Little Mix’s Jesy Nelson never stood a chance inside fame’s gilded cage
15th Dec 2020
This is what happens when you don’t fit the “acceptable” mould, writes Amanda Cassidy
“I find the constant pressure of being in a girl group and living up to expectations very hard,” read the statement from girl band member Jesy Nelson on Instagram the other night.
Little Mix formed on The X Factor in 2011 and has gone on to record six UK top 10 albums and four number-one singles.
The 29-year-old said being in the band had been “the most incredible time” but it was now time to “embark on a new chapter.” She said that the experience had taken a toll on her mental health.
Under the red carpet lies a deep pit of ugliness
Last year Nelson was praised for speaking out about her mental health struggles in a documentary for BBC three. It is no secret that the pressure on her to look a certain way contributed to the pressure.
Fame is a gilded cage – you only have to look at Caroline Flack, Princess Diana, Britney Spears and yes, even Meghan Markle to see that under the red carpet lies a deep pit of ugliness. And it is an ugliness that can destroy. In fact, the after-effects of overnight fame can be even more devastating.
In 2018, British reality TV fans were left shocked when Love Island star Mike Thalassitis, 26, took his own life after appearing on the show.
His death came one year after 32-year-old Sophie Gradon, who had appeared on a previous season, also tragically died by suicide. Another reality show contestant Tiffney Scanlon spoke out about the problem with trying to fit in with other people’s ideas of what is acceptable.
“When you live a lie, live against your values, pretend to be someone you’re not, try to follow others’ footsteps, place your value with someone else… it all ends one way: your own misery.”
“It consumed me and I just believed everything that was said about me”
For Jesy Nelson, she said it was about her weight. Appearing on Loose Women, Nelson spoke out about the extremes she would go to when she felt insecure about how she looked compared to her bandmates. she cancelled concerts, admitting that she just couldn’t appear on stage with her bandmates because she ‘couldn’t bear anyone looking at her’.
After being trolled about how she looked, Nelson even tried to take her own life. “I wasn’t used to people having an opinion. It consumed me and I just believed everything that was said about me,’ she said.”
In the documentary about her mental health, Nelson says she was completely unprepared for what it meant to be famous.”I had about 101 Facebook messages in my inbox, and the first one that came up was from some random man, saying: ‘You are the ugliest thing I’ve seen in my life, you do not deserve to be in this girl band. You deserve to die.’
“It became the worst time of my life. I wasn’t just known as one of the singers in Little Mix, I was known as ‘the fat, ugly one.'”
Now, Nelson says it is time to “spend some time with the people I love, doing things that make me happy.” But how tragic that other people’s warped expectations have affected her life.
One could argue that it is the opposite way round, that those with lower self-esteem may be drawn to fame as a substitute for love and affection.
But it is the narrow window of expectations that is the main issue. And straying outside of the lines other people have drawn in the sand for you, means punishment, being cancelled, mocked, trolled, and taunted. For years, celebrity has taken the form of a cult: of personality, of worship, of obsession. They sparkled and we reached out to try and catch their stardust.
But the rules changed. Now in an era of smartphones and 15-minute celebrities, we started to crave real…messy lives. The round-the-clock coverage meant we now consumed Lindsay Lohan’s cellulite, Britney Spears looking bedraggled eating a sandwich. We gave them a new burden too, they have to stand for something – be beacons, have a cause.
Our barometers for fame short-circuited. The pretty-but-dumb act became popular thanks to Paris and Kim. Causes were carefully monitored by fans and followers – sustainability, humanitarianism…acceptable. Other things, not so much. We narrowed further the unspoken code when it comes to celebrity.
We publicly applauded body-positivity but privately zoomed-in gleefully on the lumps and bumps of those who hadn’t lost the baby weight.
Not all of us, granted. But being surrounded by unrealistic beauty ideas has been unconsciously absorbed. Filters, perfect lives, faux-happiness abounds on social media. Why are we still playing this game?
While we continue to nod along with the idea that being skinny and perfect is every woman’s sole motivation in life, mental health problems will continue to mount
Jesy Nelson called it out. She felt it, she almost died because of it, she highlighted it and now she’s walking away from it. While we continue to nod along with the idea that being skinny and perfect is every woman’s sole motivation in life, mental health problems will continue to mount.
We can’t ignore the metaphoric body pile in the corner for much longer. Jesy Nelson did what she had to do. She is a normal human girl. But in a world where you can’t fit in unless you follow the ‘code’ for being in the spotlight, she never really had a chance.
Image via X-factor.com
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