Alexandra Burke says she was once told to ‘bleach her skin’ in order to ‘sell records’

Alexandra Burke broke down in tears as she recalled how she was once told to ‘bleach her skin’ in order to ‘sell records’. 

Talking to Little Mix star Leigh-Anne Pinnock on her powerful BBC documentary Race, Pop And Power, which was released on Thursday, the singer, 32, lamented how ‘f**ked up’ the music industry can be. 

Alexandra said that she was also once told when she was aged just 15 by a management company, who she wished to keep anonymous: ‘We’ve got one black person, we can’t have another.’ 

Emotional: Alexandra Burke broke down in tears as she recalled how she was once told to ‘bleach her skin’ in order to ‘sell records’

Talking about racism within the music industry, the star said: ‘It’s very British though, we’re taught not to talk about it. It’s a very taboo subject.

‘People are afraid to admit that they have done something that is considered racist. They may not have meant it. Like I know there’s not all bad in people, I really believe that everyone has got good in them.’

Recalling her own past experiences in the music industry, Alexandra continued: ‘Like I remember when my mum used to take me to certain management companies… I won’t name them now because they’re still friends and that’s good, and it’s all love.

‘But when I was 15, they told me and said: “We’ve got one black person, we can’t have another.” And I got that a couple of times.’

Powerful: Talking to Little Mix star Leigh-Anne Pinnock on her powerful BBC documentary Race, Pop And Power, which was released on Thursday, the singer, 32, pictured, lamented how 'f**ked up' the music industry can be

Powerful: Talking to Little Mix star Leigh-Anne Pinnock on her powerful BBC documentary Race, Pop And Power, which was released on Thursday, the singer, 32, pictured, lamented how ‘f**ked up’ the music industry can be 

Alexandra emotionally added: ‘One thing that actually comes to my head right now… is being told to bleach my skin. Being told that I’m “too dark” to be in the industry.’

The star then started to cry as she continued: ‘I’m going cold talking about it because I really actually don’t like talking about it.’

Recalling what she was once told, Alexandra said: ‘”You need to bleach your skin because you won’t sell any records.”‘

She added: ‘That’s what is so f**ked up about this industry and that is what makes me feel, at times, where I go: “I don’t want to be in this industry.”‘

Awful: Alexandra said that she was also once told when she was aged just 15 by a management company, who she wished to keep anonymous: 'We've got one black person, we can't have another.'

Awful: Alexandra said that she was also once told when she was aged just 15 by a management company, who she wished to keep anonymous: ‘We’ve got one black person, we can’t have another.’

Breaking down in tears again, Alexandra emotionally continued: ‘They took my confidence away so much that I couldn’t be me.’ 

During the powerful BBC documentary, Little Mix star Leigh-Anne shares her own experience with racism.

The singer, who filmed Race, Pop And Power over the past year, said she felt like the ‘token black girl’ in the band and that her colour was being used ‘to define my image within the group’.   

The songstress propelled to fame when she starred on the 2011 series of The X Factor with Jesy Nelson, who has since left, Jade Thirlwall and Perrie Edwards, with Little Mix going on to be crowned winners. 

Important documentary: During the powerful BBC documentary, Little Mix star Leigh-Anne, pictured, shares her own experience with racism

Important documentary: During the powerful BBC documentary, Little Mix star Leigh-Anne, pictured, shares her own experience with racism 

Later in the documentary, Leigh-Anne battled to have a meeting with her record label Sony to talk about the lack of diversity in the industry.

And, after being knocked back a few times, felt encouraged when they agreed to bring in more people of colour to work with Little Mix. 

The songstress has launched a foundation to fund internships and mentor schemes for black people of all ages entering the creative industries. 

She said: ‘I don’t want the next girl in pop to feel like how I’ve felt. This is just the beginning. I’m a fighter.’ 

Opening up: It comes after Alexandra revealed over the summer that she was told to bleach her skin after she won The X Factor in 2008

Opening up: It comes after Alexandra revealed over the summer that she was told to bleach her skin after she won The X Factor in 2008

It comes after Alexandra revealed over the summer that she was told to bleach her skin after she won The X Factor in 2008.

The musician spoke in a candid Instagram video and said she was told she would have to work ‘ten times harder than a white artist’.

She also delved into the ‘microagressions’ she experienced from various music labels throughout her career and how she has struggled.

Alexandra explained that she was ordered to ‘smile more on Instagram because you come across as aggressive’.

The star, who was visibly shaken, explained: ‘The music industry is such a funny little place. I love signing, I love what I do but if it wasn’t for the love that I have for music I definitely wouldn’t be in this industry.

Candid: The musician opened up in a candid Instagram video and said she was told she would have to work 'ten times harder than a white artist' (pictured on The X Factor in 2008)

Emotional: Alexandra broke down in tears at points throughout the heart-wrenching video

Candid: The musician opened up in a candid Instagram video and said she was told she would have to work ‘ten times harder than a white artist’ (pictured on The X Factor, left, in 2008) 

‘A few reasons are, when I won the X Factor I was told, “Right, because you are black, you are going to have to work ten times harder than a white artist, because of the colour of your skin… 

‘You can’t have braids, you can’t have an afro, you can’t have anything that basically is my identity, you have to have hair, for example, that appeals to white people so they can understand you better.”

