Mitski Miyawaki has no interest in being your poster child for progress. She’s a witty, guitar-wielding Asian woman playing American rock music—a genre typically populated by white dudes. And she knows exactly what narrative could be spun from the sheer fact of her identity. But there’s a thin line between real growth and exploitative back-patting, and she’s very, very, very wary of her press. “I think it’s important [to talk about diversity] but I’ve become selective with how and where I talk about it,” the 25-year-old musician who records as Mitski, tells me when I ask about being asked about being a woman of color in this industry. “I’ve found that me talking about it isn’t actually making a difference or benefiting anyone. It just benefits the publication, because then they look progressive and feminist, and it becomes part of their brand.”

Even as I write this, I’m aware of the countless Mitski profiles and reviews already framing her as the non-white savior the fallow genre of indie rock needs. But she deserves the press simply because she’s making some of the best music right now, not because she can easily be slotted as a vehicle for vapid enlightenment. “I talk about being Asian and then that becomes the article,” she says. “All the white people reading the article feel good about themselves because they are reading about this person of color being an artist. It stops there and everyone goes back to their day. When other young Asian girls hit me up about what it is like or what my music might mean to them, then I talk about it all day. For me, now it’s just a matter of doing it when it counts and not just servicing all the time.”

 

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