“We were told to go into this room and flirt with these men,” says Little Mix singer Leigh-Anne Pinnock.
Eight years after winning X Factor, Little Mix are still killing it. The band continues to ride the wave of last year’s fifth album LM5, Stylist recently praised them for being the feminist group we need right now, and they picked up the Change Makers accolade at the British LGBT Awards just last month.
As the group’s success has grown, so has its members: Jesy Nelson, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Jade Thirlwall and Perrie Edwards. Most poignantly, the four women have become vocal in calling out the sexism they continue to face within the music industry. In a new interview with The Independent, it’s clear how big a problem this still is in 2019.
Recalling the reception they received after releasing the music video to Strip - which they posed naked for with social media insults written across their bodies – Pinnock said that they were accused of being sexual in the video just because they were women. “There we were trying to send out this amazing, inspiring message and these people are saying, ‘Look at them trying to be sexual,’” she said. “How dare they! We’re there trying to help people and you’re projecting that on to us. I’ve seen countless images of boybands with practically no clothes on and they are celebrated. It’s unfair.”
Pinnock also shared a worrying experience from the earlier days of the band when they were asked to flirt with men during a promotional trip to America to help further their careers. “We were told to go into this room and flirt with these men,” she said. “It’s always about schmoozing and sucking up [though] this time the word was ‘flirt’. We all thought ‘urgh’, but we were, like, ‘OK, whatever.’” When you look back on it now you think, ‘I should have said something. That is gross.’ But it’s hard.”
Thirwall then explained that they now know how important it is to vocalise these experiences, adding: “It’s taken a few years to find our feet and find the confidence to be more vocal about things. [It comes from] age, maturity and knowing that we’ve got a solid fanbase. Now I feel like the world’s very aware that artists have a lot of influence, especially on younger people, so I feel we can speak more, be heard and be taken seriously.”
It’s great to hear that Little Mix now feel confident in calling out the sexism they face, but it’s worrying to think about all the other female artists currently out there – especially solo artists who perhaps don’t have the support of fellow group members.
These comments are a wake-up call for people to realise that sexism is still rife in the industry.