Iggy Azalea is a young woman from Australia with her heart set on making it in America. This American Dreamin‘ series was started for myself and people just like her, to document our journey of chasing a life and career in the United States. Currently residing between America and England as she records her debut album The New Classic, Iggy’s the definition of not judging a book by its cover. The 22-year-old has defied stereotype and convention to be the first female to feature on XXL magazine’s Freshmen Issue cover and be signed to T.I.’s Grand Hustle label, in the process becoming Australia’s most commercial hip-hop face ever. Yeah, she’s blonde. Her body is nuts. Not to mention fiercely intelligent, outspoken and talented. Iggy has all the ingredients to be destined for success but none of those qualities would have meant a damn thing if she didn’t do one thing: focus on her dream.
You first left Australia when you were 16 years old and have pretty much lived in America since. What kind of visa were you traveling on in those early days?
“I was lucky enough to have a stepfather who worked for the airline Qantas as a flight attendant and he would travel to LA weekly. I was living in America under a visa waiver until 2012 [editor’s note: more than six years total] and would travel home every three months with him, get on the plane and come right back on his flight the following week. Fortunately for me I was able to get away with this because I would cross the border with my ‘dad’ and have a staff ticket that would show me leaving at the same time as him. Once I’d get in the country I’d just change my ticket so that I could stay until the 90th day on my visa waiver. Staff tickets are only airport taxes, so it’s very cheap to travel this way. If I hadn’t of had a family member with this job I can’t see how I would have afforded the travel or avoided being deported for that many years. I like to think it was fated that way.”
What work visa are you currently on?
“I’m currently on a five-year O visa. This was extremely difficult for me to get as I’d been earning money illegally in America for so many years, and as my profile rose in the media it became pretty hard to deny. Thankfully they turned a blind eye to that and approved me, but I did have to do charity work and other things to help sway them to look the other way. Eventually I crossed the border from USA to Canada and obtained my visa there. I cried when I got it. A visa meant more to me than my own label deal!”
How stressful did the visa process get at times?
“Extremely stressful. For years it’s been the biggest worry of my life and something I was constantly thinking and plotting on. It feels like you have 90 days to live and you have to do all you can before then in case you don’t make it back over the border the next time you travel. Having that mentality I think made me work a lot harder than others to chase my dreams and ultimately I’m thankful I had that fear to motivate me.”
What kind of advice can you share with others inspired by your immigration journey?
“Anything is possible. I didn’t graduate high school and wanted to get a major label deal in America as a rapper! Seems impossible, but I did it. It took me seven years and I never gave up hope. All I can say is don’t give up, work VERY hard and SMART to achieve the things you want. And don’t cut corners. A lot of people marry for visas; I don’t think this is healthy. If it’s meant for you in time you will attain what you want the RIGHT WAY. Don’t look to things like false marriages as a way to cut corners.”
What’s your definition of the American dream?
“I think the American dream just means anything is possible for anyone—no matter how crazy your dream seems.”
Check out Iggy’s debut single “Work” about her journey from Australia to the US: