Over the course of their hour-long Instagram Live chat, the pair discussed all manner of topics, including their recent collaboration Boyz, the Blackfishing accusations Jesy has faced in recent times and the newly-solo star’s departure from Little Mix at the end of last year.
To help get to grips with the drama, here’s a look back at the story so far, starting almost a year ago when Jesy announced her departure from Little Mix.
First of all, let’s go back to December 2020, when Jesy announced she was leaving Little Mix after almost a decade.
Around the release of Little Mix’s sixth album Confetti, it was confirmed that Jesy would be taking a hiatus from the chart-topping girl group for undisclosed health reasons.
Weeks later, she announced she was leaving the band for good after nine years, telling fans that being part of the girl group was taking too much of a toll on her mental health.
Posting on Instagram, she said: “I find the constant pressure of being in a girl group and living up to expectations very hard.
“There comes a time in life when we need to reinvest in taking care of ourselves rather than focussing on making other people happy, and I feel like now is the time to begin that process.”
The remaining three members of Little Mix showed Jesy their support at the time, writing: “This is an incredibly sad time for all of us but we are fully supportive of Jesy. We love her very much and agree that it is so important that she does what is right for her mental health and well-being.”
Sadly, it seems things among the former bandmates haven’t remained amicable. More on that in a second.
Before leaving Little Mix – and in the period since her departure – Jesy has repeatedly come under fire for alleged Blackfishing.
Jesy has been accused of cultural appropriation dating back to 2018, but in recent times, she’s been criticised for alleged Blackfishing.
Blackfishing refers to when non-Black people alter their appearance or “take on a characteristic associated with a Black person’s phenotype” for profit or commercial gain.
Jesy’s first solo single and music video once again sparked Blackfishing accusations on social media.
Boyz marks Jesy’s first venture as a solo artist, and features a guest verse from Nicki Minaj and an interpolation of Bad Boy For Life by Diddy, who makes a cameo in the accompanying music video.
Immediately after its release, many voiced their discomfort with the song’s lyrics and its video, particularly with reference to Jesy’s skin tone and aesthetic.
Jesy’s collaboration with Nicki Minaj also raised eyebrows.
Just a few weeks before Boyz’s release, Nicki faced heavy criticism for spreading misinformation about the Covid vaccine, most notably in an infamous tweet in which she claimed her cousin’s friend’s “testicles became swollen” after receiving the jab.
Her comments were dismissed as untrue. Both England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty and prime minister Boris Johnson weighed in, leading to this tweet from the Super Bass rapper:
(And just FYI, evidence shows that Covid-19, not the vaccine, is more likely to impact your sperm count.)
This isn’t Nicki’s only recent controversy, though.
In August 2021, Nicki and her husband Kenneth Petty were sued by a woman he was convicted of attempting to rape more than 25 years ago.
Kenneth was arrested on suspicion of rape in 1994, eventually pleading guilty to attempted rape and serving four-and-a-half years in prison.
According to PA Media, the woman in question has claimed that the couple – who’ve been married since 2019 – have “been harassing and intimidating her to force her to recant her story”.
Nicki has personally been accused of “contacting the victim’s family and lying to her social media followers about the incident”.
Neither Kenneth, Nicki nor their legal teams have publicly responded to the lawsuit.
Following Boyz’s release, Vulture published an interview with Jesy in which she defended her decision to have Nicki feature on her debut single despite the vaccine backlash.
“Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion,” Jesy insisted. “If Nicki feels like she hasn’t done her full research and she wants to know more about the vaccination, then that’s her opinion.
“She’s there to be on my song, to do her part. She’s literally made my song even better. That’s nothing to do with my song and what we’re doing together.”
This Vulture interview is probably better known for being the first time Jesy has spoken more than a few words about the Blackface allegations she’s faced.
Asked about the controversy, Jesy said: “The whole time I was in Little Mix I never got any of that. And then I came out of [the band] and people all of a sudden were saying it.
“I wasn’t on social media around that time, so I let my team [deal with it], because that was when I’d just left.
“But I mean, like, I love Black culture. I love Black music. That’s all I know; it’s what I grew up on. I’m very aware that I’m a white British woman; I’ve never said that I wasn’t.”
When asked if she felt she had “changed the way she acts or dresses”, Jesy responded: “Not at all. I’m just 100 percent being myself.
“If you look at me on X Factor with my big curly hair, I was wearing trainers and combats — that’s who I am as an artist and as Jesy. Now I’m out of Little Mix, I’ve gone back to being who I am.
“Like I said, I don’t ever want to be an artist who’s being told what to wear or what music to make. I want to be authentic and true to myself, and if people don’t like that, don’t be my fan. Don’t be a part of my journey.”
Vulture claimed that Jesy subsequently “cancelled two scheduled follow-up calls to discuss Blackfishing and identity in greater detail”.
Jesy’s publicist supplied a statement from Jesy on the subject, which said: “I take all those comments made seriously. I would never intentionally do anything to make myself look racially ambiguous, so that’s why I was initially shocked that the term was directed at me.”
She previously told The Guardian on the matter over the summer: “I would never want to offend anyone, and [being accused of Blackfishing] was really upsetting. I wasn’t aware that’s how people felt.”
Following the Boyz controversy, reports in the media claimed that all three members of Little Mix had unfollowed Jesy on Instagram – though it seems this isn’t quite what transpired.
After reports claimed Perrie Edwards, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Jade Thirlwall had all unfollowed Jesy on social media, unverified leaked DMs from Leigh-Anne to a TikTok user suggested that, in fact, Jesy had blocked the trio (some fans have pointed out this also appears to included Perrie’s dog, Hatchi).
So, if these supposed leaked messages from Leigh-Anne are unverified, why are we talking about them?
Well, they formed a major part of the conversation during Nicki and Jesy’s live-stream on Friday night.
And didn’t Jesy say things were all good with her former bandmates?
Yes. While Jesy has been heavily critical of various aspects of life in Little Mix since her exit, she’s always maintained she still loves Perrie, Leigh-Anne and Jade, describing them last week as her “sisters”.
However, she has said that they’re no longer in touch, telling Glamour magazine last week: “It is weird because for so many years we were as close as sisters, together every hour of the day for weeks, sharing beds, laughing, crying just 24/7 the four of us together and then… Nothing.”
“I’ve sent a few texts, but that’s it,” she said later in the interview. “I can’t explain it, it’s like there has to be this distance. We were so close so you can’t do in-between, there has to be space.”
“They are my sisters in so many ways, but for the time being we just don’t talk,” she added.
Little Mix have also shown support for Jesy several times in the past year, shouting her out when their hit Sweet Melody topped the UK singles chart in January and also following their historic win at the Brit Awards in May.
What was actually said during the live-stream, then?
Alluding to the alleged leaked messages, Nicki said: “If I was rocking with you for 10 years and there was something so horrible about you… and then as soon as we part ways I was like texting [people about] you… Immediately that person has to wear a big red clown nose and clown boots.
“When people part ways go about your fucking business…. Whether you brought it up behind closed doors whatever, you are a fucking clown.”
Later, she added: “What we won’t have is someone texting and telling influencers to talk badly about this girl, I know singers that tan a lot. It’s their fucking business, it’s their fucking right. It’s different when someone comes out and pretends to be Black.
“Sweetheart, take them messages and shove them up your ass. Don’t come out to try and ruin anyone, let her enjoy this time.”
“It screams insecurity,” Nicki added. “It screams that you’re jealous. And now you just look like a big, jealous Bozo.”
Jesy said nothing while Nicki spoke, but did laugh at various points, telling her afterwards: “Thank you babe, honestly that means a lot.”
Jesy also took the opportunity to address the Blackfishing controversy once again, although she did somewhat reduce the matter to just her tan.
“I personally want to say that my intention was never, ever to offend people of colour with this video and my song because like I said, growing up as a young girl, this is the music that I listened to,” she said.
“These are the videos that I watched and thought were the best. For me personally, ’90s/2000 hip hop, R&B music was the best era of music.
“My intention was never, ever, ever want to offend anyone and genuinely it actually does really hurt me that I may have offended people and actually, like, hurt people’s feelings just by genuinely celebrating something that I love.”
Jesy insisted that she was not wearing fake tan in the Boyz music video, and instead had just returned from a holiday in Antigua.
Alluding to the alleged Leigh-Anne messages once again, Jesy continued: “It’s just hard for me because I was in a group with two women of colour for nine years and it was never brought up to me up until the last music video I did with them.”
Her final music video as a member of Little Mix was for the single Sweet Melody, a shoot Jesy described earlier this year as a “breaking point” moment when it came to leaving the band.
Jesy told Cosmopolitan back in May that she suffered a panic attack on the set of the video, explaining: “I didn’t look how I wanted to look and I found it so hard to just be happy and enjoy myself. I looked at the other three and they were having the time of their life.
“I get so jealous, because I want to feel like that and enjoy it, because music is my passion. To have this dream and not be enjoying it because of what I look like, I knew wasn’t normal.”
“It wasn’t nice for the other three to be around someone who didn’t want to be there,” she added.
So… what now?
Reaction to the live-stream from Little Mix fans has largely been one of disappointment, particularly after Jesy failed to defend her former bandmate and laughed while Nicki was laying into her.
Little Mix are currently taking time out from the spotlight – following the birth of Perrie’s son and Leigh-Anne’s twins in August – and have not responded publicly to Jesy’s live-stream, or acknowledged the release of Boyz.
Their PR representative Simon Jones did allude to the controversy on Monday night, cryptically writing “what a backfire” on his Instagram story, and sharing a link to Leigh-Anne’s recent BBC Three documentary about racism in the music industry, Race, Pop & Power.
Nicki has also continued tweeting about the matter in a series of disparaging posts referencing Leigh-Anne:
HuffPost UK has contacted Little Mix’s team for comment.
The band are gearing up for the release of their latest album, the greatest hits collection Between Us, next month, which will span the group’s decade-long career, as well as featuring five new tracks.
Meanwhile, according to the Official Charts Company, Boyz was on track to debut at number three in this week’s chart.