Little Mix Say They 'Approached' Jesy Nelson About Blackfishing in an 'Educational Manner'

The group said in a new interview that they talked to Jesy Nelson about blackfishing before she left Little Mix in December 2020

Little Mix, Jesy Nelson
Photo: JMEnternational/JMEnternational for BRIT Awards/Getty. Inset: Neil Mockford/GC Images

The members of Little Mix once spoke to former bandmate Jesy Nelson about blackfishing, long before she was accused of doing so in her new music video, they revealed in a new interview.

Jade Thirlwall, Perrie Edwards and Leigh-Anne Pinnock addressed the controversy surrounding Nelson, who left Little Mix in December 2020, with The Telegraph's Stella Magazine, saying they once discussed it with her before she made her exit.

"We've dealt with it in the best way that we know how, and got each other through it," Thirlwall, 28, said. "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 band in a very friendly, educational manner."

The video in question is one Nelson released for her new single "Boyz," a collaboration with Nicki Minaj that serves as her debut solo single.

Upon its release, the song — which samples Diddy's "Bad Boys for Life" — and its music video faced criticism from Black social media users who accused Nelson of blackfishing, or tanning her skin and using her makeup to appear to be Black when she is not.

little mix
Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Jesy Nelson, Perrie Edwards and Jade Thirlwall in Little Mix. Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

"Baby girl has rebranded herself as biracial/racially ambiguous and is cosplaying as such," said one TikToker upset with Nelson's appearance. "Even to either fetishize Black men or give a thumbs up to appropriation with the lyric 'I like them tattoos and them gold teeth...' Black culture is not pop culture."

While Thirlwall told Stella that she, Edwards and Pinnock did not want to "dwell" on Nelson "because we have so much to celebrate as a three," she did discuss blackfishing, and described it as "problematic."

"Capitalizing on aspects of blackness without having to endure the daily realities of the Black experience is problematic and harmful to people of color," she told the outlet. "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 sound bite."

Eagle-eyed fans noticed last month that Thrilwall, Edwards, 28, and Pinnock, 30, have all unfollowed Nelson on social media.

Nelson, for her part, recently told Vulture that she never received any sort of blackfishing backlash while she was still in Little Mix, and that she is "just 100% being [her]self."

"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," she told the outlet. "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."

Jesy Nelson
Jesy Nelson. Neil Mockford/GC Images

The magazine stated that it had scheduled follow-up calls with the songstress to discuss identity and blackfishing, but Nelson's team canceled them and instead provided a statement.

"I take all those comments made seriously," Nelson told Vulture in a statement. "I would never intentionally do anything to make myself look racially ambiguous, so that's why I was initially shocked that the term was directed at me."

Nelson also pointed to her management for blocking Instagram accounts and deleting comments that accused her of blackfishing on Instagram.

In an Instagram Live with Minaj, she addressed the controversy again, saying her intention "was never ever to offend people of color with this video and my song because like I said, growing up as a young girl, this is the music that I listened to."

"My intention was never, ever, ever want to offend anyone and genuinely it actually does really hurt me that may have offended people and actually, like, hurt people's feelings just by genuinely celebrating something that I love," Nelson said.

The singer left the band last year, citing a need to tend to her mental health.

She has since said that she was "truly unhappy" in the group, and that she has not spoken to her former bandmates since her exit, save for a few texts.

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