Opinion: Jesy Nelson leaving Little Mix is a good thing for her but I’m still allowed to cry

Little Mix has become a defining element of the British pop music scene, not only for their catchy and uplifting music, but for their genuine and infectious personalities that inspire people up and down the country…

On December 14th, Little Mix announced that Jesy Nelson would be leaving the band permanently after taking a period of absence for medical reasons. They stated she would be taking leave for her mental health and well-being, much to the disappointment but understanding of fans.

It is no secret that the girls have struggled with their issues in the spotlight since winning X Factor UK in 2011, dealing with loss, anxiety, racism and heartbreak, all in the public’s eye.

To most people, X Factor was just a show that semi-popular musicians and singers were created from. Maybe they would find success, or maybe they would have one good single (usually a Christmas number one) and a follow-up album, and then they would disappear. But Little Mix was different right from their conception, not only becoming the first-ever group to win the competition but inspiring a whole different crowd of listeners.

I was only 13 when they won the competition and I remember it very clearly. For weeks I had been asking my parents to vote for them for me, (back in the days when the only way to vote was to actually call a phone number) and in a mission to avoid spoilers at school the following day, I stayed up late just so I could find out the winner. Naturally, I cried buckets and I’m not even embarrassed to admit that.

Little Mix at the Arena Nottingham in 2017 during their Glory Days tour

Little Mix meant a lot to me as a 13-year-old, being my generation’s equivalent to the Spice Girls or Girls Aloud that came before them. Each member stood for something different and represented a different personality, and just like the Spice Girls, there was something for everybody. The message they were spreading was one of positivity, acceptance, self-love and girl power, and it was infectious, giving teenage girls someone to look up to and aspire to be like.

What might have been invisible to a young and naïve teenage girl, it is obvious to a young adult. Being a pop star in the public eye is not easy and is in no way the perfect dream that so many aim for. Jesy highlighted some of her struggles in her recent BBC Three documentary ‘Odd One Out’, showcasing her experiences with cyberbullies and being labelled as the ‘fat one’ in the group.

What Jesy experienced was not a rare occurrence. For a young woman growing up in the spotlight, forced to accommodate to the beliefs and desires of the media and haters, Jesy proved that women are forced into a socially constructed box, and anything outside of this is rejected. She has never been anything but herself, adhering to the wishes of some of the worst words someone could ever say and bared the brunt of it mostly in silence.

Whilst hearing of Jesy’s departure from the group is heart-breaking, it is not unexpected. Little Mix has had an amazing nine-year run in an industry that demands so much, and even more from young women. But in taking the decision to leave, she may be breaking the hearts of fans, but she is showing with confidence that there is nothing more important than someone’s mental health. Too often we have seen the effects that cyber-bullying can have on public figures, most recently Caroline Flack, so to say that I am proud of Jesy for taking a step back now is an understatement.

Mental health is still a taboo subject, so not only is Jesy’s decision opening up a conversation about the balance between mental health and work, but she is also proving her role model status and showing her young fans that they don’t have to sacrifice anything for the sake of their work.

I’ve never been prouder to call myself a Little Mix fan. Jesy will always be supported by her fans no matter what direction she takes in life, but her decision to step away is a brave one, and one I admire wholeheartedly (even though I’m crying).

By Faith Pring

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