‘That was so hard to digest. I was told to bleach my skin and that was something I refused to do.’

MailOnline contacted X Factor representatives for comment at the time. 

She said: 'When I won the X Factor I was told, ''Right, because you are black, you are going to have to work ten times harder than a white artist, because of the colour of your skin'' (pictured winning The X Factor in 2008 with mentor Cheryl)

She said: ‘When I won the X Factor I was told, ”Right, because you are black, you are going to have to work ten times harder than a white artist, because of the colour of your skin” (pictured winning The X Factor in 2008 with mentor Cheryl)

Alexandra did not specify who gave her the instructions or made the comments, nor when they were made in the wake of her victory.  

The star shared the emotional 15-minute video on Instagram and wrote: ‘Speak Up – Speak Out.

‘I felt it was time to speak up… This is a scary moment for me. I didn’t always want to speak up… but it is the right thing to do. So, here’s my truth, the positive and the emotional.

‘Side note: When I talk about ‘not seeing colour’ I’m not referring to the idea of being blind to skin colour, I’m talking about the notion within the music industry and institutionally that whiter is better.

‘Why does an industry that should be focused on vocal ability spend so much time dictating an artist’s worth on their colour?’

Leigh-Anne: Race, Pop & Power is available to watch on BBC iPlayer now and will air on BBC One at 9pm on Thursday night.

Being honest: Alexandra shared the emotional 15-minute video on Instagram and wrote: 'Speak Up - Speak Out'

Being honest: Alexandra shared the emotional 15-minute video on Instagram and wrote: ‘Speak Up – Speak Out’ 

Little Mix’s Leigh-Anne Pinnock says she’s finally ’embracing’ her pregnancy

Little Mix star Leigh-Anne Pinnock spoke about ’embracing’ her pregnancy in her first interview since making the exciting announcement. 

The mother-to-be, 29, who is expecting her first child with fiancé Andre Gray, also 29, enthused about ‘owning’ her news as she joined her bandmates Jade Thirlwall, 28, and Perrie Edwards, 27, for a make-up free chat on Thursday’s BBC Breakfast.

Their virtual discussion came just hours after claims suggested their former co-member Jesy Nelson wants to ‘sever ties’ as they reportedly haven’t spoken in months following her exit from the group last December. 

‘I’m relieved!’ Little Mix star Leigh-Anne Pinnock spoke about ’embracing’ her pregnancy in her first interview since making the exciting announcement

On becoming a parent, the singer said: ‘I’m having a baby! It feels so weird saying it as I’ve been hiding it for so long. I just feel relieved that I can embrace my bump so I feel good.’

The musician also stressed the importance of controlling the details of her journey, adding: ‘It’s such sensitive information and I wanted to be the one to tell the world. This felt like the right time to bring it out and say it.

‘It’s scary… I wanted to enjoy the moment and I was scared that it was going to come out and I wasn’t going to be able to control that. You want to own it yourself. I’m happy I got to release that imagery!’

The band went on to detail how they’ve been adjusting to life as a trio following Jesy’s departure.

Jade – who stunned in a £925 ‘smile’ jumper by Stella McCartney – said: ‘You get it on with it. We’ve had to adapt, especially with changes to our existing music. It’s been a weird shift but we’re getting on with it.

‘We, as a three, weren’t ready to call it a day yet. This year is all about keeping going and enjoying the ride. We’re making the most of it and enjoying 2021 as a three.’ 

The chart-topping stars also highlighted how friendship has encouraged them to stick together as they mark 10 years in the industry.

Leigh-Anne said: ‘Getting along is the most important thing. We were lucky that they put girls together that clicked.

‘If it wasn’t for that, we wouldn’t be here. Friendship is the one thing that has driven this whole thing.’

Perrie added: ‘We hoped that we managed to stay together for 10 years. We wanted to stay together because we love each other so much and we’ve had such a fun ride. 

‘It’s incredible, we can’t believe it. It makes me feel really good, we just wanted to make music we loved.’

The pregnant beauty – who, of Barbadian and Jamaican ancestry, previously admitted she questioned whether she was only in the band as the ‘token black girl’ – later spoke about her upcoming BBC documentary, Race, Pop & Power.

Leigh-Anne shared: ‘It was super important. It’s been so long. It was so deep delving into my experiences.

‘I hope I can help one person and change things, my work will be done. It’s a really important film.’ 

The girls are gearing up for Tuesday’s BRIT Awards, in which they have picked up a nominated in the British Group category.

On what winning would mean to them, blonde beauty Perrie gushed: ‘The Brits mean everything to us, we’re so proud to be British.

‘We feel amazingly humbled to be there. Please, let this be our chance! Females have never won this award. We want to make history!’

