Sugababes star Keisha Buchanan says she 'faced the brunt of criticism' as only black band member
Keisha Buchanan has revealed that she felt she bore "the brunt of criticism" as a black singer in Sugababes.
The noughties girl band, whose hits included Hole in the Head and Push the Button, were famed for their ever-changing line-up as well as their chart success.
Buchanan, Siobhan Donaghy and Mutya Buena started the band in 2000 but were plagued with rumours that some of the members, Buchanan in particular, were difficult to work with, especially following Donaghy's departure.
However, Buchanan, now 35, believes that she was used as "collateral" and thrown "under the bus" due to systemic racism.
Speaking on This Morning, the singer told Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby that she now only feels comfortable to speak on the record about her experiences following the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement.
“George Floyd died and it opened up a large discussion, which is what is going on now, talking about systemic racism,” Buchanan explained. “I now feel comfortable to speak about it and I don’t feel I’m going to be judged in the same way as I would have been before.
“I think it’s about time there is action taken. People should be held accountable for their actions.
“I’d also like for my own personal experience for certain members of the press to be more mindful in how they do write about black people.”
Buchanan said her negative representation in the press started after Donaghy left the band in 2001, later replaced by Heidi Range.
“As young girls do, you have arguments, you have disagreements, fallouts. As far as I was always aware, it was like sisters falling out. Siobhan and I are still really good friends now, we work together, even she recognises that we were just kids,” she explained.
“I guess what started happening was journalists would start writing up the story and would instantly take sides. They took Siobhan’s side and [Buena and I were made to look like] two tough girls from North West London.
No one ever really asked us what happened and what was our experience, and it just continued onwards after that. Throughout the years of Sugababes, there were so many different stories out there, especially after Mutya left, I took a lot of the brunt from that. But behind the scenes the girls were very, very supportive, towards me and the team as well, and would just tell me to ignore what was being said because they knew who I was. I think that was part of the reason why I didn’t ever feel like I needed you to speak out.”
Buchanan added she believed the negative depiction of her had made her more critical of herself.
“It has changed the course of my life,” she said. "I’m quite critical of myself anyway and it’s made me even more so.
“It made me not have many boundaries, because I thought if I had those boundaries, I’d be seen to be being aggressive. If I was signing on to contract, if I ever said, 'oh let me call my lawyers,' it was always that ‘oh, I’m being difficult’.
“If it was song-writing and I wanted my share of what had been written, I’d always get, ‘oh that person’s going to feel very bullied if you do that’, so I definitely felt pressure.”
Things came to a head for the star after she chose to leave the band nine years after it had first been formed.
“The clearest form of racism was when I was leaving the group in 2009 and there were all these stories going around,” she said.
“I called someone senior at the label to ask what was going with these rumours, and they pretty much told me I was being used as collateral damage as they felt the band was getting a lot of backlash.
“I thought, does that mean throwing me under the bus?”
“I 100 per cent believe systemic racism comes in all different forms, and I believe if you’re using someone’s character to manipulate them, and it’s based upon a perception, even In terms of on the press side of things – some of those people had never met me and just decided I was the instigator in situations. No-one ever gave me a chance to say, well actually, what happened, because as we know in life, there’s two sides to every story.
However negative her experiences have been, Buchanan believes things will change for the better in the future.
“I’m a very optimistic person and I believe, absolutely, there will be change,” she said. “I’m glad everyone is coming together.”
Buchanan’s emotive interview comes just days after Kelle Bryan opened up about her experiences of racism in the media, after she was told predominantly black girl band Eternal “would not sell magazines” if they were put on the front cover.
Former X Factor contestant Misha B has also spoken out about her experiences on the show when she made the semi-finals in 2011.
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