I really can’t put into words how much this means to me given that I wasn’t eligible for this award a few weeks ago and now that door has been opened for future generations of artists like myself. Thank you so much to everyone who voted for me, it means the world.”

The star’s debut album SAWAYAMA was released to critical acclaim in 2020, and was later named by Elton John as his favourite record of the year.

She is nominated alongside Griff and Pa Salieu. The winner will be announced on 19 March.

Rina Sawayama ‘cried’ when she found out she was not eligible

Rina Sawayama’s nomination for the Rising Star BRIT Award comes just weeks after the BRITs announced its historic rule change.

Under new rules, artists will have to meet one of three criteria to be eligible for BRIT Award consideration: they must either have been born in the UK, hold a UK passport, or have lived in the UK for more than five years.

Speaking to Vice in 2020, Rina Sawayama said it was “heartbreaking” when she discovered she was not eligible for the BRITs and the Mercury Prize.

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

The singer-songwriter said she was “over the moon” after rules were changed in February. She thanked fans for starting an “important conversation about Britishness” with the hashtag #SawayamaIsBritish.

Elton John welcomed the rule change, writing on Twitter: “I was so sad for Rina Sawayama when she was excluded from the Mercury Prize last year but I’m happy to see the rules changed so the next generation of multi-cultural British talent can be recognised.”

Related topics: BRIT Awards, Rina Sawayama

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