"I would search 'Leigh-Anne, the black girl in Little Mix"': Leigh-Anne Pinnock emotionally recalls actively looking for online racist hate

Leigh-Anne Pinnock has been one fourth of the most powerful sisterhood in music, Little Mix, since 2011. But Leigh-Anne hasn’t stepped out on her own, until now.

As Leigh-Anne reveals her first solo project as the face of the new Umbro campaign, Leigh-Anne sits down with GLAMOUR’s Josh Smith for a powerful interview – her first one alone. Here, the 27-year-old opens up about dealing with online racism, her journey towards self-love and why her Little Mix bandmates are the most powerful support network she has.

We salute you, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, and thank you for sharing your empowering journey with us. Make sure you watch the full video above and don’t forget to like, comment and share as we love to hear from you.

It’s nice to step out on my own a bit…

It feels a bit weird. We’re so used to always being together and there’s always someone to fall back on or rely on but it’s nice to step out on my own a bit. I love fashion in general so to be the face of Umbro is incredible!

I used to feel invisible. Seeing myself reflected back in this UMBRO campaign would have helped so much…

It would have definitely helped. I feel privileged to be the face of it and help girls that do look like me. It’s not unreachable, it’s not impossible. Anything is possible and it definitely would have helped a lot. There’s so much movement now and we are only furthering the conversation.

I’m not going to lie, the first three years of being in the group, I would look for trolls. I would search Leigh Anne. I would look through Twitter and I would search Leigh Anne from Little Mix, the black girl in Little Mix, I would put these things in my search engines just to see the comments. I regret doing that so much but I’m here now and I feel so much stronger and I don’t feel like that anymore and I don’t do that anymore. I don’t look for it. I want to be someone who got through that. She was that person and now I’m so proud of who I am and it’s such a good feeling.

I get upset because I remember that girl. I’m still going through things now, you’re never 100% certain of yourself…

You will get there, everyone will get there, but it does take time. It took me so long but now I don’t care what people have to say about me anymore and it’s such a good place to be in. I get upset because I remember that girl. I’m still going through things now, you’re never 100% certain of yourself. There’s always going to be some things to get me down and get to me. I’m so much stronger. I don’t look for those comments anymore, you cannot do it to yourself.

For the first three year (of Little Mix) I was still working out where I fitted in…

For the first three years of getting thrown into this crazy world I was still working out where I fitted in. It was a weird feeling because I did feel invisible. I didn’t know why I felt like that and it took me a bit of time to actually process it. What I spoke about, that was the way I interpreted it and how I felt. When I spoke about it, I got so many messages saying how brave I was, and it really helped a lot of black girls. Knowing I did that made so happy and it felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. It was a good feeling and I think it needed to be said.

I had reservations about speaking out – I was scared to say the wrong thing…

I think there were some reservations because I was scared to say the wrong thing. I didn’t want to offend anyone. Because it was so sensitive, it was hard for me to put it into words because it was personal situation but I’m really happy I did because it’s only going to help people and it’s opening the conversation and making people feel braver to speak about it themselves. It’s so important to speak up on these issues because the more people that do, the more change is going to happen. I have got the most incredible fan base who pick me up and we do it for them. This is why we do what we do. They are our fans and they are the best.

At the beginning (of Little Mix) we were told not to use the word feminist. The X-Factor producers didn’t want to put us through, they said ‘girl bands don’t do well!’

At the beginning we didn’t use the word feminist. We were actually told not to just in case it was too controversial. To be fair, we were really young. I don’t think we were as clued-up as we are now on things. Now we’re proud to say we’re feminists. We are a lot wiser. Things that happened back then really make sense now. At the beginning, when we were on X-Factor, we were told, ‘girl bands didn’t do well!’ and we were nearly not going to get through. The producers didn’t want to put us through because they were saying, ‘what’s the point, they’re not going to achieve anything, they’re not going to do well, they are a girl band!’ But Tulisa actually stood up for us and we proved them wrong, right? We won the bloody show! We proved them wrong. At the time, we didn’t think too much into it but now we realise how bad that was. You can’t put all women in a box like that. Who’s to say we weren’t going to win? Who’s to say we weren’t going to do well? It is these things that made us realise we need to speak up more and speak about what happened to us then.

My Little Mix sisterhood have helped me so much…

Even sitting here now, I feel like ‘where are my girls?’. It’s so weird. I love them so much and feel so lucky to have that. It’s so necessary in this industry. You need people around you, I couldn’t do it on my own.

To be defined by someone you’re with is bullsh*t…

The questions we are being asked are 100% changing. In this new campaign (for Little Mix album, LM5) we are talking so much more and being so much more vocal about issues going on in the world and it feels really good. It feels good to actually speak about something that matters. I don’t want to talk about my bloody boyfriend. The campaigns before were mainly focused on stuff like that and it was like, ‘arghhh for god’s sake!’ It was so refreshing to talk about things that matter.

I’m now so proud of my skin, you have got to be positive and not let anything hold you back…

Do not let anything hold you back – especially the colour of your skin, that’s ridiculous and it shouldn’t be anything to hold you back. If anything, I’m now so proud of my skin. You literally have to go for it. I never let anyone tell me anything growing up and I knew I wanted to be a singer. I would say to every single person that entered my life, ‘I’m going to be a singer, I’m going to be on billboards and I’m going to smash it!’ You have to put it into the universe, you’ve got to be positive and not let anything hold you back.

And didn’t she prove herself right? We salute you, Leigh-Anne.

Leigh-Anne Pinnock is the face of UMBRO


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