A little girl from Australia once dreamed about becoming a famous rapper in America. And her dreams came true. That’s the story of the hard-working and beautiful, but mostly brave, female rapper Iggy Azalea, who left home and traveled half of the globe to make it in the hip-hop world.
Amethyst Amelia Kelly, as is her real and full name, was born in Sydney, Australia, but she was brought up in New South Wales. ‘My real name is Amethyst. It sounds like a stage name. My mom is kind of crazy.’ she said. Her mother, Tanya, cleaned houses and hotels and her father, Brendan, was a painter and a comic artist. She also has a brother named Mathias and a sister named Emerald. They lived in a house that her father built with his very own hands. It is said that Iggy has some Aboriginal ancestry. ‘I know my family does because we have an eye condition that only Aboriginal people have.’, she said.
Iggy says her father was the one to introduce her to art and inspire her. Even at a young age, she knew she wanted to be a rapper. ‘I started rapping since, like, fourteen. But I’ve been obsessed with rap from when I was eleven. I hear Baby Don’t Cry. I’ll never forget.’ Although she didn’t have many friends at that time, she did form a group with two girls from her neighbourhood, but the group soon fell apart, as Iggy felt her friends were not taking it seriously. ‘I always felt really alone because no one wanted to talk about the things that I enjoyed, and that was really rap music and hip-hop as a culture. You know, having the shoes, using the words, buying the magazines, seeing the videos. And I had nobody to share it with, so I feel like I lived a lot online.’ Also at that young age, she knew she wanted to live in America. And so she quit high school and began working, helping her mother clean hotel rooms and holiday houses, all with the goal to save money for the trip. She didn’t regret a moment of if, because she really hated school. ‘I’d dropped out of high school without really doing it on purpose – I’d just go home at lunch ‘cos I didn’t have friends, then stay there all afternoon listening to rap. It got to the point where I wouldn’t have passed even if I’d gone back. I was depressed, basically. I didn’t have cable television growing up – there were only six channels you could watch then. The only really good channel was channel 10, and they would play The Nanny Called Fran every night for years. I’ve seen every episode 100 times. I would get my Grandma to make me leopard skin dresses on her sewing machine.’
In 2006, when Iggy was barely sixteen, she told her parents she was going on a holiday with a friend to America. Shortly afterwards, she called them and told them she was not coming back. ‘I was in love with hip hop, and America is the birthplace of that, so I figured the closer I was to the music, the happier I’d be. I was right.’
Iggy would return to Australia every six months, though, to have her visa renewed, until she was granted a five-year visa.
When Iggy arrived in America, she stayed in Miami in Florida and then moved to Houston in Texas, only to move again to Atlanta in Georgia. She found her first collaborator, Backbone from the Dungeon Family hip-hop group. She took a stage name, calling herself by her childhood dog Iggy and the street she grew up on Azalea. In 2010, four years after she arrived in America, she met a representative of the Interscope Records production house, and moved to Los Angeles to begin working for them.
In 2011, Iggy released Ignorant Art, a mixtape which was her first full-length project, with ‘Pu$$y’ as her debut song. That same year, she shot her first music video for the song ‘My World’. In 2012, she released another video, this time for ‘The Last Song’.
T.I., a Southern rapper, agreed to help Iggy with her debut album and became its executive producer. The New Classic was its title. After a disagreement with the Interscope, Iggy decided not to sign with them, and stay in contract with Grand Hustle Records. She released Murda Bizness on her YouTube channel and caused controversy with her remix of ‘Look Out for Detox’ by Kendrick Lamar, titled ‘D.R.U.G.S.’ Iggy was then working on an extended play called ‘Glory’, and she released the song ‘Millionaire Misfits’ and shot a music video for ‘Murda Business’. Glory was finally released in the summer of 2012. That same year, Iggy became one of the acts of the MTV’s 2012 Closer To My Dreams Tour. TrapGold, her second mixtape, was also released that year, and she appeared at the 2012 BET Hip Hop Awards, and went on a mini-concert tour with Rita Ora.
