Jesy Nelson accused of blackfishing after teasing her new single “Boyz”

Nadiyah Hansraj and Vivien Zartner

Macmillan Dictionary defines blackfishing as, ‘a term used to describe someone who is pretending to be black’. In recent years, this term has become more used, as celebrities and influencers adopt aesthetics derived from Black women, such as darkening their skin tone. 

After her departure from the British girl pop-group, Little Mix in December 2020, singer Jesy Nelson decided to take her shot as a solo artist. She spent most of 2021 writing and recording music. One of her most known pieces is ‘Boyz’. However, upon promoting her new song, she has received a lot of attention, perhaps not in the way she anticipated. 

Her new single features Nicki Minaj and Sean “Diddy” Combs, who has a cameo appearance. Nelson’s video is based on the storyline of “Bad Boys For Life”, where according to iNews, Nelson mirrors the “rich white suburban neighbourhoods with rap-adjacent aesthetics and a majority black entourage”. However, viewers have had a lot to say regarding this with Nelson being a white woman. 

As snippets of the music video for “Boyz” was released, many fans noticed that the singer’s complexion looked several shades darker than her natural skin tone. Furthermore, viewers noticed the heavy use of tooth-caps, heavy silver, gold chains, baggy attire; it looked as if Jesy Nelson were copying African-American hip-hop aesthetics. Upon seeing the extract of the music video, many began to fling accusations of “blackfishing” at the pop star. 

Nelson is a Romford-born white British singer, and therefore her new look has led to accusations of blackfishing with her being accused of toying with racial and ethnic barriers – she has been accused of cultural appropriation. Prior to this incident, Nelson has been accused of blackfishing in May, where a post (now deleted) showed the shade that Nelson used to tan with. 

“Boyz” also features rapper Nicki Minaj, and many fans have brought up the question of whether Minaj allowed this to happen or even why she ignored the severity of the controversy in the first place. Nelson took to Instagram to address these accusations alongside Minaj during an Instagram Live; she clarified that the reason for her darker skin tone was since prior to the shoot she had been on holiday in Antigua. Nevertheless, fans have been questioning this due to her past experiences with questionable tanning. As Minaj and Nelson address these accusations, Minaj flung accusations at Jesy Nelson’s ex-bandmate, Little Mix member Leigh-Anne Pinnock, accusing her of being “jealous” as Pinnock spoke about Nelson’s blackfishing. To the disappointment of many, Nelson laughed along as Pinnock was framed for being “jealous”.