Little Mix's Leigh-Anne Pinnock Shares Powerful Message About Her Experience with Racism
"My reality is constantly feeling like I have to work 10 times harder to mark my place in the group," Leigh-Anne Pinnock says
In a powerful five-minute long video posted to Instagram, the British singer, 28, begins by sending her condolences to the family of George Floyd — an unarmed black man in Minneapolis who died in police custody on May 25 after a white officer pinned him to the ground with a knee on his neck — as well as all the families "who have lost someone due to police brutality and racism."
"I’ve written some words down because when I speak about my experiences or race in general I get really sad," Pinnock says. "I get upset, and I can never really say everything that I want to say."
Pinnock says she previously "decided to open up about being one of four girls in Little Mix and how my race imprinted my experiences," referencing a 2018 interview with ASOS Magazine.
"From that interview some people sympathized, some said nothing, but one thing I took from that experience is the world did not care about race," Pinnock says. "Since then I’ve tried to use my platform to raise awareness of matters such as racism. At this moment I feel for the first time in my life racism is a topic conversation. We have the world’s attention. We cannot see this as a moment — this has to be a movement until the system designed to oppress us is no more, and we are seen as equals to our white counterparts."
Pinnock makes clear, though, that she knows "this is not something that can happen overnight."
"Black people have been oppressed for over 400 years," she says. "Four hundred years later we are still seeing our black brothers and sisters being shot down and treated with less regard than everyone else."
Pinnock goes on to share that both of her parents are mixed race and that both of her grandfathers moved to England and married white women "at a time when interracial relationships were extremely frowned upon."
"Growing up, me and my sisters never saw race being a limitation on what we wanted to achieve," she says. "Because if our grandparents could raise mixed race children in the ‘60s, we could do anything. One thing we were doing was sleeping on racism. Too often, black people are reminded how far we have come, as opposed to how far we can go. In doing this, we sleep on racism. Think about it: do you ever hear white people having to be thankful about how far they've come as a race? There comes a point in every black human’s life no matter how much money you have or what you have achieved, you realize racism does not exclude you."
That moment came for Pinnock nine years ago, after she joined Little Mix with bandmates Perrie Edwards, Jade Thirlwall and Jesy Nelson.
"I had the biggest awakening of my life," she says. "When we were filming 'Wings,' we worked with [black director and choreographer] Frank Gatson. He said to me, ‘You’re the black girl. You have to work 10 times harder.’ Never in my life has someone told me that I would need to work harder because of my race. Later on, what Frank Gatson said made sense."
"I learned that the dream of being in the biggest girl band in the world came with its flaws and consequences — consequences such as knowing about the existing, underlying racism in the creative industries," she continues. "You learn to understand that you can't be seen to be too loud or too opinionated, otherwise you're deemed a diva or aggressive. You learn that by walking into a room, you are deemed unapproachable or offish before anyone has even approached you. You learn that by voicing your opinion about the lack of diversity within the industry is like smashing your head against a brick wall. So at events and ceremonies, you learn to take great comfort from rare moments when you meet black creatives who understand this feeling of misplacement that you have inside. For that moment, the dream is alive. But just like that, reality hits you."
For Pinnock, reality was "feeling lonely while touring to predominantly white countries."
"I sing to fans who don't see me or hear me or cheer me on," she says. "My reality is feeling anxious before fan events and signings because I always feel like I'm the least favored. My reality is constantly feeling like I have to work 10 times harder and longer to mark my place in the group because my talent alone isn't enough. My reality is wanting to see other artists who I know are so talented but will never get opportunities I have had because to the industry, they are not marketable, but they will get behind someone else with the aspects of Black culture the world wants to see, but will leave behind the aspects they feel make them unmarketable. My reality is all the times I've felt invisible within my group, part of me is fully aware that my experience would've been even harder to cope with had I been dark-skinned."
"Our reality is no matter how far you think you've come, racism exists," she concludes. "It exists in sports, in the creative industries, in politics and policies, in the streets, and in the hearts of racist individuals. We are no longer in a position where we need to be quiet on this matter. So let’s all continue to speak up on racism and keep this movement going."
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In the caption of the video, Pinnock wrote, "Like many of you, I have been feeling really heavy with everything that we are seeing online and hearing on the news."
"In the past I have mentioned some personal experiences that were triggered due to my race," she continued. "More than ever I felt like it was time that I was completely open and honest with you all because finally, the world is awake and people want to listen, help and understand. I'm not doing this video for sympathy or for you to watch and then go about normal life. I'm doing it because enough is enough and hopefully from sharing this we can all do more to understand the racism that takes place. In doing this we are able to approach the bigger issue and break down systemic racism. All we want is equality and justice for our black community. 🖤"
Pinnock's message comes a week after getting engaged to her boyfriend, Andre Gray, after four years together. Gray, also 28, plays for Watford Football Club in the English Premier League.
"We both want it so bad," she told Metro.co.uk last month, before adding that they'd so far been unable to take the step because of her hectic recording and touring schedule.
"If I wasn’t in Little Mix we probably would have started planning already," she added. "We’re both really excited so when the time comes, then yeah, we’ll be ready."