In a video she posted to Instagram on Friday, the 28-year-old singer emotionally talked about some of the experiences she's had with the group, which formed in 2011 during the eighth season of the British version of The X Factor. Aside from Pinnock, members of the group include Jade Thirlwall, Perrie Edwards and Jesy Nelson.
Pinnock says in the video that both her parents are mixed race and that she didn't see race as a limitation growing up with her sisters. However, she was hit by a rude awakening after joining Little Mix.
"There comes a point in every black human's life, no matter how much money you have or what you have achieved, you realize racism does not exclude you," she says. "Nine years ago after joining Little Mix, I had the biggest awakening of my life."
Pinnock says that while working with choreographer Frank Gatson for the group's single, "Wings," Gatson, who is black, told her, "You're the black girl. You have to work 10 times harder.'"
"Never in my life had someone told me that I would need to work harder because of my race," she says. "Later on, what Frank Gatson said made sense. I learned that the dream of being in the biggest girl band in the world came with its flaws and consequences. Consequences such as knowing about the existent underlying racism in the creative industries."
"You learn to understand that you can’t be seen as too loud or too opinionated, otherwise you’re deemed a diva or aggressive," she continues. "You learn that walking into a room, you are deemed as unapproachable or offish, before anyone has even approached you. You learn that by voicing your opinion about the lack of diversity within the industry is like smashing your head against a brick wall."
Pinnock broke down in tears when she talked about her interactions with fans.
"My reality was feeling lonely while touring to predominantly white countries," she says. "I sing to fans who don't see me or hear me or cheer me on. My reality is feeling anxious before fan events and signings because I always feel like I'm the least favored. My constant reality is constantly feeling like I have to work 10 times harder and longer to mark my place in the group because my talent alone isn't enough."
"My reality is wanting to see other artists who I know are so talented but will never get the opportunities I have had because to the industry, they are not marketable," she continues. "But they will get behind someone else with aspects of black culture they feel the world wants to see but leave behind the aspects they feel make me unmarketable. My reality is all the times that I have felt invisible in my group but part of me is fully aware that my experience would be harder to cope with had I been dark-skinned."
In the caption for the video, Pinnock explained why she wanted to open up about her experiences.
"I'm not doing this video for sympathy or for you to watch and then go about normal life," she wrote in part. "I'm doing it because enough is enough and hopefully from sharing this we can all do more to understand the racism that takes place."
Thirlwall, who is also mixed race, has also recently spoken about the racism she faced in school growing up during her appearance on the No Country for Young Women podcast. She later called out an outlet for using a picture of Pinnock in an article about her podcast interview.
"You might want to make sure you’re using an image of the correct mixed-race member of the group," she wrote in an Instagram Story. "This s**t happens to @leighannepinnock and I ALL THE TIME that it's become a running joke. ... I've even had 'Oh sorry, you look similar.' Really?! I'm done with us just having to laugh it off now."
"It's lazy journalism. It's ignorant. It's rude," she added. "It offends me that you couldn't differentiate the two women of colour out of four members of a group. ... DO BETTER."
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