Leigh-Anne Pinnock: ‘Colourism sits right beside racism’

"Understanding my own privilege has always been important to me"

leigh anne pinnock

by Eden-Olivia Lord |

Leigh-Anne Pinnock has opened up her experience with racism during her time in Little Mix in her new powerful documentary Leigh-Anne: Race, Pop and Power.

The 29-year-old singer first noticed that there was a correlation with her race and the way she was feeling in the band, four years ago.

"I distinctly remember going for dinner with [her childhood friend Tash Gaunt, who directed the documentary] about four years ago and we had a really frank conversation about how I was feeling within the band."

She continued, "At the time, I still didn’t really understand why I was feeling the way I was feeling, so I was being very open with her. We were exploring the fact that it could be something to do with my race – and Tash is incredibly well-educated on the topic so she started giving me things to read, people to follow on Instagram.

"And it just went from there - she makes films for a living, so it’s a perfect pairing really. I can’t think of anyone I would have rather made it with."

Leigh-Anne, who is also admitted that her "motivation" for the documentary came about due to her "own personal experiences".

"Also because I think conversations about race are so needed and I’ve known for a long time that I’ve wanted to do a documentary about it.

"Plus, I wanted to educate myself and hopefully educate others too," she explained.

During the documentary viewers will see Leigh-Anne's internal struggle where she reflects on the racism she's faced but also, that she has privilege for being light skinned.

"I always wanted to touch on colourism. Colourism sits right beside racism and I think it’s something that isn’t addressed enough.

"I always wanted to use this doc to allow dark-skinned women to be a part and amplify their voices. Understanding my own privilege has always been important to me and something I touch on in the doc is the idea that if I was some shades darker I might not even have been put in the group.

"I already struggled in the group, but I know if I was darker-skinned it would have been even worse and I think it’s really important that we addressed that in this film," she added.

During the documentary, Leigh-Anne sat down with fellow artists including Sugababes' Keisha Buchanan, The X Factor's Alexandra Burke and singers Nao and Raye, and they all openly discussed their experiences in the music industry.

"It was amazing that we could all sit down in a room together and be so open and share our experiences," Leigh-Anne recalled.

"I’ve never really been able to do that with other black creatives before, so that was a real game- changer. It was incredible to hear the similarities and differences in what we’ve been through.

"For example, I thought I’d have an almost identical experience to Keisha what with us both being in pop girl groups – but we had a lot of differences. It was interesting to learn from that. And it just goes to show that racism works in many different ways."

leigh anne pinnock jade Thirlwall and Perrie Edward
Leigh-Anne alongside her girlband members Jade Thirlwall and Perrie Edward ©Getty Images

Leigh-Anne opened up about her bandmates and their support and admitted that it's Jade Thirlwall, who also battled racism during her childhood, that she's confided in the most over the years.

"As she’s mixed race herself, she’s always been someone that I’ve been able to turn to and she would listen and understand.

"It’s been really important to me to be able to speak to someone who gets it and reassures me that my feelings are valid," she explained.

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And now, the Little Mix star, who recently announced she's pregnant with her first child, has started a foundation to support Black creatives.

"The Black Fund is now a registered charity, which is amazing...

"I’m really glad we’ve got it up and running, and it’s essentially going to be a fund that goes back into black communities to help provide more and better opportunities. It’s really exciting," she gushed.

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And although Leigh-Anne admitted that it was "difficult" opening up to her family during her documentary after "bottling up" the issues for ten years, she's now "proud" of speaking out and "getting rid of the pain" that she's carried for a decade.

She added, "I hope that this doc might open up the topics of racism and colourism to people who may have never considered it before. I hope it gives other people the courage to speak out.

"I hope it also gives people the motivation to be part of change. I’m so lucky to have an amazing fanbase through Little Mix, but the fanbase definitely skews young and white so I’m hoping that this will help them understand how important this issue is, not just to me, but in a wider societal sense too. If this doc helps even one person, I’ll have done my job."

The documentary will stream via BBC Three from 6am and it will also air on BBC One at 10pm on the same day - Thursday 13th May.

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