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’ 

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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Love Island’s Chris Hughes reveals he and Jesy Nelson ‘grew apart’ as he reflects on their split

He recently revealed his split from former Little Mix singer Jesy Nelson was ‘difficult’ and life after their break-up was ‘a s**tstorm’.

And Chris Hughes has now revealed that the duo ended things last April after a 16-month relationship because they ‘grew apart’.

The Love Island star, 28, explained that ‘not everything is meant to last’ but added that he’s happy they’re still good friends in a new interview with New Magazine.   

‘Not everything is meant to last’:  Chris Hughes has said that he and Jesy Nelson ended things last April because they ‘grew apart’ in a candid new interview

Chris told the publication: ‘It’s just one of those things — people grow apart and things happen. 

‘Not everything is meant to last and the world would be very weird if everyone who went out with someone was with them for the rest of their lives.’

He added that he’s happy to still be on good terms with his ex, saying: ‘I’m just grateful and fortunate that Jesy’s still a very good friend of mine.’ 

Chris also turned his attention to the future, saying that for him it’s important to find the ‘right person’ and that can’t be ‘rushed’.  

Honest: The Love Island star, 28, said 'not everything is meant to last' but added he's happy they're still good friends (pictured with the former Little Mix singer before their 2020 split)

Honest: The Love Island star, 28, said ‘not everything is meant to last’ but added he’s happy they’re still good friends (pictured with the former Little Mix singer before their 2020 split)

The hunk also shared some candid details about his past relationship earlier in April, admitting that it was ‘difficult’ when they first broke up. 

He told The Sun: ‘It was difficult. Sometimes you just grow apart. There have definitely been days when I wake up and things haven’t felt great. 

‘The period 12 months ago was really tough. There were days where I was waking up and our split was the first thing I was thinking about.

 ‘I had to try my hardest mentally to break the cycle. Life was a s**tstorm.’

Jesy and Chris went public with their romance in January 2019, when they were seen enjoying a steamy date in a kebab shop, after weeks of rumours around the union.

The pair called it quits in April last year, with insiders revealing to MailOnline at the time that Jesy broke up with Chris over the phone in the midst of their separate self-isolation amid the nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

Claims: The pair called it quits in April last year, with insiders revealing to MailOnline at the time that Jesy broke up with Chris over the phone (pictured in 2020)

Claims: The pair called it quits in April last year, with insiders revealing to MailOnline at the time that Jesy broke up with Chris over the phone (pictured in 2020)

Chris is currently single, while Jesy last month sparked speculation she’s rekindled her romance with ex Harry James, weeks after her breakup from Sean Sagar.

The hitmaker posted a video of a food order from upmarket sushi restaurant Roka on a Saturday night – while Harry shared an identical snap to his Instagram stories. 

Jesy previously split from musician Harry in 2018 after a 16-month relationship – but sources have since said the pair have become reacquainted after spending time together in the studio.

A source told MailOnline: ‘Jesy and Harry have been hanging out together again after reconnecting in lockdown.

‘They always shared something special and are enjoying bonding over music, with Harry even joining Jesy in the studio as she works for the first time on solo material.

Back on? Last month, Jesy sparked speculation she's rekindled her romance with ex-boyfriend Harry James, weeks after her breakup from Sean Sagar (pictured with Harry in 2018)

Back on? Last month, Jesy sparked speculation she’s rekindled her romance with ex-boyfriend Harry James, weeks after her breakup from Sean Sagar (pictured with Harry in 2018)

Date night? The former Little Mix star posted a video of a food order from upmarket sushi restaurant Roka

Yum: Harry, who Jesy previously split from in 2018 following a 16-month relationship, shared an identical snap to his Instagram stories while his hand also appeared in the singer's upload

Date night? The former Little Mix star posted a video of a food order from upmarket sushi restaurant Roka (left) last month while Harry shared an identical snap to his Instagram stories

‘Sean and Jesy have stayed friends and all he wants is for her to be happy, he’s pleased she’s been able to reconnect with Harry.’

Jesy was first linked to Our Girl actor Sean in July last year after meeting through mutual pals.

They soon became close and enjoyed a summer staycation together in Cornwall to meet each other’s families. 

However, cracks in their relationship started to show around Christmas and they split in January, with both wanting to focus on their careers.

Jesy announced her departure from Little Mix in December, explaining that she needed to do so for the sake of her mental health.

She has since been back in the studio and has signed a new solo deal with global management firm YMU, and was seen working on material with music producers in a series of Instagram posts.

Over: Jesy was first linked to Sean (pictured with Jesy) in July after meeting through mutual pals, but the pair has since parted ways

Over: Jesy was first linked to Sean (pictured with Jesy) in July after meeting through mutual pals, but the pair has since parted ways