People

Sugababes’ Keisha Buchanan on what it’s like to be the only black woman in a band

Posted by
Kayleigh Dray
Published
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites
Keisha Buchanan of the Sugababes poses backstage at Wireless Festival at Finsbury Park on July 5, 2014 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Joseph Okpako/Redferns via Getty Images)

“I wasn’t allowed to be upset, I wasn’t allowed to have an opinion.” 

It’s all too easy to assume that racism is solely defined by violence, racial slurs, and police brutality. To quote comedian Gina Yashere, though, “it’s the other racism, the everyday racism, the undercurrent of racism that black people suffer every day” that we need to be more aware of.

In a bid to help us better understand these micro-aggressions, Keisha Buchanan – who found fame as ⅓ of the ever-changing rota of Sugababes – has shared a candid 14-minute YouTube video, in which she details the “trauma” she experienced as the band’s only black woman.

“I used to think racism was when someone directly looked at you and called you a racist word,” she explains. “I didn’t realise that there are so many different ways that a person or people can be racist or prejudiced.”

You may also like

Mel B explains why it’s so hurtful when white people say they “don’t see colour”

Buchanan goes on to recall how she was always portrayed as the band’s “bully” – as someone the other girls were afraid of.

“I have never bullied anyone in my life [but] after a while I felt like no one would believe me,” she says.

“[The band] would have fallouts, like most teenage girls… that experience would then be written up in a way to make myself and Mutya [Buena, who is of Filipino-Irish descent] look aggressive, look like bullies basically.”

The Sugababes: Heidi Range, Keisha Buchanan, and Mutya Buena
The Sugababes in 2002: Heidi Range, Keisha Buchanan, and Mutya Buena

Buchanan, at this point, refers to an article published in 2009, which was penned with the sub-headline: “Keisha Buchanan reacts angrily to tabloid reports that she has been bullying Amelle Berrabah.”

“First of all, I was never angry. I was hurt and I was confused,” she says. “[But] the wording ‘Keisha reacts angrily’ allows people to get a picture in their mind of me being the angry black woman.”

You may also like

Leona Lewis’ story about her confrontation with a white store owner is a must-read

Buchanan adds that this constant racial stereotyping made her feel as if she had to go above and beyond to make people feel comfortable around her. So much so, she says, that she even allowed people to steal from her.

“I’ve had people who have stolen from me and when I call them out on it, they have told me that they were being bullied by me,” she reflects.

“I let them get away with it because I was so scared they would say, ‘She’s bullied me.’”

Watch Buchanan’s video in full for yourself below:

Reflecting on how her experiences have left her feeling “fragile”, not to mention caused “severe damage” to her confidence, Buchanan goes on to note that she’s not doing this video for sympathy.”

“The scrutiny, the judgement, the bullying has actually left me fragile and I hate that word,” she says.

“It’s left me questioning my own judgement and I want people to see me for me, faults and all, shadiness and all, bossiness and all and make a judgement on that. Not on what they perceive me to be based on the colour of my skin.”

She finishes powerfully: “I’m not a victim whatsoever, but I have been hurt and I would like there to be a change in how we view others.”

Sign up for the latest news and must-read features from Stylist, so you don't miss out on the conversation.

By entering my email I agree to Stylist’s Privacy Policy

Accessing support

Stop Hate UK is a charity that provides independent and confidential support to people affected by hate crimes. They provide confidential hate crime reporting services in various areas of the UK, including a 24-hour helpline. 

The Monitoring Group, a leading anti-racist charity that promotes civil rights, similarly aims to relieve the needs of those who are distressed or suffering violence or harassment. 

Black Minds Matter UK is providing fully-funded therapy sessions for black people by black therapists – you can check them out here.

Images: Getty

Topics

Share this article

Author

Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

Recommended by Kayleigh Dray

People

Leona Lewis’ story about her confrontation with a white store owner is a must-read

If you don’t think racism is a problem in the UK, you need to listen to what Leona Lewis has to say.

Posted by
Kayleigh Dray
Published
People

Leigh-Anne Pinnock speaks openly about her experiences of racism in an emotional new video

“Too often black people are reminded how far we have come as opposed to how far we can go.”

Posted by
Lauren Geall
Published
People

Jade Thirlwall discusses the “horrific” racist abuse she has faced

The Little Mix singer has given a candid interview.

Posted by
Hollie Richardson
Published
People

Clara Amfo’s powerful Radio 1 statement has gone viral – and we all need to listen to it

The presenter broke down as she told listeners how her mental health has been impacted by George Floyd’s murder at the hands of a white police officer.

Posted by
Kayleigh Dray
Published
Life

How we can all be better allies in the fight against racism

We, as white people, need to be better allies. That much is clear. So how can we do that?

Posted by
Kayleigh Dray
Published