Jesy Nelson Talks Working With Nicki Minaj and Feeling Liberated as a Solo Artist (Exclusive)

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Former Little Mix member Jesy Nelson is excited for her next chapter as a solo artist. The 30-year-old singer dropped her first solo single on Friday, "Boyz" featuring Nicki Minaj, and talked to ET about both the song and how her mental health has improved since stepping out on her own.

Nelson said she put her heart and soul into both the song and the music video, which features a cameo from Diddy -- fitting since "Boyz" samples Diddy's 2001 hit, "Bad Boy for Life." Nelson shares that she went through a breakup when writing the song.

"I can't help but love a bad boy," she tells ET's Katie Krause. "A lot of girls do. I wanted to write a song about that. I knew there are many girls that could relate to it. I've got to sample the Diddy song, a song I grew up on as a kid. '90s, 2000s, or R&B music, hip-hop is my genre of music I feel passionate about. To be able to put this sample into my music ... the younger generation, who've never heard this song, 'Boyz,' it's going to be brand new to them, which is crazy."

As for how she got Minaj on the track, she said she already had a relationship with the rapper when they previously worked together while she was in Little Mix.

"Then when I wrote the song, 'Boyz,' there was no one else I wanted on the song other than her, she was perfect for it," Nelson shares. "To me, she's the queen of rap. We're label buddies, which helped. Our label made it work. She loved it and wanted to jump on it. We shot the video, it's been about three weeks now, I shot with her and it was fun. Loved working with her and I respect her as an artist."

As for stepping out solo, Nelson, who left Little Mix last December, has no regrets. Little Mix was the first group to win the British version of The X Factor in 2011, and has gone on to become one of the best-selling girl groups of all time.

"It feels liberating, for the first time, I'm getting to speak my truth," Nelson says about now being a solo artist. "It's hard to do when you're in a group -- to get across your stories between four girls in one song is hard, you can't do that. You have to run with the concept and go with it. I've got so many stories to tell. I'm an honest person. There's not a lot my fans don't know about me. It's important for me to write music my fans can relate to. If someone listens to me, and it helps two people, I've done my job. I want to be that artist where people listen to my music and they're like, 'God, she really helped me through this time in my life.'"

Nelson said she's the happiest she's ever been.

"I feel content with myself for the first time," she notes. "I don't wake up anymore with anxiety. Don't get me wrong, I have my down days, everyone does. [We're] human beings and that's normal. I don't wake up and panic and have anxiety. Not having panic attacks anymore is a true sign I'm getting better. I feel love and support by my fans, my team, the people that I've got around me. I feel in a good place."

Nelson is currently single, and while she isn't looking for a boyfriend, she did share what she wants in a partner.

"It's finding the balance of finding someone that challenges me and someone that keeps me on my toes," she says. "I need that, especially with the industry I'm in. In a relationship, I'm a dominant person. A lot of men get intimidated by me. When I'm in a relationship, I feel like the man in the relationship. I need to find my equal."

Back in December 2020, Nelson emotionally announced she was leaving Little Mix after nine years and that being in the group had taken a toll on her mental health.

"I find the constant pressure of being in a girl group and living up to expectations very hard," she shared in part. "There comes a time in life when we need to reinvest in taking care of ourselves rather than focusing on making other people happy, and I feel like now is the time to begin that process. So after much consideration and with a heavy heart, I'm announcing I'm leaving Little Mix."

Nelson also thanked the remaining three women of Little Mix -- Jade Thirlwall, Perrie Edwards and Leigh-Anne Pinnock.

"I hope that you'll continue to fulfill all of your dreams and keep on making music that people love," she said.

In their own statement, Little Mix was supportive of Nelson.

"After an amazing 9 years together Jesy has made the decision to leave Little Mix," the statement read. "This is an incredibly sad time for all of us but we are fully supportive of Jesy. We love her very much and agree that it is so important that she does what is right for her mental health and well-being."

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