Image Source: Getty / Neil Mockford
It’s been less than a week since Jesy Nelson released her first solo single, a collaboration called “Boyz” featuring Nicki Minaj and Diddy. The single samples Diddy’s classic “Bad Boys For Life” and features a cameo of the singer in the video. What it also does is perpetuate negative stereotypes of Black men as “bad boys” and continue a dangerous narrative that needs to be left in the past. Along with that, Nelson’s been accused of “blackfishing” by changing her appearance to appear more racially ambiguous.
The song and its accompanying video were both met with backlash from fans, critics, and viewers. Nelson then addressed the backlash in a candid interview with Vulture, also acknowledging her decision to collaborate with Minaj despite her anti-vax comments. “Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. If Nicki feels like she hasn’t done her full research and she wants to know more about the vaccination, then that’s her opinion. She’s there to be on my song, to do her part. She’s literally made my song even better. That’s nothing to do with my song and what we’re doing together,” she told the magazine.
Nelson went on to (somewhat) address the allegations of cultural appropriation, “blackfishing”, and speaking in a “blaccent”, stating that “I love Black culture. I love Black music. That’s all I know; it’s what I grew up on. I’m very aware that I’m a white British woman; I’ve never said that I wasn’t.” Since the interview, fans and family members of bandmates have shared their concerns, confirming that Nelson had been accused of similar things in the past and mentioned that she’d blocked all members on social media.
Image Source: Getty / JMEnternational/JMEnternational for BRIT Awards
Following that, former bandmate Leigh-Anne Pinnock was reportedly accused of sending messages to TikTok star No Hun, encouraging him to “do a video about [Jesy] being a blackfish instead.” No comments have been made by Pinnock or the other members of Little Mix, but the situation was addressed by Nicki Minaj and Jesy Nelson, who went live on Instagram on Oct. 11 to discuss the video, blackfishing, and Nelson’s experience in the band.
During the Live, Minaj accused Pinnock of being jealous and insecure, and essentially, she made it clear that she has Nelson’s back no matter what, which fans on Twitter are understandably pretty confused (but not entirely surprised) about.
Nelson also avoided discussing her relationship with Pinnock directly, but instead talked about her choices behind the “Boyz” video: “My intention was never to offend people of color with this video and my song. Like I said, growing up as a young girl, this is the music that I listened to, these are the videos that I watched and, like, thought were the best. For me personally, ’90s and 2000s hip-hop and R&B music, I will stan to this day, is the best era of music that was made, to this day, I personally think. I just wanted to celebrate that. I just wanted to celebrate that era of music because it’s what I love. My intentions were never, ever to offend anyone, and genuinely, it actually does really hurt me that I may have offended people and hurt people’s feelings just by genuinely celebrating something that I love.”
Fans of Little Mix, and previously of Nelson’s, have rightfully questioned Nelson’s response to Minaj’s comments about Pinnock. Viewers have said that the singer laughing along whilst Minaj made inappropriate comments is being complicit in online bullying, something that Nelson has previously struggled with the effects of and made a documentary about.
The singer went on to address comments about her skin tone, using excessive fake tan, and her wigs, explaining that “I want people to know that when I was in the video with [Minaj], I didn’t even have any fake tan on. I’d been in Antigua prior to that for three weeks, and I’m just really lucky as a white girl that when I’m in the sun, I tan so dark.” Speaking about her curly hair, Nelson shared that “I wanted to come on this live today and show everyone, my hair is naturally curly. I’ve always had curly hair, I got it from my dad. As women in this industry, we both know, if we keep putting sh*t in our hair and damaging it, I would’ve had no hair left and that’s the way I was going. I wanted to get a wig that emulated the same texture of my hair, and I genuinely didn’t think that I was doing anything wrong because I’ve got naturally curly hair.”
Finally, Nelson’s response to comments on blackfishing was that “I was in a group with two women of color for nine years, and it was never brought up to me. Up until the last music video [“Sweet Melody”] that I did with them, when she messaged me like ‘Jesy I just wanted to make you aware’.” She also addressed Diddy’s appearance in the video, telling viewers that “I wanted to pay homage to [Diddy] and he loved it. He saw the video and he accepted it. It wasn’t a problem for him.”
Ultimately, it appears that Nelson doesn’t really see a problem with her choices in the song or the video, and hopefully fans will continue to (kindly) hold her accountable until something changes. It’s unclear as to what will come of Nelson’s solo career as a result, but as for her friendship with the remaining Little Mix band members? It’s not looking good.