Why Should Leigh-Anne Pinnock Be The One To Hold Jesy Nelson Accountable For Blackfishing?

Nicki Minaj says Leigh-Anne should’ve called Jesy out ‘immediately’ – but the responsibility of educating white people on Blackfishing shouldn’t rest on Black people.

Little Mix

by Georgia Aspinall |

Last night, the controversy surrounding Jesy Nelson Blackfishing escalated ten-fold. In an Instagram Live video with Nicki Minaj, the pair discussed alleged DMs Little Mix’s Leigh-Anne Pinnock supposedly sent to a TikTok influencer telling him to ‘do a video on her being a black fish.’

The legitimacy of the DMs has since been questioned, as well as the influencer's motivation behind sharing them. While it’s impossible to fact-check without Leigh-Anne or her team weighing in - and she's yet to do so - multiple fans have pointed out inaccuracies in the conversation, as well as questioning why Leigh-Anne would message a random fan about something so sensitive.

Despite the DMs not being verified, Leigh-Anne has still been piled on by fans of both Nicki and Jesy, with clips from the video going viral - ‘Jesy Nelson Nicki Minaj live’ is now a trending search term on Google.

‘You was in this woman’s group and you didn’t talk about this shit for 10 years, and as soon as you see she’s got a video come out with Nicki Minaj and Puffy, now you sending text messages,’ Nicki said during the live. ‘If you want a solo career baby just say that, you can go out and put your own music, we’re going to support you and love you. You don’t have to attack someone else, if that’s how you felt, why was you being in the videos with her for 10 years? Now all of a sudden she’s not in a video with you, you have some negative evil thing to do and say.’

In fact, Jesy acknowledged that Leigh-Anne did raise it with her prior to Jesy leaving Little Mix - but again implied that Leigh-Anne should've spoken up sooner. 'I was in a group with two women of colour for 10 years and it was never brought up to me until the last music video I did with them when Leigh-Anne messaged me,' Jesy said.

Nicki also shared a Tweet featuring side-by-side photos of Leigh-Anne’s friend Gabrielle Nikita, which appeared to show Gabrielle’s skin tone tanned darker in one Instagram post compared to a video in which she appeared with Leigh-Anne. The implication was that Leigh-Anne knows more than one white woman who Blackfishes, although Gabrielle’s ethnicity is not actually public knowledge.

‘Don’t call things out when they benefit your personal vendetta to people,’ Nicki tweeted in response. ‘Call them out immediately once you see it chile. Don’t wait a decade after you’ve made millions with the person.’

Ultimately, the burden of Jesy’s Blackfishing appears to be falling on Leigh-Anne, with many people online now questioning why she hasn’t been outspoken about Jesy, or her friend’s, attempts to cosplay a different race in the past. But our question is, why should she?

Leigh-Anne being Black does not mean she is responsible for educating her white friends on their microaggressions. In fact, the responsibility should fall on the white people around them. For far too long, the burden of educating white people on racism has fallen on Black people, costing time, money and emotional labour - all while also dealing with the ongoing trauma that comes with living in a racist society.

Only in recent years has Leigh-Anne felt comfortable speaking out in detail about the racism she’s endured as a famous Black woman in the UK. In an emotional Instagram video posted during the Black Lives Matter protests last year, Leigh Anne told fans that only with the outpouring of support for anti-racism movements did she feel safe to share her experiences.

‘More than ever I felt like it was time that I was completely open and honest with you all because finally, the world is awake and people want to listen, help and understand,’ she said. ‘My reality was feeling lonely while touring to predominately white countries where I sing to fans who don't see me, don't hear me, don't cheer me on. My reality is constantly feeling like I have to work 10 times harder and longer to make my case in the group, because my talent alone isn't enough.’

Reading Leigh-Anne’s words, we shouldn’t be asking why she didn’t confront Jesy’s Blackfishing sooner, but why she wasn’t able to. Because how would her colleagues and peers react if Leigh-Anne did? More than that, how would the world react if she did it publicly?

We shouldn’t be asking why Leigh-Anne didn’t confront Jesy, but why she didn't feel safe to.

So often, Black women are dubbed ‘aggressive’ for the mildest of callouts. In a girl band environment where vulture spectators are waiting for the slightest sign of discord, the faintest opportunity to scar your reputation, it’s no wonder Leigh-Anne did not feel safe confronting Jesy’s Blackfishing when it first began – let alone in the press.

Ultimately, whether you’re famous or not, it’s not fair to expect Black women to educate their white friends on racism – nor it is okay to use staying quiet as an attempt to gaslight a Black woman’s experience of their white friend Blackfishing, or invalidate the very real damage done by racist microaggressions at large.

Leigh-Anne should never have been brought into this fight. Not only are the DMs that led to Nicki’s comments unverifiable, but this is also a woman that’s just given birth to twins. So instead of dragging a likely exhausted mother into this conversation, reserve if for the white people close to Jesy that are clearly still enabling her behaviour.

Grazia has reached out for comment to Leigh-Anne Pinnock.

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