Little Mix Members Unfollow Ex Bandmate Jesy Nelson Amid 'Boyz' Blackfishing Backlash

"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 said in a statement to Vulture

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

The members of Little Mix are separating themselves from former groupmate Jesy Nelson.

Over the weekend, fans noticed that Little Mix's Perrie Edwards, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Jade Thirwall unfollowed Nelson after she released her debut solo single "Boyz" with Nicki Minaj and received backlash for what many Black social media users described as blackfishing.

"ALL LITTLE MIX MEMBERS HAVE UNFOLLOWED JESY BYEEE," tweeted one fan as others chimed in saying it was "deserved."

Nelson, 30, initially left the group last December citing how being in the group had been "taking a toll" on her mental health. She has since shared how "truly unhappy" she felt in the group and revealed in an interview last week that she and her Little Mix "sisters" had not spoken since her exit.

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"We've sent a few texts, but that's it. I can't explain it, it's like there has to be this distance," Nelson said in her Glamour U.K. interview. "We were so close so you can't do in-between, there has to be space and hopefully at some point in the future, we can all come back together."

While it's unclear exactly why Little Mix unfollowed Nelson on Instagram, many fans of the group believe that it was due to her comments regarding blackfishing in "Boyz," which marked her first single as a soloist. The track, which samples Diddy's "Bad Boys for Life," received backlash from Black social media users for its lyrics and her appearance in the track's music video. (Blackfishing refers to when a non-Black person tans their skin or uses makeup to appear to be Black.)

"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."

Another user on TikTok, Culture Unfiltered, criticized the song's lyrics: "So good, so hood so damn taboo," before saying that Nelson's "blackfishing almost feels like a marketing technique at this point" before referring to the fact that Minaj and Diddy "co-sign" the track and its lyrics by appearing in its music video.

Nelson was asked about the accusations in an interview with New York's Vulture, stating that she never received this sort of backlash while she was in the group and that she's "just 100% being myself."

"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."

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.

On an Instagram Live with Minaj on Monday, Nelson also hinted at the controversy.

"When you watch this video, a lot of people probably think, 'Well, this is a big change. Her styling has changed, the music's changed but actually, like, this is the music that I grew up on as a kid," she told the rapper. "And this was the music that I was always inspired by. When I was in Little Mix, I just wanted to be accepted. So I changed the way I dressed, went on stupid diets and did everything i could to be accepted."

A rep for Nelson did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

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