Written by Kayleigh Dray
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.
“I was really scared, actually, about speaking out, which is why I feel like I didn’t for so many years,” says Little Mix’s Leigh-Anne Pinnock.
Leigh-Anne Pinnock has spent the best part of 10 years as one quarter of the pop group Little Mix. Now, though, the singer – ahead of the broadcast of Leigh-Anne: Race, Pop & Power – has expressed her doubts over whether she would have been chosen for the band if her skin was “some shades darker.”
Speaking to The Independent ahead of her new BBC documentary, Pinnock says: “I was really scared, actually, about speaking out, which is why I feel like I didn’t for so many years.”
Pinnock continued: “I was scared that people wouldn’t understand, because I feel like with racism, if you don’t experience it, how are you ever going to really get it and feel it and understand it?
“Also I was scared to lose fans, I was scared of offending fans, because that’s not what I’m trying to do at all. I literally just wanted to address how I felt.”
It is a subject she explores further in Leigh-Anne: Race, Pop & Power, in which she recalls how she has spent much of her career feeling “held back” by her race.
“The confidence I have in myself for so many years was ripped away from me, just not feeling good enough and not knowing why,” Pinnock says in the documentary.
“Why do I feel like this? Why do I have these feelings? Why did I feel invisible? It makes me think more into the fact there are so few dark skinned females right now in the music industry.”
Pinnock continues: “What is it about dark skinned women that they don’t deem as marketable? It really does make me think, if I was some shades’ darker, would I be sitting here right now? I don’t know.
“With pop music from whatever I’ve experienced it is such a white world and I want to see more diversity and if you think music is led by hip hop and R&B, you can’t just take bits of the culture and not actually give people these opportunities, it doesn’t even make sense.”
Pinnock adds: “When I’m seeing that and going into work and it is predominately white, I’m like, we’re taking influence from black music, so why am I not around Black people?
“I can speak for pop music and the representation is nowhere near where it should be.”
Thankfully, Pinnock feels “empowered” since speaking about racism.
And, as she told the press, she is glad that “the whole world is having this conversation”.
Citing Meghan Markle’s Oprah interview as an inspiration, Pinnock says: “’I mean what a brave and an incredible thing to do to speak out like that. I think she’s amazing.
“It just shows racism doesn’t exclude you. If you’re a Black person it’s going to affect you at some point in your life.”
Leigh-Anne: Race, Pop & Power airs on BBC One at 9pm on 13 May and will arrive on BBC Three and iPlayer from 6am that day.
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