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Arlo Parks admitted there were moments she didn’t think she would “make it through” after winning the prestigious Mercury prize.
The acclaimed 21-year-old singer-songwriter beat artists including Wolf Alice, Celeste and Mogwai to win the top prize at a ceremony in London on Thursday night (9 September).
Annie Mac, one of the Mercury prize judges, told the audience that it was “really hard” to choose a winner – but said they ultimately went with an artist with a “singular voice”.
She went on to praise Arlo Parks for writing about topics like sexuality and mental health in a unique, meaningful way.
Taking to the stage to accept the award, Parks said she was “completely speechless”.
“It took a lot of sacrifice and hard work to get here and there were moments where I wasn’t sure whether I’d make it through, but I’m here today, so thank you very much,” a visibly emotional Parks said.
Parks walked away with a £25,000 prize for her debut album Collapsed in Sunbeams, which was released to critical acclaim in January.
Mercury Prize winner Arlo Parks was never ‘confused’ about her sexuality
The singer has won praise for her candid approach to sexuality and mental health in her music. In a five star review, NME described the record as “very timely indeed”.
“Her music is like a warm hug, a reassurance that everything is going to be OK when the world is dark and things seem out of control,” the music magazine said.
She said her parents were always accepting, adding that they “never made a massive deal” of it.
“They were just like: ‘OK, we love you,'” she said. “And I’m so grateful for that. I learned a lot of empathy and openness from my parents. I know so many people who don’t have that experience.
“I have friends who’ve been kicked out of their homes over it,” she said.
Parks also hit out at the mischaracterisation that she was “confused” about her sexuality, saying she “never felt that”.
“Of course, as a teenager, no one is 100 per cent self-assured, but it was just never something that I lay awake at night thinking about.”
Parks’ history-making Mercury prize victory makes her the first person born in the 21st century to win the coveted award.