Maya Arulpragasam's self-marketing gene is missing in action.
"Fame is really wasted on me," sighs the electro/dance/hip-hop pioneer better known as M.I.A.
After four years, a high-profile tour with Gwen Stefani, and two critically-acclaimed albums -- Arular and Kala -- Arulpragasam still can't get the hang of the celebrity game.
"I lack ego . . . I think I'm strong, but I don't know how to present that in the shape of fame," she says.
"Half of me is an observer. I don't know if I really want to promote me as being in the centre of s--- all the time."
Instead, Arulpragasam would rather talk about the effects of the never-ending civil war in Sri Lanka, which claimed another eight lives in a train bombing on Monday.
Her father was a member of a guerrilla group, but abandoned the family only a few years after she was born, leaving her single mom to raise two girls and a son in poverty.
Jimmy, one of 12 tracks from Kala, is a reflection of Arulpragasam's childhood. The song samples an old Bollywood tune, Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Aaja.
"My mom used to make me go to work after school," she says.
"I was six years old and I had my little boombox, a tape of Jimmy Jimmy, a cloak and a cardboard cut-out of a guitar. I'd do my shows and people would pay me with food."
While performing is in her blood, Arulpragasam still sounds somewhat guilty about her career choice. Her abrasive clash of Third World rhythms, punk samples, gun shots, dance beats, and hip-hop rhymes may be winning her props as a musical revolutionary, but she feels her contributions are minimal.
"My cousin is 25 years old and is an assistant lawyer and gets out 500, 600 people a year that have been wrongfully imprisoned and stuff (in Sri Lanka)," she says.
"I think 'Wow, that's so amazing.' His way of affecting change is so street level and it's really hard to judge what I'm doing and whether it has any affect."
Which might be why Arulpragasam is so blase about promoting herself. She recently designed her first collection of clothes -- based on the colourful, collage-style artwork used on Kala and her website -- but she sounds rather lackadaisical about trying to sell it.
"All the boxes (of clothes) are sitting in my mom's living room at the moment," she says, laughs.
"So we've got to get them out soon or she'll just burn them or take them down to church."
Arulpragasam's line was partly inspired by her recent stint as a model for Marc Jacobs.
She did a photo shoot for the fashion designer -- after she couldn't get into one of his hoity-toity parties -- and was then asked to appear in People's "Most Beautiful People" issue.
"I declined it," she says. "I didn't know what it meant for me. I didn't want to be on that list before being on a creative person's list, y'know? . . . It's better to promote some other idea about beauty."