Published On: Fri, May 14th, 2021

Little Mix’s Leigh-Anne Pinnock is praised by fans for ‘powerful’ racism documentary

Leigh-Anne Pinnock left her fans in ‘tears’ on Thursday night as they praised her ‘educational’ and ‘powerful’ BBC documentary Race, Pop & Power.  

During the documentary, the singer, 29, got emotional as she shared her experience with racism and how she has been ‘treated differently’ in Little Mix. 

Leigh-Anne also met with Sugababes’ Keisha Buchanan, Alexandra Burke, Nao and Raye as they discussed racism within the music industry. 

Powerful; Leigh-Anne Pinnock left her fans in ‘tears’ on Thursday night as they praised her ‘educational’ and ‘powerful’ BBC documentary Race, Pop & Power 

Taking to Twitter after it aired, viewers demanded that Race, Pop & Power should win a National Television Award, like Leigh-Anne’s former bandmate Jesy Nelson did with her 2019 BBC documentary Odd One Out. 

One person said: ‘Leigh is just amazing and this doc better win a NTA its just as inspiring and educational. This has just scratched the surface and its making people have that conversation. #Racepopandpower #weloveyouleighanne.’

A different fan put: ‘I’m beyond proud of you Leigh. I’m watching the documentary rn and I’m already crying. I love you with all my heart and you’re the most strongest woman ever ❤️ @LittleMix #LeighAnnePinnock #RacePopandPower.’

Another viewer said: ‘Watching #LeighAnnePinnock #RacePopandPower and this documentary is so powerful and important.’  

Documentary: During the documentary, the singer, 29, got emotional as she shared her experience with racism and how she has been 'treated differently' in Little Mix

Documentary: During the documentary, the singer, 29, got emotional as she shared her experience with racism and how she has been ‘treated differently’ in Little Mix

Praise: Taking to Twitter after it aired, viewers demanded that Race, Pop & Power should win a National Television Award, like Leigh-Anne's former bandmate Jesy Nelson did with her 2019 BBC documentary Odd One Out

Praise: Taking to Twitter after it aired, viewers demanded that Race, Pop & Power should win a National Television Award, like Leigh-Anne’s former bandmate Jesy Nelson did with her 2019 BBC documentary Odd One Out 

A different account said: ‘Proud of Leigh and the other women featured for sharing their stories #RacePopAndPower.’ 

Another follower put: ‘Glad Leigh-Anne brought Alexandra and Keisha on to speak, especially as they’ve been through and experienced these issues as black women in the music industry #Racepopandpower.’ 

During the documentary, Leigh-Anne recalled how, from the moment she starred on The X Factor, ‘things felt a bit off’ and has been ‘treated differently’ from her Little Mix band mates over the past decade, purely because of her skin colour. 

Leigh-Anne, who filmed the documentary over the past year, said she felt like the ‘token black girl’ in the band and that her skin colour was being used ‘to define my image within the group’.  

Emotional: During the documentary, Leigh-Anne recalled how, from the moment she starred on The X Factor , 'things felt a bit off'

Emotional: During the documentary, Leigh-Anne recalled how, from the moment she starred on The X Factor , ‘things felt a bit off’

Tough: The singer also spoke about how she has been 'treated differently' from her band mates (pictured with Jesy, Perrie and Jade in 2020)

Tough: The singer also spoke about how she has been ‘treated differently’ from her band mates (pictured with Jesy, Perrie and Jade in 2020)

The songstress propelled to fame when she starred on the 2011 series of The X Factor with Jesy Nelson, who has since left the band, Jade Thirlwall and Perrie Edwards, with Little Mix going on to be crowned winners. 

Leigh-Anne said: ‘Before we even signed a record deal things began to feel a bit off. 

‘On the The X Factor when they dyed my hair red and shaved it, it made me look like “the Rihanna”. 

‘I was 20 at the time and I guess a bit naive. Looking back it was clear my colour was being used to define my image within the group. Those things when I think back to it, I’m just like “wow”.’ 

