Leigh-Anne Pinnock has opened up about the racism she experienced on the X Factor and how she felt the show ‘used’ her skin colour to ‘define’ her image in Little Mix.
The 29-year-old singer, who is expecting her first child with fiance Andre Gray, confronts her experience as the only Black member of the girl group and as a Black woman in the music industry in her new upcoming BBC Three documentary Leigh-Anne: Race, Pop & Power.
Casting her mind back to her understanding of discrimination on the ITV competition series in 2011, Leigh-Anne remembered how her hair was cut off and dyed red to resemble Rihanna’s image at the time.
‘Winning X Factor and becoming a pop star was everything I ever wanted, but before we even signed the record deal things started to happen that now feel a bit off,’ Leigh-Anne recalled.
‘On The X Factor when they dyed my hair red and shaved it, made me look like the Rihanna. I was 20 at the time and I guess a bit naïve.
‘Looking back, it’s clear my colour was being used to define my image within the group.’
Leigh-Anne continued: ‘Those things, when I look back to it, I just think wow.’
Little Mix comprises of Leigh-Anne, Perrie Edwards and Jade Thirwall after Jesy Nelson quit in 2020.
They became the first group to win the X Factor in 2011 and went on to have huge chart success following their victory.
The star also opened up on another moment where she felt like she didn’t belong.
‘We did a radio tour, we got off the plane and there were some fans standing there waiting for us and I was the first to walk up to them and they just walked past me and went to the other girls,’ she said.
‘It was so weird. It was never someone racially abusing me. It was just little things that happened.’
X Factor declined to comment.