Inside Little Mix’s meteoric rise to fame from first band to win X Factor to Jesy Nelson blackfishing row & split rumour

IN 10 years they have transformed from X Factor hopefuls to Britain’s biggest girl band since the Spice Girls. 

But after selling 60 million records worldwide, scooping two Brit Awards and amassing a combined fortune of £54 million, sources suggest Little Mix is set to split. 


Kelly Rowland had the bright idea to put the X Factor hopefuls in one big groupCredit: Rex Features
Over ten years Little Mix has become the most successful band since the Spice Girls


Over ten years Little Mix has become the most successful band since the Spice GirlsCredit: Rex

Following Jesy Nelson’s explosive departure from the girl band in December 2020, trio Leigh-Anne Pinnock, 30, Jade Thirlwall, 28, and Perrie Edwards, 28, are now all rumoured to be exploring solo projects. 

Music industry sources say the trio have been quietly negotiating new management and recording deals.  

And with the band’s seventh album set to be released on November 12, fans fear the “Between Us” tour could be the group’s last. 

Their rise to fame has certainly been meteoric since they auditioned for – and won – The X Factor in 2011, the first band to do so.

From humble beginnings as hopeful contestants to the ongoing Jesy Nelson row and blackfishing accusations, we chart the rise of the most popular UK girl band over the last decade. 

Humble beginnings 

In 2011, four Brits walked into X Factor’s series eight auditions, dreaming of glory.

Unknown to each other, Jesy, now 30, Jade, Perrie and Leigh-Anne impressed the judges, earning the go ahead they needed to reach the first “bootcamp” challenge. 

Romford-born Jesy Nelson wowed the judges with her punchy rendition of “Bust Your Windows”. 

The 20-year-old, who worked as a barmaid in Dagenham, had already brushed shoulders with fame, attending the same theatre school as Rita Ora and featuring as an extra in movies About a Boy and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. 

But after failing the first stage of the bootcamp challenge, Jessie was put together with 17-year-old Perrie Edwards, from South Shields, in the group Faux Pas and given another chance to stay in the competition. 

Clubbed together in another group, Orion, were fellow X Factor hopefuls Leigh-Anne Pinnock, from High Wycombe, and South Shields-born Jade Thirlwall. 

And while neither teams were given the green light to proceed to the live rounds, judge Kelly Rowland had a bright idea. 

Pulling the girls out of their respective groups, Kelly decided to test the girls out as a foursome.

And when the quartet sang together, ex-Destiny’s Child singer Kelly saw a glimmer of something special, saying: “I like them together, they look fricking great together.”

Joining forces to become first Rythmix, and then Little Mix, the newfound girl band shot through the show’s live rounds, capturing the nation’s hearts. 

I like them together, they look fricking great

Kelly Rowland

Breaking The X Factor girl band curse, Little Mix charmed judges with their first performance of Super Bass by Nicki Minaj, earning Gary Barlow’s praise as the “best girl band that’s ever been on The X Factor”. 

On December 11 2011, having sailed through the rounds with their “incredibly dynamic” performances, Little Mix became the first ever girl group to scoop the X Factor title with their show-stopping rendition of “Cannonball”. 

Glory days 

Following their spectacular X Factor victory, Little Mix shot to fame, soon reaching the coveted status of becoming the most popular girl band in the UK since the Spice Girls. 

Championing girl power and body positivity, the group’s debut album DNA became the highest charting debut album by a British girl group on the Billboard 200.

Garnering praise for their chart-topping singles “Black Magic” and “Shout Out to My Ex”, Little Mix scooped their first Brit in 2017. 

Looking back on their transformation from X Factor boot camp rejects to international stars, Jesy said: “We’re getting older, we’re turning into young, beautiful ladies.”

Little Mix made X Factor history by becoming the first girl band to win


Little Mix made X Factor history by becoming the first girl band to winCredit: Rex Features
Little Mix's style transformed as they reached international fame


Little Mix’s style transformed as they reached international fameCredit: PA

Jesy added: “When I look back at us on The X Factor, we’re like little girls, and now I feel like a woman.”

Throughout their success, Little Mix continued to promote messages of independence and positivity to their young fans, inspiring teens worldwide. 

