Jesy Nelson accused of ‘blackfishing’ after release of new music video “Boyz”

Christine O'Mahony

First of all, the author of this article is a mixed-race woman, therefore I am very knowledgeable about racism, cultural appropriation and blackfishing, as it affects me every single day. I logged onto Twitter one day, to see that Jesy Nelson decided to go solo and released her first song as a solo artist. I enjoy Little Mix’s music and always felt sorry for Jesy Nelson as she struggles a lot with her mental health.

However, these blackfishing allegations cannot be ignored. Jesy Nelson is a white woman and has many privileges. She has been accused of cultural appropriation and blackfishing by the Black community, something she denies. It doesn’t matter if Nelson, “always loved Black music and their culture”, she emulated the appearance of a Black woman and capitalised on it.

As a mixed-race woman growing up in Ireland, I was always bullied for my afro hair, big lips and skin colour. I use to cry to my Jamaican mother, asking her to straighten my hair and dye it blonde, so I wouldn’t get bullied in school. But as an adult, I see white women, pump up their lips with lip filler, wear cornrows/braids/dreads, and put on an excessive amount of tan. This is exactly the look Nelson went for in her music video, but she had curly afro-looking hair. When I watched Nicki Minaj and Nelson side by side, I couldn’t believe that Nelson actually appeared darker than Minaj, and Minaj is actually Black.

Blackfishing and cultural appropriation are not all about appearance, it is the way you speak and the music too. Nelson throughout copied what she believed were Black mannerisms, accompanied with gold teeth. Reading the lyrics, there is a line there that says “so hood, so good, so damn taboo”, I question what is so ‘taboo’ about a white woman dating a Black man? This is not the 20th century; my parents received abuse as an interracial couple back in the late 70s/80s, but now it is so normalised. There is no need to treat Black men like they are forbidden fruit.

Another thing, at the start of the video, the scene is set in this place called “Perfectville”, it appears, only white, middle-class people live in this beautiful neighbourhood and Black people are all “hood” and “gangster” and disrupting the neighbourhood. This is a lazy stereotype, we as a community are hard-working and can live in these “white neighbourhoods”, only a minority participate in gangs, but that minority seems to define our community and it’s unfair. Black men and women do not equal “Bad Boyz”. This all appeared, very classist.

Now Nelson is not the only white artist to be accused of blackfishing, Ariana Grande, also a fan of using excessive tan and Adele, who rocked up with Chinese bumps, a traditionally Jamaican/Caribbean hairstyle, also found themselves in the situation Nelson is in. Nelson should apologise properly and learn from her mistakes. Former Little Mix bandmate, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, who is also Black, does not deserve the abuse she is getting, as she was only telling the truth when she accused Nelson of blackfishing. Nelson may ignore it and accuse Pinnock of ‘jealousy’, but a majority of the Black community are behind Pinnock as blackfishing is racist!

Christine O’Mahony

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