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It's been a few days since the release of Jesy Nelson's long-awaited solo debut, BOYZ (featuring Nicki Minaj), since leaving girl group Little Mix, but the response - at least certainly over on Twitter - has been quite mixed, with many accusing the singer of Blackfishing and cultural appropriation. Others have pointed out that her new style is deliberately racially ambiguous and said they aren't at all comfortable with it.
For those unfamiliar with the term 'Blackfishing' it's a term which was coined to describe those who appear to be masquerading as Black or mixed race, and even profiting from that adopted guise, when they are in fact white (like Jesy).
Over on Twitter, one tweet which almost 4,000 likes reads, "Jesy is a 30 year old Brit WW [white woman] cosplaying as a 19 year old American mixed-ish/BW [Black woman] from the 00s. You can’t tell me this isn’t misogynoir."
Jesy is a 30 year old Brit WW cosplaying as a 19 year old American mixed-ish/BW from the 00s.
You can’t tell me this isn’t misogynoir
— La Panterona (@dalilah_black) October 8, 2021
Another said, "jesy nelson profiting off of black culture, when she herself couldn’t even be a good ally to an ex bandmate let alone the black community, whilst black fishing and trying to sing with a blaccent in an attempt to sound hard when she’s from Essex…in british black history month????"
jesy nelson profiting off of black culture, when she herself couldn’t even be a good ally to an ex bandmate let alone the black community, whilst black fishing and trying to sing with a blaccent in an attempt to sound hard when she’s from Essex…in british black history month????
— Rowena (@westxallens) October 8, 2021
Speaking not on the criticisms levelled at her new video, but that have been floating around on social media for some time, Jesy said during a new interview with Vulture that she had never deleted comments under her photos that accused her of Blackfishing. This was later confirmed to the publication by a follow-up email, in which Jesy said her management had deleted them to protect her mental health.
When asked if she understood the allegations, Jesy also appeared to slightly side-step the question saying, "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. 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’m very aware that I’m a white British woman; I’ve never said that I wasn’t."
Vulture also report that two follow-up interviews scheduled to ask Jesy about the specific criticisms aimed at her new video were cancelled, and that via email she said: "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."
Jesy also added that she doesn't feel she's changed her image since becoming a solo artist, referencing her dress sense during her time on The X Factor.
"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," she stated. "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."
Cosmopolitan has contacted Jesy's team for comment.
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