It’s been eight years since Little Mix shot to fame on The X Factor. Led by Simon Cowell, the four-piece singing group won the show’s finale, and have gone on to become one of the world’s biggest girl groups.
On the outside, they look to have it all; talent, beauty and the world at their fingertips. However singer Jesy Nelson, 28, has been consumed by trolling and abuse on social media. Just two years after the group were crowned winners, and at the height of their fame, she tried to take her own life.
Jesy has bared all in an exceptionally personal BBC Three documentary, Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out, which airs on Thursday at 9pm. In the programme, Jesy shares how horrific and spiteful comments made by social media trolls fuelled her struggles with body image, leading to her developing an eating disorder and depression.
In the documentary, Jesy opens up about this difficult time.
Just hours after winning The X Factor, she received hundreds of social media messages. One read: "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," she says in the documentary.
"I wasn't just known as one of the singers in Little Mix, I was known as 'the fat, ugly one'."
Jesy became “obsessed” with reading the cruel and critical comments that people left online. Things got so bad that in 2014, she attempted suicide.
Now, Jesy is in a much stronger place. As part of the documentary, Jesy spoke to St Andrew’s body-image specialist, Liz Ritchie, who helped her understand her toxic relationship with social media.
As part of the programme, the pair discuss the “mask” that Jesy had developed to withstand the spotlight. Part of this involved going over footage from The X Factor, which Jesy found to be a difficult experience, but ultimately empowering.
Liz Ritchie explained:
“When I met Jesy I saw a real innate sadness. She had a degree of self-loathing; she felt that it was her fault, and that the persecution about her body image – something so deeply personal – was her own fault. It is a difficult process to challenge those negative thoughts, and it has taken Jesy a while to be able to see that.”
During her time with Jesy, Liz drew on her 30 years’ experience at St Andrew’s Healthcare, where she supports patients as they engage in meaningful dialogue regarding body image, gender, identity, dignity and self-worth. She urges other people struggling to ask for help.
“It’s imperative that young people stand up and say 'that happened to me’.
“There's nothing wrong with asking for help, nothing wrong with talking about it. If it stays in your head it just festers.
“With regards to the trolls, I think we need to call these people out, and say that really we don't want this as part of our social media culture.”
Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out is on BBC One at 9pm on 12 September, and will be available on BBC iPlayer. To listen in to a BBC Radio 1 interview with Liz Ritchie about the programme, click here.
If you are struggling with your mental health or been affected by Jesy’s programme, there is lots of help available:
If you are in an emergency and there is a risk to life – (either your own, or another person’s) – then please call 999.
Help in a crisis - call the Samaritans
The confidential Samaritans helpline is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The helpline is free to call – just dial 116 123 (in the UK or Republic of Ireland). You do not have to be suicidal to call the Samaritans, and the trained volunteers can help whatever your age, and whatever is worrying you. If you do not need instant help, you can also e-mail the Samaritans on [email protected].