Speaking of their success, one source told The Sun: “They’re very determined.

We’re getting older, we’re turning into young, beautiful ladies

Jesy Nelson

“It’s the strength of the relationships between them that has given them the confidence to stand up for whatever they want. 

“It’s an extraordinary achievement and their record-breaking backs up how hard they have worked.”

High profile romances

Over the years the girls have not just hit the headlines for their music – their love lives have also been very much in the public eye.

Perrie was engaged to ex-One Direction star Zayn Malik, but the couple endured a high profile break up.

She is now dating footballer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, with whom she shares a son, Axel.

Jesy got engaged to Coleen Nolan’s son Jake Roche in 2015, after a year of dating – the Rixton singer got down on one knee at Manchester Arena.

But the couple never made it down to aisle, and Jesy went on to have a romance with former Love Island hunk Chris Hughes, which ended after 16 months.

A source told The Sun the split was amicable and they’re still good friends, but had just grown apart.

Like Perrie, Leigh-Anne became a mum for the first time this year, giving birth to twins in August. She is engaged to Andre Gray.

Jade is currently dating Rizzle Kicks star Jordan Stephens.

Leigh-Anne gave birth to twins this year while Perrie welcomed a son


Leigh-Anne gave birth to twins this year while Perrie welcomed a sonCredit: Rex

Jesy’s shock departure 

In December 2020, after nine years together, Jesy Nelson stunned her bandmates by announcing on social media that she was leaving the group. 

According to the Little Mix trio, the Boyz singer shocked them by telling the world she was leaving before informing them personally.

Jesy announced her departure to her fans on December 14 2020, opening up about her concerns surrounding her mental health. 

In a statement she wrote: “The past nine years in Little Mix has been the most incredible time of my life. 

“We have achieved things I never thought possible. From winning our first Brit Award to our sold out shows at the O2.” 

Jesy admitted she found the “constant pressure of being in a girl group and living up to expectations very hard”.

Instead, the singer said it was time to “reinvest in taking care” of herself “rather than focussing on making other people happy”. 

But Jesy has since been accused of blindsiding the group by announcing her departure on Instagram.

We have achieved things I never thought possible

Jesy Nelson

One source told the Daily Mail: “Jesy created this scenario. She left the band without telling the girls or management directly and they heard about it through her lawyers.

“Those around her have been supporting her for ten years and protected her and are devastated over all this.”

Set to split?

Now, one year after Jesy’s dramatic departure, rumours are rife that Jade, Perrie and Leigh-Anne may also go their separate ways. 

With their seventh album due next month, industry insiders say the singers have been negotiating new management and deals of their own. 

The insider told The Sun: “They’ve been pretty open with each other about it. There are a lot of meetings happening at the moment. Some of them have already done management deals. 

“Leigh-Anne has signed up with Dua Lipa’s manager, Jade is cutting her teeth as a songwriter and presenter, while Perrie is working on other things too.

“The intention is to keep the band going too — but that’s how One Direction ended and it’s hard to believe they will have time for everything.”

The news comes as a row between the band and Jesy Nelson has erupted over her appearance in her new single Boyz with Nicki Minaj. 

The fallout first unfolded when an influencer leaked messages allegedly sent by Leigh-Anne Pinnock that asked him to do a video exposing Jesy for being a “blackfish” – when a white person uses black culture to further their career or online presence – following the release of her debut single Boyz.

In messages, thought to have been sent from Leigh-Anne’s account to influencer No Hun and shared to his 341,000 followers via a live stream, the star wrote: “She blocked us. Cut us off. Horrible person.”

After No Hun asked his fans if he should make up a dance routine to Boyz, Leigh-Anne replied: “No. Do a video about her being a blackfish instead.”

Responding to blackfishing claims, Jesy said: “My intention was never to offend people of colour with this video and my song.”

Rumours are now rife that Little Mix is set to split


Rumours are now rife that Little Mix is set to splitCredit: Instagram
Jesy Nelson has found herself embroiled in a blackfishing row over her appearance in her new music video


Jesy Nelson has found herself embroiled in a blackfishing row over her appearance in her new music videoCredit: Rex
Jesy Nelson says she still loves Little Mix bandmates in US interview


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