I’ve been called many things in my life – smart, talented, kind, brave, funny, beautiful. And yet none of these positive words will ever stick in my brain quite as fiercely as the negative ones.
The leader of the pack? Fat. A word I was branded with for the first time by school bullies at just eight years old, and one that I’ve never been able to shake. Though I know in my heart it’s never been the case, and my self-love has grown massively since then, I still cannot block it out – I feel it deeply each time I look in the mirror or see a photograph of myself.
If that’s my reality after it was said a handful of times 16 years ago, I cannot even comprehend how – or if – I would cope if these haunting judgements were everywhere I turned in their masses on a daily basis.
That’s been the reality for Little Mix’s Jesy Nelson since the band formed almost a decade ago. Social media, Twitter in particular, has become a breeding ground for hatred and abuse about her.
“They still have a chubber in their ranks”. “Four members, five chins”. “The fat ones in Little Mix is so ugly”.
The fat one.
To me, this isn’t an argument of facts – I don’t need to tell you that these descriptions are false. It’s an argument of opinions and, more importantly, when to keep them to yourself. It’s an argument about a beautiful, talented, kind, funny woman in her 20s being stripped of her identity and hounded into a state of depression by internet trolls.
My heart broke for the first time watching her BBC Three documentary, Odd One Out, about what she’d gone through. Now, I feel sick to my stomach at the thought of how much trauma she must have endured to call an end to her time with the group.
We’ve broken her. We’ve taken a human being and smashed her to pieces.
I want to speak now to anyone who has ever written anything online about another person – celebrity or not. You may not throw a punch, but you’ve hurt someone. You may think it’s a joke, but it’s not funny. You may not carry a gun or a knife, but you could kill someone.
Just let that sink in.
And now I want to speak to Jesy, or the Jesys of the world like me. I hear you – I see you, I feel you, I wish things were different for you. I’m not going to tell you to ignore the words or push aside the pain, because I know just how impossible that is.
But what I will say is this: You are a gift to this planet – don’t ever be tricked into thinking otherwise. The team who are on your side and love and respect you is far greater than the one that wants to bring you down, even if it’s difficult to see that. Do whatever you need to do – cry, take time off, seek help, speak out – just please don’t let them win. You’re stronger, braver and more brilliant than you will ever know. Just keep going, you’ve got this.
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