Jesy Nelson is not backing down amid accusations of blackfishing and cultural appropriation.
The former Little Mix singer recently dropped her debut solo single “Boyz” along with its music video and fans are calling her out.
But instead of listening to the (very valid) criticism, Jesy is standing her ground.
In a recent interview with Vulture, Jesy addressed the allegations of cultural appropriation and said,
“I love Black culture. I love Black music. That’s all I know; it’s what I grew up on.”
Ok, but loving Black culture doesn’t give you a license to steal it and profit off of it.
She also said,
“My passion is R&B and hip-hop from the ’90s and early 2000s. That’s what I grew up on. It’s the music I’ve always wanted to make, so it feels quite liberating.”
Again, growing up listening to Mary J. Blige and Aaliyah doesn’t give you a free pass to imitate them.
“The whole time I was in Little Mix I never got any of that. And then I came out of [the band] and people all of a sudden were saying it.”
Jesy also said that she had always dressed and acted this way, she just had to hide it while in the girl group. She told Vulture,
“I’m 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. 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.”
It may be true that this was her “look” before Little Mix, but that doesn’t make it ok. It just means that she was appropriating Black culture for longer than we knew.
And her last defense? This:
“I’m very aware that I’m a white British woman; I’ve never said that I wasn’t.”
But her actions tell a very different story. Her skin has gotten considerably darker over the years. And between her skin darkening, her style, and her mannerisms, it’s clear that she’s doing everything she can to look Black.
After the interview came out, Vulture tried to reach out to Jesy to follow up on her comments about cultural appropriation. But according to the publication, Jesy canceled two interviews before sending the following statement:
“I take all those comments made seriously. 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.”
All of these words are well and good, but her actions say otherwise. Just take a look at the music video for “Boyz.”
The video, which premiered Friday, October 8, is pretty much a cliché of every 90s/early 00s R&B music video you’ve ever seen. Her entire styling is rife with cultural appropriation — the bandanas, the Timberlands, the lowrider, the jewelry. Nearly all of the extras are people of color, especially the men. The lyrics are even suspect. She sings,
“Ooh, I like them tattoos and them gold teeth
Type to make me feel like I’m a baddie.”
“So hood, so good, so damn taboo.”
She also has Diddy make a cameo and call her “Geezy” (like Yeezy).
Perhaps the most upsetting part of Jesy’s blackfishing for profit is knowing the barrage of hate that her former groupmate Leigh-Anne Pinnock has received over the last ten years just for being Black.
Leigh-Anne has talked several times about facing racism while in the group. In June 2020, in an Instagram video, she said,
“I sing to fans who don’t see me or hear me or cheer me on. My reality is feeling anxious before fan events and signings because I always feel like I’m the least favored. My constant 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. No matter how far you think you have come, racism exists.”
She later released a documentary on BBC called Leigh Anne Pinnock: Race, Pop, and Power about her experiences being the only Black girl in the girl group.
Meanwhile, her white contemporary is off profiting from the very thing that Leigh-Anne is hated for.
Based on Jesy’s words and actions, it stands to reason that her blackfishing will not end anytime soon. Because, according to her, that’s just “who she is.”
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Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, and Tiger Beat. Her favorite Housewife is Bethenny Frankel and when she’s not watching RHONY, you can probably find her obsessing over her tuxedo cat Tom or hoarding drugstore lipsticks.