Despite living in the UK for 25 years and considering herself British, the 29-year-old musician said she is barred from submitting her music for the Mercury prize or domestic categories at the BRITs because she has indefinite leave to remain in the country rather than full British citizenship.
In contrast with similar national awards, such as the Turner Prize and the Ivor Novello songwriting awards, applicants for the Mercury Prize and Brit Awards must show proof of citizenship to qualify. Both awards are organized by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).
Japan, where Sawayama was born, is one of a number of countries that forbid dual citizenship and the 29-year-old star said she is reluctant to renounce her citizenship because of ties with family members.
In an interview with Vice published Wednesday, she branded the rules “othering.”
“If I was snubbed, I would be like, ‘Well, OK, fine… Let’s just make a better record and move on,’” she told the publication. “But the fact that I wasn’t even eligible is like… I don’t even know what that emotion was. It was othering.”
Sawayama released her eponymously titled debut album in April to critical acclaim.
She went on to say that, having contributed so much to the UK, she believes she should be “eligible to be celebrated.”
“I’m signed to a UK label,” she said. “I’ve lived here uninterrupted for the last 25 years. I’m only tax registered in this country. The whole album was recorded in the UK as well as in LA. It was mixed in the UK. My lyrics are in English, except for one verse in one song.”
A BPI spokesperson said in a statement: “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.”
CNN has reached out to Sawayama’s representatives for further comment.