Elsewhere, reports have claimed Jesy and her bandmates have not spoken directly in months, with the artist wanting to ‘sever ties’.

The documentary filmmaker recently detailed how she felt ‘sad’ and ‘couldn’t deal with the pressure of being in a girlband’ during her stint.

And now insiders have alleged communications between her and the trio have broken down – with there being no plans for them to perform together.

A source told The Sun: ‘The plan was always to stay in touch but that just hasn’t happened because Jesy didn’t want it. 

‘She wants to sever ties and start again — that seems to be both professionally and personally.’

It is also alleged that Little Mix were shocked at some of what Jesy has said since leaving the band and thought she’d take longer to get back into the studio to launch her solo career, claiming that it has felt like a bit of a ‘dig’.

Another insider added that although it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that Jesy has thrown herself into music as she was a ‘bit of a leader’ in Little Mix.

They told the publication: ‘Communication between them has basically broken down now. There are formalities at times via third parties… there’s a clear divide.’

MailOnline has contacted Little Mix and Jesy Nelson’s representatives for further comment. 

The singer was part of the group in the period that the BRIT nomination covers, however it has been claimed that the trio have made tweaks so their performance can go ahead without her.

Leigh-Anne Pinnock describes her fiancé as her ‘backbone’

‘I feel invisible and overlooked’: Leigh-Anne Pinnock claims she has to work 10 times harder to mark her place in Little Mix because she’s black and says her talent alone is not enough

Little Mix star Leigh-Anne Pinnock has said she feels ‘invisible’ and ‘overlooked’ as a black woman in the band. 

Speaking to The Observer, the 29-year-old claims she has to ‘work 10 times harder and longer to mark her place in the band because her talent alone is not enough.’  

She also described her fiancé Andre Gray as her ‘backbone’ when dealing with issues on racism. 

‘I feel invisible and overlooked’: Leigh-Anne Pinnock claimed she has to work 10 times harder to mark her place in Little Mix because she’s a black woman (stock image)

Trio: Leigh-Anne admitted she always feels like she's the 'least favoured' of the girl group because of her race (pictured on April 30)

Trio: Leigh-Anne admitted she always feels like she’s the ‘least favoured’ of the girl group because of her race (pictured on April 30)

She said: ‘Andre is my backbone. If I didn’t have someone like that through this experience, I don’t know what I would have done. We’ve always had amazing talks about [experiencing racism], from when we’ve met. I love how pro-Black he is. It’s inspiring for me.’

The singer also said that there was only ‘so much’ she can take of being the ‘invisible one’ or of being overlooked by people. 

She added: ‘There’s only so much you can take of feeling like you are the invisible one, or you’re being overlooked. There had to come a point where I see this as my power and I now do. It is. Being Black is my power. And I want young Black girls around the world to see that.’

Power couple: Leigh-Anne described her fiancé Andre Gray as her 'backbone' who engages in 'amazing talks' about their experiences of racism

Power couple: Leigh-Anne described her fiancé Andre Gray as her ‘backbone’ who engages in ‘amazing talks’ about their experiences of racism

Leigh-Anne admits she always feels like she’s the ‘least favoured’ of the girl group because of her race.

She shared: ‘I sing to fans who don’t see me or hear me or cheer me on. My reality is feeling anxious before fan events or signings because I always feel like I’m the least favoured. My reality is constantly feeling like I have to work 10 times harder and longer to mark my place in the group.’ 

She added that she didn’t feel like she was able to earn her place in the band on purely her talent alone. 

Performer: She said that 'being Black' is her superpower and that she wants other girls of colour around the world to be able to see that

Performer: She said that ‘being Black’ is her superpower and that she wants other girls of colour around the world to be able to see that

Leigh-Anne’s comments come after Little Mix admitted they hadn’t yet listened to bandmate Jesy Nelson’s new music, as they kicked off promotions as a trio for their new single.  

The group said that they ‘couldn’t force’ Jesy to stay when she decided to leave last year and admitted it had been ‘a shift’ getting a grips to performing without her.

During a guest appearance on Capital FM, Perrie, Jade and Leigh-Anne discussed how they’ve adjusted to being a trio since Jesy’s departure.

Jade said: ‘Yeah. I think, you know, if someone’s heart isn’t in it anymore and they don’t want to do it, we would never… we’re never going to force each other to do anything we don’t want to do, and we supported that decision.’

‘And yeah, it is, it was very strange thinking about doing this as a three but we weren’t ready to give it up. Yeah, so we support whatever Jesy’s decision is, and that’s that really.’

Roman Kemp then asked whether they had listened to any of Jesy’s new music, after the singer shared social media snaps revealed she was back in the studio.

Perrie added: ‘We haven’t! We actually haven’t!’ 

Support: Leigh-Anne admits she always feels like she's the 'least favoured' of the girl group because of her race

Support: Leigh-Anne admits she always feels like she’s the ‘least favoured’ of the girl group because of her race

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