FKA Twiggs

FKA Twigs’ words on abuse are painfully honest, but it’s so important we listen

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Singer FKA Twigs talks on the Grounded With Louis Theroux podcast about the domestic abuse and racism she’s experienced.

Please be aware that this article discusses domestic and racist abuse in detail

FKA Twigs is a leading figure in contemporary music with a Grammy nomination, a Mobo Awards win and two Brit Awards nominations under her belt. In 2019, she released her critically acclaimed second album, Magdalene. And she’s just announced that she made a third album in lockdown

But recent headlines about the artist’s relationship with actor Shia LaBeouf have overshadowed all this. Twigs, whose real name is Tahliah Debrett Barnett, is suing LeBeouf for alleged “sexual battery, assault and infliction of emotional distress”. As originally reported by the New York Times on 11 December 2020, LaBeouf hasn’t commented on the actual lawsuit but did say he accepted that he had “been abusive to myself and everyone round me for years”.

Though it’s often easy to dismiss the reports and rumours about celebrity personal lives, Twigs’ recent revelations on her experiences of domestic abuse hold vital meaning that we need to pay attention to. That’s why the latest episode of the Grounded With Louis Theroux podcast is essential listening.

On this week’s episode, there are two interviews: a conversation between Theroux and Twigs in September before the allegations against LaBeouf were announced and a follow-up discussion that was recorded just before Christmas.

Reflecting on their first interview in the December recording, Twigs tells Theroux: “I felt like I was being dishonest in a way. The one thing that I had in my head was that the majority of this year [2020] I’ve been recovering from being in an abusive relationship.

“It’s difficult because it’s not something that now defines me, but it is a big part of who I am. When we spoke last time I was still very much thinking about whether or not I wanted to come forward and talk about it.”

Twigs says the number of women experiencing domestic abuse in lockdown is what compelled her to speak out and bring attention to the issue. She details the alleged “cycle of abuse” in her relationship with LaBeouf, saying she would go through phases of “love-bombing” but then “wasn’t allowed to look [other] men in the eye”. 

“I’ve been trying to not wake up between 4-7am each day in a panic attack,” she reveals, when recalling the reality of her time in lockdown. “Because I was left with PTSD from that, which again is something that we don’t talk about in society.”.

Talking about her frustration with people who ask why women don’t leave abusive relationships, she adds: “I felt so controlled and so confused and so low beneath myself that the fear of leaving and knowing that I had all this work to do to get back to feeling just OK was completely overwhelming and genuinely felt very impossible.

“I’d never been in a relationship like this before, or heard of a relationship like this before. I wasn’t ‘clued-up’, I didn’t know the signs, I didn’t know the tactics[…] I did feel sometimes like I deserved it. I felt very scared and intimidated and controlled.”

FKA Twigs at the Brit Awards 2020
FKA Twigs recalls the domestic abuse she experienced in a chat on the Grounded With Louis Theroux podcast.

“Everything I was, was somehow tied to him and he was in control of my mood that day,” she tells Theroux.

The singer says she took the first step to get out of the relationship by ringing a helpline, reaching out to a friend and seeing a therapist a couple of times a week. 

In her interview on the podcast, Twigs also talks about the racist abuse she received while dating another former boyfriend, Robert Pattinson. Detailing the abuse she suffered on social media, she remembers: “He was their white prince charming and I think they considered that he should definitely be with somebody white and blonde and not me.

She adds: “Whatever I did at that time people would find pictures of monkeys and have me doing the same thing as the monkey… Say if I was wearing a red dress, they would have a monkey in a red dress, or if I was on a bike, they would find a monkey on a bike.”

Admitting that this led to her feeling “self-conscious” and “ugly”, she explains: “This journey has not come without its difficulties.”

It’s an incredible interview about the different forms of abuse women experience, and perhaps the most important podcast that you plug into this month. 

You can listen to the full interview on the Grounded With Louis Theroux podcast via the BBC Sounds app.

Are you in an abusive relationship? You’re not alone. Seek confidential help and support with Refuge or contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline for free, 24 hours a day.

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…