Leigh-Anne Pinnock says Syco ‘used her skin colour to define her’ in Little Mix

She just announced her pregnancy with her footballer fiancé Andre Gray.

And Little Mix’s Leigh-Anne Pinnock admits that despite the racism she and the Watford ace have experienced during their careers, she would be happy for their children to follow in their famous footsteps.

“I see the way my sister is with her son. What I love is that she ­instils in him how incredible and beautiful he is, and that he can achieve anything,” says Leigh-Anne.

“That’s exactly how I am going to be with my children. Being black is their power. I am going to teach them about black history and black rights and their culture.

“But the main thing I am going to teach them is that they can do anything.”

The 29-year-old, who is of Barbadian and Jamaican heritage, has been with Andre since 2016.

While he has regularly spoken out about racism in football, five years ago prejudiced, historic tweets he’d made about dark-skinned black women came to light.

Leigh-Anne said of the 2012 posts: “Seeing those tweets really made me feel a bit sick.

“I was really upset because I was like: ‘Who is this person?’ When they surfaced my heart sank.”

Andre apologised for the tweets at the time, paid a £25,000 fine and was suspended from playing in four matches. He has since admitted he has learned from his ­mistake and Leigh-Anne says the pair now have “amazing” conversations about racism.

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She adds: “Andre is my backbone. It’s inspiring for me.”

Leigh-Anne is examining racism for a BBC documentary out this week.

It sees the singer reflect on her own experiences of racial abuse during her time in Little Mix, as well as wider problems in the music industry and in the UK as a whole.

She shot to fame when Little Mix, which also includes Jade Thirlwall, Perrie Edwards and previously Jesy Nelson, won X Factor in 2011.

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A decade on the band have sold 60million albums, have fans all over the world and stardom has earned Leigh-Anne alm-ost £6million.

But behind the glitz and glamour Leigh-Anne has admitted that experiencing institutional racism and micro-aggressions throughout her time in the band left her feeling “invisible”.

The first time she was racially abused was aged nine when a boy at school said she was “from the jungle”.

“I was devastated,” she says. “I had never been made to feel like I didn’t belong before.

“I wouldn’t be made to feel like that again until my life changed overnight a decade later. Winning X Factor and becoming a pop star was all I ever wanted but even before I signed the record deal things seemed off.

“The record company dyed my hair red and shaved it, trying to make me look like the ‘Rihanna’ of the band – and it was clear that my colour was clearly being used to define my image.

“It’s mad to look back on these things and see them in a different way.”

Leigh-Anne recalls another time when the group did a radio tour. She was the first to get off the plane but fans walked straight past her and went to the other girls.

And the other band members were always nominated for a “sexiest women” list on a radio station but Leigh-Anne was excluded for several years.

She says: “This made me think: ‘Why wasn’t I nominated?’ It’s these ­little things that you look back and think something doesn’t seem right here.

“It was things that happened regularly, feeling like I was invisible.”

When Little Mix performed in Brazil in March 2020 Leigh-Anne realised she had been treated differently from the other girls due to the colour of her skin.

“For the first time in my career I saw a predominantly black audience,” she says.

“I was getting so much love, and I felt like I belonged.

“It was mind-blowing to me. I’d never experienced anything like that in my Little Mix journey.

“I remember coming offstage and just sitting down with Jade and I was bawling my eyes out. I thought: ‘Why only now am I feeling this love?’”

In the documentary Leigh-Anne talks to other black artists about their experiences in the industry. She hears from Alexandra Burke, Nao and Raye, as well as Keisha Buchanan from Sugababes, who talks about being pushed out of the group due to bullying allegations.

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Leigh-Anne says: “Hear-ing what these women had to say, even though their accounts were horrible because I couldn’t believe how bad it was, was like therapy because we were able to be so open with each other.

“What shoc-ked me was everyone’s ex-perience was so different. Race

affects so many people in different ways – and I’m so glad we had the opportunity to show the world.”

Leigh-Anne says making the documentary has helped her find her purpose: “I’m so proud and happy I’ve made this film.

“I definitely feel like I am owning who I am so much more. I feel like a different person. I have so much confidence in myself after just not feeling good enough and not knowing why.

“I’ve found my purpose which is to keep using my platform to take action and try to make a change.”

Leigh-Anne: Race, Pop & Power is on BBC Three on iPlayer from 6am Thursday and BBC One at 9pm on Thursday

  • Leigh-Anne Pinnock
  • Little Mix

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