Jesy Nelson Has Been Called Out For Blackfishing In ‘Boyz’ Video

The former Little Mix member says she's "shocked" by the comments.


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Former Little Mix member Jesy Nelson is being called out for Blackfishing and appropriating Black aesthetics and culture after her new single dropped over the weekend.

Titled ‘Boyz’, the track and video feature Nicki Minaj and a metric tonne of Bad Boys film references. ‘Boyz’ also marks the launch of Nelson’s solo career, 10 months after leaving Little Mix in December of 2020.

But Nelson’s ‘Boyz’ video is riddled with clumsily appropriated Black American aesthetics that are a shot-for-shot rehash of P. Diddy’s ‘Bad Boys for Life’. Between the gold teeth, braided and beaded hairstyles, low-riders, and street wear – there isn’t a single element that doesn’t see Nelson appropriating Black American culture.

The video itself is premised on Nelson arriving in a predominately white suburban neighbourhood with a busload of Black folks and people of colour. Their arrival shocks and appals white suburbia. The intention seems comedic, but the execution feeds into the racist idea that the presence of people of colour, especially Black people, in “white” neighbourhoods is inherently corrupt and disruptive.

Like Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, Iggy Azaelea, Bruno Mars and other non-Black artists, Jesy Nelson has turned to appropriating Black American culture to shake up her image. And of course, going hand in hand with the appropriation of Blackness is Blackfishing.

Blackfishing is a practice by which a person alters their appearance to obtain stereotypically Black features. Nelson has been accused of Blackfishing in the past. Once again, in the ‘Boyz’ video, Nelson’s skin is tanned so dark, she appears darker than her collaborator Nicki Minaj.

Nelson acknowledges she’s aware of Blackfishing accusations but seems unaware of how her actions perpetuate anti-Black stereotypes and contribute to the erasure of Black women in the industry.

“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,” Nelson told Vulture in a recent interview. “I wasn’t on social media around that time, so I let my team [deal with it], because that was when I’d just left. But I mean, like, I love Black culture. I love Black music. That’s all I know; it’s what I grew up on.”

“I take all those comments made seriously,” Nelson said in another statement to Vulture, following the interview. “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.”

Over the weekend, Nelson has been unfollowed by her former Little Mix bandmates on social media.

Nelson’s ignorance is an especially sore point. Only this year her former Little Mix bandmate Leigh-Anne Pinnock made her own documentary, Leigh-Anne: Race, Pop & Power.

The documentary details the anti-Black racism that Pinnock experienced since joining the industry. As Little Mix’s only Black member, she included incidents where producers asked her to bleach her skin, and people often confusing her and fellow mixed-race bandmate, Jade Thirlwall.