Fern Ling Chettle

Embracing Vulnerability

Ladyhawke as a Role Model

Phillipa Margaret “Pip” Brown is a New Zealand singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, known by her stage name ‘Ladyhawke’. She is known for her 80s-inspired melodic synth-heavy pop rock. But what makes her a role model for neurodivergent creatives? 


Ladyhawke playing in Perth, November 2009 - Photo taken by Stuart Sevastos , found on Wikimedia Commons . 


In 2008, Ladyhawke was making a name for herself in London’s music scene after the release of her hit singles Paris is Burning and Delirium. Early reviews of her live performances credited her musical talent, but noted “her meekness and reluctance to interact with her audience”. In interviews that year with the BBC, the Independent, and The Guardian, Ladyhawke spoke openly about her Aspergers diagnosis: “It got to a point when I was so sick of feeling like everybody hated me (...) I ended up having a few sessions with a psychologist and she told me, ‘I have Asperger’s as well’. It was really inspiring”, and the diagnosis “explained so much”. 

Ladyhawke has noted in interviews two traits associated with Asperger’s that she sees most in herself: a thirst for knowledge and a love of music. As a child, she preferred to spend her time learning instruments rather than attending school, and was seen as shy and solitary which made the other kids think she was a ‘weirdo’. She picked up piano, drums and guitar instinctively, and soon began making music with different bands and musicians before eventually becoming a solo-act. 

Amidst a lifetime love of music, Ladyhawke also has an avid passion for video games  and has described it as one of her special interests. “I’ll hone in on something like a game and I’ll end up being obsessed with it for a long time, so at the moment I’m just playing Lego Batman on the Wii. I play it so much that I fall asleep and end up dreaming that I’m destroying things and turning things into Lego money”. Ladyhawke has found ways to integrate this special interest into her own creativity, describing video game music as an influence in her own music– particularly retro Japanese chiptune music. 

In 2021, in collaboration with the release of her fourth studio album Time Flies, her team released Time Flies: The Game, Ladyhawke’s own Game Boy game. Every song on the album was mixed into chiptune soundbites and given its own quest, challenge or mini-game. “I couldn’t believe it. It would’ve blown eight-year-old me’s brain. What the hell? I have my own game!” Throughout her career, Ladyhawke has inspiringly embraced her neurodiversity rather than shied away from it, harnessing her innate talents and special interests to create unique and genre-bending music. 

Nonetheless, Ladyhawke remains open and honest about the struggles of the touring lifestyle, how she still occasionally feels the urge to lock herself in her house for months on end, experiencing terrible stage fright and discomfort amidst crowds. She has spoken of sold-out shows, when “I was standing there shit-scared, so I said into the microphone, “This is the most nervous I’ve ever been in my entire life”, yet she continues to feel "really lucky because I'm doing the thing I love".

Ladyhawke's commitment to always being herself and voicing her vulnerabilities have made her an inspiration to the autistic community, with many fans writing to her on MySpace to share their own experiences, connections which have ultimately helped her feel more comfortable on-stage. “I love that I’ve been able to talk to people and be able to relate (to them) like that”. 


Ladyhawke playing live at the Rhythm & Vines 2008/2009 - Photo taken by  AFlickion , found on Wikimedia Commons. 


Here are some more resources about Ladyhawke and how she serves as a positive example of autistic representation. 

Cochrane, Greg. “Newsbeat - Music - Ladyhawke Speaks about Asperger’s.” BBC, 24 Nov. 2008, news.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/hi/music/newsid_7745000/7745453.stm.

“Asperger’s, Allergies and Aubergines.” The Guardian, 10 Sept. 2008, www.theguardian.com/music/2008/sep/11/popandrock.