Leigh-Anne Pinnock shared a powerful video detailing her experiences with racism as the only Black member of Little Mix. In the five-minute clip posted on her Instagram on Friday, the singer and songwriter outlined the difficult lessons she's learned and harsh realities she faces as a Black woman in the music industry. She began by offering her condolences to the family of George Floyd and the countless others who've been killed at the hands of police and expressed how for the first time in her life, the topic of racism is finally at the forefront.
"We cannot see this as a moment — this has to be a movement until the system designed to oppress us is no more."
"We have the world's attention," Leigh-Anne said. "We cannot see this as a moment — this has to be a movement until the system designed to oppress us is no more, and we are seen as equals to our white counterparts." She understands, however, that this is no easy feat and cannot be done overnight. "Black people have been oppressed for over 400 years. Four hundred years later we are still seeing our Black brothers and sisters being shot down and treated with less regard than everyone else."
Leigh-Anne explained how growing up with mixed-race parents, she and her sisters never viewed their race as "a limitation" on what they could achieve, but in the process, she wound up "sleeping on racism." "Too often, Black people are reminded how far we have come, as opposed to how far we can go. In doing this, we sleep on racism," she said, adding a poignant question: "Think about it: do you ever hear white people having to be thankful about how far they've come as a race?"
Nine years ago, after joining Little Mix, she had what she called "the biggest awakening" of her life. She said that while working on "Wings," a song the girl group dropped in 2012, creative director Frank Gatson told her, "You're the Black girl; you have to work 10 times harder." This interaction taught her a handful of tough lessons. She said:
"I learned that the dream of being in the biggest girl band in the world came with its flaws and consequences — consequences such as knowing about the existing, underlying racism in the creative industries. You learn to understand that you can't be seen to be too loud or too opinionated, otherwise you're deemed a diva or aggressive. You learn that by walking into a room, you are deemed unapproachable or offish before anyone has even approached you. You learn that by voicing your opinion about the lack of diversity within the industry is like smashing your head against a brick wall. So at events and ceremonies, you learn to take great comfort from rare moments when you meet Black creatives who understand this feeling of misplacement that you have inside."
Nevertheless, those moments of comfort are fleeting and only last until reality comes rushing back in:
"My reality was feeling lonely while touring to predominantly white countries. 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 favoured. My 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. My reality is wanting to see other artists who I know are so talented but will never get opportunities I have had because to the industry, they are not marketable, but they will get behind someone else with the aspects of Black culture the world wants to see, but will leave behind the aspects they feel make them unmarketable. My reality is all the times I've felt invisible within my group, part of me is fully aware that my experience would've been even harder to cope with had I been dark-skinned. Our reality is no matter how far you think you've come, racism exists. It exists in sports, in the creative industries, in politics and policies, in the streets, and in the hearts of racist individuals."
Leigh-Anne concluded the video by urging her followers to no longer be quiet on the issue of systemic racism while holding back tears. "Let's all continue to speak up on racism and keep this movement going," she said, adding a "thank you" at the end.