Jesy Nelson Feels 'Free' Since Leaving Little Mix: 'I Constantly Compared Myself to the Others'

"For so long, I worried about others and letting people down," Nelson told Cosmopolitan U.K. "The only person I should have been trying to make happy was myself, and I wasn't doing that."

Jesy Nelson for Cosmopolitan UK
Photo: Cosmopolitan UK / Matthew Eades

Today, Jesy Nelson is "honest, content and free."

Nelson — in her first tell-all interview since leaving Little Mix in December — revealed why she decided to leave the girl group and put her own mental health and well-being first.

"Before, I was wearing what I thought I should wear because I was too frightened to wear certain things in case I looked bigger than the others. I'd wear corsets and s— like that to make myself look the size they were," the 29-year-old told Cosmopolitan U.K. "Now, I'm not looking at the screen thinking, 'Oh my God, I don't look as good as them.' I feel free."

"I didn't know that I could be this happy. I thought when I was in the group that it was just normal to feel that way," she added referring to her time in the U.K. group comprising herself, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Perrie Edwards and Jade Thirlwall. "And because I'd felt like that for 10 years, I just thought, 'This is life.' Since I've left, I feel free. I don't wake up with anxiety, thinking, 'I've got to do a music video today, I need to starve myself.' Or, 'I need to go on an extreme diet so I can look like the other three.' That was consuming me."

Jesy Nelson for Cosmopolitan UK
Cosmopolitan UK / Matthew Eades

Nelson said the first few years were the hardest as she was "classed as the obese, fat one" by British media. She said had "no insecurities" before being placed in the band and once she got into the group, "my confidence was zero."

"I constantly compared myself to the others. Of course, a lot of that was in my head, but a lot of it was past trauma," she said. "Even recently, I was still getting compared to them. It's horrible when you already don't like something about yourself to then have thousands of people point it out. Now I feel like me. When I look back [at my time] in the band, I genuinely wasn't me. I can't believe how miserable I was."

Nelson said her "breaking point" came while filming the music video for their track "Sweet Melody" off of the group's final album as a fourpiece, Confetti.

"We'd been in lockdown, and [that had been] the first time I could have a break and be at home around people that I love," she said. "It was the happiest I'd ever felt, and I didn't realize that until I went back to work. I immediately became a different person. I had anxiety."

Nelson explained that before the shoot she forced herself to "eat as little as possible" and adhere to an "extreme diet" as she had gained weight due to the lockdown.

"On the day of the 'Sweet Melody' video, I had a panic attack on set because I didn't look how I wanted to look and I found it so hard to just be happy and enjoy myself. I looked at the other three and they were having the time of their life," she said. "I get so jealous because I want to feel like that and enjoy it because music is my passion. To have this dream and not be enjoying it because of what I look like, I knew wasn't normal."

"There's a scene in 'Sweet Melody' I'm not in, because that's when I had a panic attack and broke down. I was like, 'I just want to go home,'" she added. "I was sobbing in the dressing room. Someone really close to me said, 'This has got to stop. You can't keep doing this to yourself. You're going to end up where you were before.'"

Nelson described that moment as her "pinnacle point" as she realized it wasn't healthy to feel the way she was feeling.

Jesy Nelson for Cosmopolitan UK
Cosmopolitan UK / Matthew Eades

"It wasn't nice for the other three to be around someone who didn't want to be there. So I took a break. I went through a really dark time after the music video," she said. "My mum said, 'This has got to stop now. I have seen you suffer too much. This has been 10 years of your life.'"

"For so long, I worried about others and letting people down. The only person I should have been trying to make happy was myself, and I wasn't doing that," she added. "I needed to do it for my mental health, because I know I would have ended up back where I was five years ago, and that's scary."

As for her future, Nelson said she's in the studio "just having fum." And while she doesn't know when she'll drop her new music, she's "really content and happy."

"It's the weirdest, best feeling in the world," she said.

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