Little Mix have addressed the issue of “blackfishing” following social media criticism of former bandmate Jesy Nelson over her debut solo single and music video.
The trio – Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Jade Thirlwall and Perrie Edwards – have spoken out for the first time since Nelson released Boyz, and following reports that Pinnock had previously warned her about how white people attempting to emulate black looks and culture is offensive.
In a new interview in the Telegraph’s Stella magazine, Little Mix said they did not want to go into detail about any arguments with Nelson and her departure from the band.
However, when asked about the issue of blackfishing, Pinnock said: “Capitalising on aspects of blackness without having to endure the daily realities of the black experience is problematic and harmful to people of colour.
“We think it’s absolutely not okay to use harmful stereotypes. There’s so much to say on that subject that it’s hard to sum up in a soundbite.”
“We don’t really want to dwell, because we have so much to celebrate as a three,” Thirlwall said. “We’ve dealt with it in the best way that we know how, and got each other through it.
“We don’t want to talk about the video, or be critical, but one thing we will clarify regarding the blackfishing situation is that Jesy was approached by the group in a very friendly, educational manner.”
This conversation took place before Nelson left the band in 2020, according to Stella.
In an Instagram Live to promote Boyz earlier in October, alongside US rapper Nicki Minaj, who features on the song, Nelson said she never intended to cause offence and wanted to celebrate the music she loves and has grown up with.
She addressed the issue after receiving criticism on social media following the video’s release.
“I personally want to say that my intention was never, ever to offend people of colour with this video and my song because like I said, growing up as a young girl, this is the music that I listened to,” Nelson said.
“These are the videos that I watched and thought were the best. For me personally, ’90s/2000 hip-hop, R&B music, was the best era of music.”
On Friday, Nelson appeared on The Graham Norton Show to perform the single for the first time – and told the presenter that she is no longer talking to her former bandmates.
“It is sad but honestly there is no bad blood from my side, and I still love them to pieces and genuinely wish them all the best,” she said.
“I loved my time with them, and we’ve got the most incredible memories together, but it’s just one of those things which needs to take time, so who knows.
“To me they are still the sickest girl band in the world.”
Nelson announced she was leaving Little Mix ‘with a heavy heart’ in December 2020, nine years after they rose to fame as the first group to win X Factor.
She said in a statement that the pressures of being in the band had taken a toll on her mental health.
Before her departure, Nelson released a documentary in 2019 about the bullying she had faced on social media.
Earlier in 2021, Pinnock released the documentary Race, Pop & Power, exploring racism in the music industry and her own experiences as the only black member of Little Mix.
In September 2020, before Nelson’s departure, the group told Sky News during a Q&A event that it is only in recent years that they have felt comfortable talking about the negative sides of fame and issues that have affected them during their time under the spotlight.