Jesy Nelson has been accused of ‘blackfishing’ by an ever-growing number of online commentators following the release of her new song ‘Boyz’, featuring Nicki Minaj.
The Romford-born star, 30, appears in the track’s video dressed in oversized basketball shorts, a jewelled bikini with a Union Jack pattern and various wigs, while the lyrics of the track refer to men who are “so hood, so good, so damn taboo”.
Jesy’s styling in the video and the lyrical content of the song, which samples P Diddy’s 2001 hit ‘Bad Boy for Life’, have been the subject of heavy online criticism – and the singer has been pressed on the subject of ‘blackfishing’ in numerous interviews since the song’s release.
Little Mix member Leigh-Anne Pinnock has hit out at claims that she, Perrie Edwards and Jade Thirlwall unfollowed their former band mate, saying they were blocked by Nelson’s account instead, according to messages sent to Instagram account NoHun.
In the leaked messages as reported in the Daily Mail, Leigh-Anne appears to reply to NoHun’s poll on his story, which asked followers whether he should make a dance routine to Jesy’s new single.
Leigh-Anne appeared to respond telling him ‘no’, leading to a shocked No Hun replying: “Omg Leigh-Anne I thought you were all okay. Wtf (sic).”
Leigh-Anne then seemed to continue: “Do a video about her being a blackfish instead… She blocked us. Cut us off.”
The messages are no longer on NoHun’s story.
What is ‘blackfishing’?
‘Blackfishing’ refers to people who pretend to be Black or mixed-race. In 2018, when the term first came into mainstream usage, ‘blackfish’ was predominantly used to describe white Instagrammers who tanned their skin to make it appear darker.
Those accused of ‘blackfishing’ would style themselves with darker skin, fuller lips, bigger bums and hairstyles that include braids and curls.
Speaking to BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat, New York-based nurse Dara Thurmond said the trend was problematic as Black people “just being ourselves” has “always been frowned upon”.
“Even now in certain workspaces, black women can’t wear their natural hair out. They have to wear weave,” she said.
“They have to press their hair so that it’s straight because to wear an afro or to wear braids or to wear locks is seen as unclean or untidy – it’s not professional.”
Though initially used to describe Instagram influencers, the term has since been expanded to include pop stars and models who alter their looks to appear racially ambiguous.
Why has Jesy Nelson been accused of ‘blackfishing’?
Prior to the release of ‘Boyz’, allegations had already been raised regarding Jesy’s appearance, which has often incorporated a dark tan and large frizzy hair.
Asked about these concerns in an interview with The Guardian, Jesy said: “I would never want to offend anyone, and that was really upsetting. I wasn’t aware that’s how people felt.”
Following the release of the music video, the backlash has intensified, with many users on TikTok documenting their criticism of Nelson’s styling – one TikToker pointed out that Nelson’s skin appears darker than Trinidadian-born Nicki Minaj.
In a review of the song published in The Guardian, the writer suggests the song “toys recklessly with her assumed and unearned proximity to Black culture” and critics have argued that she sings in a ‘blaccent’.
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Has Jesy responded to allegations?
Allegations of ‘blackfishing’ were put to Nelson a second time in an interview with Vulture, which went viral over the weekend.
Nelson told the interviewer she hadn’t seen many of the allegations as she was “not on social media at that time”, and instead left her team to deal with it.
She added: “I love Black culture. I love Black music. That’s all I know; it’s what I grew up on.”
Nelson argued she had always presented herself in a similar style to the one she has adopted since leaving Little Mix, pointing out she appeared on The X Factor in 2011 with “big curly hair, trainers and combats”.
Vulture attempted to schedule a follow-up interview to discuss the allegations of ‘blackfishing’ in more depth and was instead sent a statement by Nelson’s publicist.
The statement read: “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.”
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