Iggy also became the opening act of the Rita Ora’s Radioactive Tour in the UK, where she performed the song ‘Work’. In 2013, she signed a record deal with Mercury Records and released the music video for ‘Work’. That year she became Vevo’s LIFT artist and filmed an eight-week-long campaign. She also released ‘Bounce’ on Vevo and announced that she will be the opening for Beyoncé on her Australian part of the Mrs. Carter Show World Tour. Iggy then released another single, titled ‘Change Your Life’.
In 2014, Iggy released the song ‘Fancy’, a collaboration with Charli XCX. The song became a huge hit, bringing the worldwide attention to Iggy, and becoming her most successful single yet, becoming number-one on the US Billboard Hot 100 and making her the fourth solo female rapper ever to reach the top of the chart.
Finally, after years of delay, her album The New Classic got released on April. Iggy then went on to feature on Ariana Grande’s single ‘Problem’, and Jennifer Lopez’s ‘Booty’, whose music video is considered to be quite progressive and controversial. More collaborations followed, and Iggy shot a song and a music video with Rita Ora for the song ‘Black Widow’, and ‘Pretty Girls’ with Britney Spears.
Iggy then went on to work on her second album, called Digital Distortion, which is still a work in process. She released the song ‘Azilion’, which was made available for free streaming on SoundCloud, and then she released the single Team in 2016. That same year, Iggy became the new judge on The X Factor Australia, for its eight season.
Iggy has also started her own production company called Azalea Street Productions.
‘I naturally want to be provocative’, Iggy says about her image, and she is right. She is thought to be very progressive, and not shy to experiment with lyrics, fashion, and just her overall artistry. But privately, she is not as energetic as she seems to be. ‘People think I’m more wild than I am. I like going to theme parks, play sports or just hanging out with my friends’, she says. ‘I’m a pretty chill and easygoing person – most people in Australia are, as well. I don’t think I ever really saw a lot of fights growing up. I think it’s hard to get people in Australia angry and want to fight, minus one or two people in the media.’
When she first came to America, Iggy was offered to begin modeling, due to her attractive looks. She even signed with an agency, Wilhelmina Models International Inc. and was featured in promotional ads, like the one for Levi’s Go Forth campaign and House of Holland’s first eyewear collection campaign. She also appeared in the seventh film of The Fast and The Furious series.
Even though Iggy is Australian, she raps with a Southern American accent, due to the fact that she spent a lot of her time in America involved in the Southern hip hop scene of Miami. ‘I lived in the South for five years, you pick up things from your surroundings and teachers. The people who taught me to rap are all from the South and so was the music I had listened to as a teen.’
To Iggy, the making of her music videos are very important, and she also been credited as the director of some of them. ‘For me, visuals are as important as the music, I just love escapism and giving people something to escape to. To me, that’s what art is’, she says.
In 2011, Iggy began dating ASAP Rocky, an American rapper. She tattooed the title of his breakout mixtape Live.Love.A$AP on her fingers. Just a year later, they broke up, and Iggy crossed out the A$AP part of the tattoo.
In 2013, she started a relationship with Nick Young, a Los Angeles Lakers basketball player. They soon began living together in Tarzana in California and were featured in the March 2014 issue of GQ Magazine. In 2015, they announced they were engaged, but only a year later, they announced they were breaking up. The reason for the split was, apparently, Nick’s infidelity and the fact that Iggy wasn’t able to trust him any more.
In 2015, in an interview, Iggy confirmed she had done plastic surgery – breast augmentation, saying it was something she wanted to do her whole life, as she was sick of using padding. Later that year, she also confirmed she had a nose job. ‘Plastic surgery is an emotional journey. It’s important to remember you can’t change everything. You can never be perfect’, she said. She is also one of the people that don’t need to work hard at keeping their body in shape. ‘I do absolutely nothing, actually, believe it or not. People will probably hate me for saying that, but I guess I’m one of those lucky horrible people who, no matter what I eat, I don’t gain a pound. My whole family is just like that. They’re all skinny and tall, and I guess, so am I.’
And when asked about her views on life, she says: ‘I always say – share your happiness with the world, give other people that happiness and let it come back. But some things make me question it. I don’t know if I want some people to know that I am happy. I think a lot of people want to take it away from you, and that’s really scary.’
Written by: Tamara Djordjevic