Her story: Leigh-Anne said she felt like the 'token black girl' in the group and that her skin colour was being used 'to define my image within the group'

Her story: Leigh-Anne said she felt like the ‘token black girl’ in the group and that her skin colour was being used ‘to define my image within the group’

Unhappy: Leigh-Anne said: 'Before we even signed a record deal things began to feel a bit off. On the X Factor when they dyed my hair red and shaved it, it made me look like "the Rihanna".'

Unhappy: Leigh-Anne said: ‘Before we even signed a record deal things began to feel a bit off. On the X Factor when they dyed my hair red and shaved it, it made me look like “the Rihanna”.’

Leigh-Anne said prior to this she had only experienced racism one time at primary school when a boy handed her a note which said: ‘”Name: Leigh-Anne. Age: nine. From: the jungle”.’

‘I was devastated. I had never been made to feel like I didn’t belong before. It turned out I wouldn’t be made to feel like that again until my life changed overnight a decade later,’ she said. 

As their fame grew, the BRIT Award winner said she began to notice how the others were idolised by fans more than her. 

Heartbreaking: Leigh-Anne said at primary school a boy handed her a note which said: "Name: Leigh-Anne. Age: nine. From: the jungle"

Heartbreaking: Leigh-Anne said at primary school a boy handed her a note which said: “Name: Leigh-Anne. Age: nine. From: the jungle”

'I felt invisible': As their fame grew, the BRIT Award winner said she began to notice how the others were idolised by fans more than her (pictured with the band before Jesy's exit last year)

‘I felt invisible’: As their fame grew, the BRIT Award winner said she began to notice how the others were idolised by fans more than her (pictured with the band before Jesy’s exit last year)

She recalled: ‘I did a radio show tour. We got off the plane and there were some fans standing waiting for us. I was the first to walk up to them and they just walked past me and went to the other girls.  

‘All these little feelings, just built up, built up, built up. It was something that I could never fully explain. I felt invisible and like people would just look past me.

‘For the next decade I was in a pop bubble with all the success I had ever dreamed of. All that matters is that feeling that doesn’t go away. It keeps hurting and hurting and wondering “is it my colour?”.  

Reflective: 'I'm just like "wow", I was 20 at the time and I guess a bit naive. Looking back it was clear my colour was being used to define my image within the group'

Reflective: ‘I’m just like “wow”, I was 20 at the time and I guess a bit naive. Looking back it was clear my colour was being used to define my image within the group’

‘I just wanted to be on that same level and nothing I did would get me there.’ 

Leigh-Anne, who is of Caribbean heritage, also addressed colourism – when a lighter-skinned person is favoured over a darker-skinned person due to the shade of their skin. 

She questioned if ‘I was a few shades darker, would I still be in the band?’ and became emotional when she was flooded with cruel comments from trolls saying she wasn’t ‘black enough’ to host the documentary. 

Devastating: She recalled: 'I did a radio show tour, we got off the plane and there were some fans standing waiting for us. I was the first to walk up to them and they just walked past me'

Devastating: She recalled: ‘I did a radio show tour, we got off the plane and there were some fans standing waiting for us. I was the first to walk up to them and they just walked past me’

During the programme, the singer visited her parents and broke down in tears as she said of her career: ‘I was carrying a lot. I never felt good enough. I felt it was ruining my experience which should have been the best time of my life. It’s frustrating.’

Leigh-Anne said she was constantly told “it’s in your head” and believed if she improved her vocals, spoke more in interviews and better herself she wouldn’t feel less like the ‘least favourable, the least desired’. 

She tearfully said: ‘It still wasn’t enough. I just want to know is that racist or is that in my head?’ 

After Leigh-Anne posted a powerful video about the Black Lives Matter movement a number of singers in the industry got in touch about their experiences of racism. 

The singer met Sugababes’ Keisha Buchanan, Alexandra Burke, Nao and Raye. 

