The truth about Jesy Nelson’s feud with Little Mix

As the feud between Jesy and her ex-bandmates reaches fever pitch, PR expert Nick Ede reveals why the public mud-slinging could work in their favour

little mix feud

by Lauren Hill-Roger |
Updated on

Little Mix were once one of the most tight-knit girl bands in history, with the four girls becoming best friends after being placed in a group together on The X Factor in 2011.

While other pop bands were plagued with reports of infighting, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Perrie Edwards, Jade Thirlwall and Jesy Nelson seemed to be the real deal, going on holidays together in their spare time, giggling their way through interviews, and defending each other whenever needed.

When Perrie, 28, split from fiancé Zayn Malik in 2016, she broke down crying during a live performance, and her bandmates wasted no time in stopping the performance to rush to her side and hug her. Speaking of their bond, Leigh-Anne, 30, said that year, “We’ve grown into not only best friends but sisters, [who] will always have each other’s backs.”

little mix crying
They comforted Perrie when she cried on stage ©NBC/AOL

In 2018, Jade, 28, commented, “I think we’re very lucky in that we all have the same vision as a group. You know, there’s no egos. There’s nobody trying to outdo each other. We genuinely do support each other.”

But rumours of tension began swirling last year when Jesy, 30, missed a series of performances before announcing in December 2020 that she was quitting the band.

In May this year, it emerged Jesy and the girls hadn’t spoken for some time – with Jesy confirming, earlier this month, that “for the time being, we just don’t talk”.

little mix happy together
The group were firm friends in 2015 ©Getty Images

The solo singer has been open about her struggles with mental health following years of online trolling and being called the “fat, ugly one”, making her feel inferior to her bandmates. In her BBC documentary Odd One Out in 2019, she revealed it got too much for her after a performance one night in 2013 and she swallowed a bottle of pills.

And last week – as Jesy released her first solo single Boyz, featuring Nicki Minaj – the feud took a dramatic turn for the worse.

A series of alleged leaked direct messages – between Leigh-Anne and TikTok star NoHun – revealed Leigh-Anne reportedly calling Jesy a “horrible person”, and claiming she’d blocked her former bandmates on Instagram.

little mix without jesy nelson
Leigh-Anne, Perrie and Jade together ©Shutterstock

She also accused Jesy of “blackfishing” – a term that describes a white person imitating the look and style of black people to further their career – in her music video.

Defending herself against the criticism – which was echoed by some fans – Jesy said she had been left “really hurt”. But Jesy’s new pal Nicki added fuel to the fire, saying that Leigh-Anne was just “jealous and insecure” and called her a “f---ing clown”.

She added, “You’re in this woman’s group and don’t talk about this s--t for 10 years, and now you’ve seen she has a video coming with Diddy?” She later wrote on Twitter, “If you know someone has been suicidal from bullying in the past, why try to get a bunch of people to bully them again about something else?”

jesy nelson nicki minaj blackfishing feud
Jesy has been accused of blackfishing in her new video for Boyz ©YouTube

Days later, Perrie, perhaps pointedly, commented on a Little Mix Instagram post showing the band as a three, writing, “The perfect trio”.

While Little Mix fans – who call themselves “Mixers” – have been heartbroken at the toxic situation between the once-inseparable girls, insiders say the drama – which has dominated headlines – has come at a convenient time for them. As well as Jesy releasing Boyz, Little Mix’s new single Between Us is also out in a few weeks’ time.

It was reported last week that the girls had each been in talks with record producers about potentially embarking on solo careers next year.

Speaking about Little Mix, the source says, “As bitter as this feud has become, it’s also been a great publicity boost for the girls’ music careers.

“While it’s been a really hard time for them behind the scenes, they’re relieved that at least they’ve come out of it in a good light and their fans have stood behind them. If anything, the sympathy and support they’ve received has boosted their image.”

Check out: three other bands who have split... then thrived


Other bands who have split... then thrived

Take That1 of 3
CREDIT: Getty Images

Take That

Robbie Williams left Take That in 1995 amid rumours of a feud with bandmate Gary Barlow and their manager. The next year, the band and Robbie both had number one singles.

Spice Girls2 of 3
CREDIT: Getty Images

Spice Girls

Geri Halliwell's departure from the Spice Girls in 1998 – days before their US tour – made headlines. Rumours swirled about rows – and both the Spice Girls and Geri had hits.

One Direction3 of 3
CREDIT: Getty Images

One Direction

In 2015, Zayn Malik announced he was leaving One Direction. There were Twitter wars and fall-outs when Zayn released single Pillowtalk. 1D's next song also was number one.

jesy nelson
She broke down on her documentary The Odd One Out ©BBC

High-profile feuds and fall-outs between bands have historically boosted their profile in the run-up to album releases and left them more popular than ever with fans, with the likes of Take That, the Spice Girls and One Direction benefiting from similar situations in the past.

Earlier this month, former Sugababe Keisha Buchanan revealed that one of the band’s producers had actively encouraged her to feud with her bandmate, Mutya Buena.

She said, “They told us to fight each other. I think they enjoyed letting us think one of us was better than the other. People knew what to say to each one of us in private to keep it going. I think they clocked on to the fact that it all added to the mystery, the interest, in the group, so it just carried on.”

Closer magazine
Get the best celeb interviews in Closer magazine each week ©Closer magazine

And now popular culture expert and talent manager Nick Ede tells Closer that, although it must be a difficult time for the girls after years of friendship, the publicity surrounding their explosive row has been so huge that it’s likely to help them sell more music.

Nick says, “The fall-out and backlash in recent weeks has had so much publicity. It’s been everywhere, and everyone wants to know what’ll happen next and how the girls are really feeling.

“Within hours of the feud, rumours and message leaks surfacing last week, Jesy reached number one in the Official Trending Chart. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

“From a PR point of view, there was a risk that it could have been really damaging for both Little Mix and Jesy – their sisterly bond was what charmed fans. But actually, I think they’ve both come out of it a lot stronger.

“In the coming weeks, it’ll be interesting to see whether Jesy or Little Mix win the ultimate battle for number one – all eyes will be on them!”

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Emma: ‘Jesy’s low self-esteem may have overshadowed her friendships’

Jesy opened up about her confidence issues and online abuse on her BAFTA-award winning documentary The Odd One Out in 2019, when she revealed she had been left suicidal over trolling and felt “ugly” in comparison to her bandmates. Closer’s psychological therapist Emma Kenny says, “If you’re going to work closely with friends over an extended period of time, it’s important you’re all consistently open and honest with each other. As soon as one person feels set apart or alone, or thinks differently from the others, there can be a breakdown in friendships.

“Jesy had issues with her self-esteem, and these issues may have ended up overshadowing her friendships with the other band members and made it difficult to move forward. They appeared to try to support her, but I think in this situation, it would have perhaps helped if the girls had communicated more about how they were all feeling.”

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