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Byron Shire
October 4, 2023

Mullum dropout makes it in USA

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Mandy Nolan

Adolescents are told that staying in school is the only way they’ll achieve their goals. But that’s not necessarily true, in fact there are many stories that contradict rigid educational compliance as the only recipe for success, and perhaps it’s the aberrant thinker, the person who sits firmly outside the square, who has what it takes to do something extraordinary.

Let’s take for example 15-year-old Amethyst Kelly, a Mullumbimby girl who dropped out of high school because she felt ‘discouraged to stay’.

Seven years on she’s known by her stage name Iggy Azalea, a model (signed as the new face of Levi jeans) and a hip hop artist signed to Island Def Jam and Mercury Records.

In her Youtube video Work – which has over 12 million hits btw – Iggy tells her gutsy story.

‘No money, no family, sixteen in the middle of Miami.’

A very young and idealistic girl saved money cleaning hotel rooms to go to the US on a holiday with friends, and then once in the US she rings her parents to let them know she’s not coming back.

That’s not just crazy. That’s terrifying. A lot of young people at this age can’t even change a toilet roll.

This was the beginning of making what would have appeared to any school guidance counsellor as a ludicrous dream a reality.

For Iggy, hip hop was a passion that went to the core. ‘I’m not sure exactly what it was,’ she says. ‘I think some things, especially the ones you have passion for, are not always easily explained or even logical.

‘Rap music just called my name louder than other styles.’

Iggy discovered her passion for rap around 14. ‘I would take the bus to Lismore or fly to Sydney to meet other kids who were into rap music too.

‘I didn’t finish school. But I got my GED in America two years ago.’

A young woman hellbent on pushing the boundaries and redefining old ideals it’s radical to see her front and centre in a genre that prefers men. Usually black men. Black American Men. Somehow a little (well not so little she’s almost six foot) white girl from Mullumbimby has smashed her way into the arena.

Iggy is philosophical about how she went from being broke and illegal, to spearheading an impressive career.

‘I’m addicted to my passion’

‘It’s having something that people are interested in hearing that is the difficult thing and why many people go unnoticed. I don’t think race is a hindrance when it comes to being heard. Picking the right words is the hard part.’

So does she identify herself as a feminist? Usually ‘hot’ girls like her with great booties are in the background doing the back-up vocals.

‘I suppose some may argue I am a feminist. For some reason the word feminist makes stupid people think I have hairy underarms and hate men so in an attempt to remain likeable to them, I just describe myself as someone sick of stereotypes and gender roles in the media.

‘I feel lack of variety in the characters we are force-fed results in more small-minded thinking.’

She credits the internet and her passion as being the two forces that have been the most influential in her meteoric rise to the lady rapper hall of fame.

‘I’m addicted to my passion,’ she says, ‘I couldn’t help but keep going. It’s all that makes me happy.’

A powerful role model for other kids who don’t fit easily in the system, Iggy credits her father as influencing her mindset.

‘My edge is a result of being influenced by my father’s love of great creative thinkers. I was someone who always felt very alone. I had to make my way front and centre so I could find like-minded people and have companionship. In my search for these things, I realised how many other young people feel the way I felt – and so my drive has changed and I’m now motivated by them. I’m trying to inspire them and make them feel comfortable to be themselves.’

Wow. Now that’s a girl who’s got herself sorted. She’s a role model for all those other girls feeling disconnected and looked over to find their passion, get a dream, and like Iggy, start working on your shit.

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  1. This is also most definitely a lesson for educators of our region.
    I’ve had kids in the Shire schools since ’97 and I have watched and dismayed at the culture change over that time.
    We were once hippy environmentalists who nurtured creativity and tolerance and diversity who produced scores of creative school graduates.
    Times have changed and picking up papers in the school grounds is now a punishment and no longer caring for the environment; barriers of an ‘us and them’ nature have been wedged between students and teachers and respect for individuality has been stomped on by the Naplan / MySchool generation of governments.
    Supportive parents and creative kids don’t always go together… Lucky for Iggy. Go Girl!!!


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