British singer Jesy Nelson first rose to fame as one-fourth of the girl group Little Mix and has since morphed into a household name. The Sweet Melody hitmaker won The X Factor in the UK alongside Perrie Edwards, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, and Jade Thirlwall in 2011 and the group achieved five No. 1 singles since winning the show, according to The Official Charts.
After nearly 10 years at the top, Nelson announced she was leaving Little Mix in December 2020 and has since pursued a solo career and launched her debut single, Boyz, with Nicki Minaj on October 8.
While it may be an exciting time for Nelson and fans, the BRIT Award winner has found herself being accused of blackfishing and has since responded to the claims.
Why did Jesy Nelson leave Little Mix?
In December 2020, Jesy Nelson informed fans that she would no longer be a member of Little Mix. In a now-deleted Instagram post, the singer explains her reasons for stepping out, per Capital FM.
“The past nine years in Little Mix has been the most incredible time of my life,” she said, adding, “We have achieved things I never thought possible. From winning our first Brit Award to our sold out shows at the O2. Making friends and fans all over the world I can’t thank you all enough from the bottom of my heart for making me feel like the luckiest girl in the world.”
“The truth is recently being in the band has really taken a toll on my mental health. I find the constant pressure of being in a girl group and living up to expectations very hard,” Nelson continued. “There comes a time in life when we need to reinvest in taking care of ourselves rather than focussing on making other people happy, and I feel like now is the time to begin that process.”
What is blackfishing?
According to Health, the term blackfishing has been partly coined by hip-hop journalist Wanna Thompson. She claims it is when non-Black influencers and public figures use makeup, tanning, Photoshop, or even cosmetic surgery to make their appearance appear Black or mixed race.
Jesy Nelson has been accused of blackfishing over the past couple of months as users on social media noticed her image had drastically changed since rising to fame. Due to her dark tan, wig, and overall aesthetic, many believe she is trying to look like a woman of color. In her music video for Boyz with Nicki Minaj, many also believe she is culturally appropriating.
“[Jesy Nelson] stans cannot tell me she isn’t blackfishing,” read one tweet.
Another wrote, “Black Twitter is pulling old pictures of Jesy Nelson as the artist is accused of Blackfishing in her new music video featuring Nicki Minaj.”
What does Jesy Nelson have to say?
In a new interview with Vulture, Jesy Nelson was asked if she understood why she was being accused of blackfishing and had no problem responding.
“The whole time I was in Little Mix I never got any of that. And then I came out of [the band] and people all of a sudden were saying it. I wasn’t on social media around that time, so I let my team [deal with it], because that was when I’d just left. But I mean, like, I love Black culture. I love Black music. That’s all I know; it’s what I grew up on,” she said. “I’m very aware that I’m a white British woman; I’ve never said that I wasn’t.”
When questioned whether she admits to changing her appearance, Nelson claims she dresses the exact same way she did on The X Factor in 2011.
“If you look at me on X-Factor with my big curly hair, I was wearing trainers and combats — that’s who I am as an artist and as Jesy. Now I’m out of Little Mix, I’ve gone back to being who I am. Like I said, I don’t ever want to be an artist who’s being told what to wear or what music to make. I want to be authentic and true to myself, and if people don’t like that, don’t be my fan. Don’t be a part of my journey,” she stated.
It was then pointed out that some who have called Nelson out for her appearance noted their comments had been deleted from the star’s social media posts. In response, Nelson claimed she wasn’t aware of it.
“Maybe it was my team,” she stated.
An editor’s note was added to the article sharing Nelson’s publicist later confirmed the comments had indeed been deleted by members of her management team. And in a follow-up email, Nelson maintained she had been unaware of this.
“I know comments relating to this had previously been deleted from my IG account, I only found out afterwards that a member of my management team had deleted comments,” Nelson wrote. “I’ve spent years being bullied online, so I limit the amount I go on socials. My management team have access to my account & they were trying to protect me & my mental health.”