Little Mix's Leigh-Anne Pinnock felt invisible as 'token black girl' in the band

Leigh-Anne Pinnock fronts new BBC documentary 'Race, Pop, Power'. (BBC)
Leigh-Anne Pinnock fronts new BBC documentary 'Race, Pop, Power'. (BBC)

Little Mix star Leigh-Anne Pinnock has spoken of her confusion and discomfort at feeling like the "token black girl" in the band.

The 29-year-old singer opens up about her experiences of racism within the music industry in new BBC1 documentary Leigh-Anne: Race, Pop & Power.

Pinnock admitted: “I’m still struggling to talk about it in general. So the fact that it comes down to the token black girl - you do see it in other girlbands. It’s like a . . . not a trend, but it’s happened so often. It really does make me think, ‘If I was shades darker, would I be sat here right now?’ I don’t know.”

Read more: Leigh-Anne Pinnock feared she'd lose career by speaking about racism

The Confetti singer - who won The X Factor in 2011 as part of girlband Little Mix - said she felt invisible alongside bandmates Jade Thirwell, Perrie Edwards and Jesy Nelson.

She said: “We did a radio tour, we got off the plane and there were some fans waiting for us and I was the first to walk up to them. They just walked past me and went up to the other girls.

The members of Little Mix, (left to right) Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Jade Thirlwall and Perrie Edwards, arriving at the studios of Global Radio in London. Picture date: Friday April 30, 2021. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Leigh-Anne Pinnock, with Little Mix bandmates Jade Thirlwall and Perrie Edwards. (Getty Images)

“It was so weird. It was never like it was someone racially abusing me, but it was little things that happened regularly. All of these little feelings just built up, built up, built up. It was something I could never fully explain.

“And you can’t pretend it’s not happening, feeling invisible, feeling that people would just look past me.

“I’m in the biggest girl group in the world, I have a fiance, we have a lovely house. It’s like, ‘What have you got to be upset about?’

“But all of that stuff doesn’t matter. All that matters is that feeling, and that feeling that just doesn’t go away. It keeps hurting and hurting. And wondering, ‘Is it my colour?’

“All these questions. Pushing myself constantly to do better. I just wanted to be on the same level and nothing I did would get me there.”

Pinnock was raised in Buckinghamshire and is of Barbadian and Jamaican ancestry. She is engaged footballer Andre Gray, who plays for Watford FC in the English Premier League.

Leigh-Anne Pinnock discusses being a black woman in pop music with Keisha Buchanan and Alexandra Burke. (BBC)
Leigh-Anne Pinnock discusses being a black woman in pop music with Keisha Buchanan and Alexandra Burke. (BBC)

The Black Magic singer discusses her experiences of the music industry as a black woman with X Factor 2008 winner Alexandra Burke, Sugababes' Keisha Buchanan and Secrets singer Raye in the documentary.

Buchanan told her: "If they were looking for a minority, they were looking for a minority to be in it to sell records. Because, let’s be honest, it makes it a little bit cooler.

Read more: Little Mix say music bosses tried to make one of them the star

“If you had a couple of white managers in a room and they wanted to throw someone of colour in, of course, being mixed race, the more you look like a white person is more acceptable and palatable.

“I don’t know if this is a compliment or not but I definitely think you were chosen for your blackness.”

Leigh-Anne: Race, Pop & Power is available on BBC Three on iPlayer from 6am on 13 May, and airs on BBC1 at 9pm the same day

Read more: Little Mix discuss attending group therapy