Emotional: The singer met Keisha Buchanan who said she is still in therapy as she claimed she was forced out of Sugababes over 'bullying claims'

Emotional: The singer met Keisha Buchanan who said she is still in therapy as she claimed she was forced out of Sugababes over ‘bullying claims’ 

Keisha, 36, said she is still in therapy as she claimed she was forced out of Sugababes over ‘bullying’. 

She said: ‘When I was about to exit the group Sugababes, I don’t know if people know this but I didn’t actually leave but I was replaced while still being in the band 

‘I remember being sat down and told “this person feels bullied, that one there feels bullied” and I was like “I was giving that one a foot massage legit the day before”.  

‘If I had an opinion it was very much like “okay, you’re being a bully”. That was the word. That whole situation changed the course of my life. It affected me emotionally, mentally, financially.’ 

Keisha told Leigh-Anne how she still has confidence issues and it’s taken her years to process the situation. 

Terrible: Former The X Factor winner Alexandra Burke, 32, meanwhile recalled through tears: 'I got told "you need to bleach your skin because you won't sell any records"

Terrible: Former The X Factor winner Alexandra Burke, 32, meanwhile recalled through tears: ‘I got told “you need to bleach your skin because you won’t sell any records” 

Former The X Factor winner Alexandra, 32, meanwhile recalled through tears: ‘I got told, “You need to bleach your skin because you won’t sell any records”. 

That’s what is so f**ked up about this industry and that is what makes me feel, at times, where I go: “I don’t want to be in this industry.” They took my confidence away so much that I couldn’t be me.’  

Leigh-Anne’s band member Jade, 28, also spoke about how at the age of 18 she hid her Yemini heritage because: ‘I knew being white meant you had an easier ride.’

She continued: ‘I thought, “If you see me as white, I’m not going to stand you know scream in your face that I’m not because I know there’s privilege that comes with that”.’ 

Of the racism she experienced, Jade said: ‘At school I used to get pinned down in the toilets, have bleach powder thrown at us, have bindi marks put on us, which again, is so ridiculous because I’m Arab so why are you putting a bindi on us for?   

Speaking out: She added: 'That's what's so f*****d up about this industry and makes me feel at times, I don't want to be in this industry'

Speaking out: She added: ‘That’s what’s so f*****d up about this industry and makes me feel at times, I don’t want to be in this industry’

Honest: Leigh-Anne's band member Jade, 28, also spoke about how at the age of 18 she hid her Yemini heritage because: 'I knew being white meant you had an easier ride'

Honest: Leigh-Anne’s band member Jade, 28, also spoke about how at the age of 18 she hid her Yemini heritage because: ‘I knew being white meant you had an easier ride’

‘At 18 I moved to London I became… I do feel guilty, that I spent so long not talking about it.’

Jade also said how the pair of them wanted nose jobs for ages because their faces had been Photoshopped in a magazine shoot. 

‘I remember for ages we both wanted nose jobs , which is f*****g insane now.

‘It’s so ridiculous but that stemmed from our first ever magazine shoot and there I was with my whole face completely Photoshopped, my nose had changed.

‘From that moment I thought: “Oh my God, to be beautiful and glamorous you have to uphold this image of basically looking as white as possible”.’

Leigh-Anne then battled to have a meeting with her record label Sony to talk about the lack of diversity in the industry and, after being knocked back a few times, felt encouraged when they agreed to bring in more people of colour to work with Little Mix.  

The songstress has launched a foundation to fund internships and mentor schemes for black people of all ages entering the creative industries. 

She said: ‘I don’t want the next girl in pop to feel like how I’ve felt. This is just the beginning. I’m a fighter.’ 

Leigh-Anne: Race, Pop & Power is available to watch on BBC iPlayer now and aired on BBC One at 9pm on Thursday night.  

Impressive: Leigh-Anne then battled to have a meeting with her record label Sony to talk about the lack of diversity in the industry and launched a foundation to fund internships

Impressive: Leigh-Anne then battled to have a meeting with her record label Sony to talk about the lack of diversity in the industry and launched a foundation to fund internships 

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