Since winning The X Factor in 2011, Little Mix have been breaking records set by The Spice Girls and going global. Band member Jesy Nelson spoke to entertainment reporter Chris Broom.
Jesy Nelson, one quarter of the pop sensations Little Mix, could be forgiven about being a bit hazy as to whether they have performed on the Isle of Wight before.
Since the quartet won The X Factor at the end of 2011, it’s been a non-stop whirlwind of touring, recording and promotional work for the group, which also includes Perrie Edwards, Jade Thirlwall and Leigh-Anne Pinnock.
‘I think we’ve been to the Isle of Wight before,’ says Jesy when chatting on the phone with The Guide.
‘I’m sure we’ve been there before – it does all kind of blur.’
And she’s right – they played at the Isle of Wight Festival in 2013.
But this time, they’re back in their own right and playing a massive show in the grounds of Osborne House on the island on Saturday, July 26, with music legend Tom Jones performing there the following night.
‘We’re so excited we can’t wait,’ says Jesy. ‘Summertime is our favourite time of the year, because we get to perform in front of all of our fans in the sun.’
This year has seen the girls step up the size of their UK shows, undertaking their first arena tour and their first major US tour, supporting Demi Lovato.
‘This year has gone so quickly because we haven’t stopped,’ explains Jesy. ‘It’s been my favourite year so far.
‘We’ve done a few shows out in America before, but this was our first proper tour – and to be in arenas...
‘We were really nervous at first, we didn’t know how it was going to go down, or how many fans we would have. But as the music started the crowd went crazy. The noise, it was insane – it was an amazing experience.’
The global popularity of the band has exploded. Their debut album DNA went into the US charts at number five, climbing to four the next week – beating the Spice Girls’ record for a British girl group of number six, from 1996. So far they’ve sold 1.4m albums and more than 4m singles worldwide.
And with nearly six million followers on Twitter and eight million on Facebook, they have fans in countries they’ve not even been to yet.
The fans – who call themselves Mixers – have built an online community where they discuss the girls’ lives and music in intense detail, fiercely defending them from criticism and creating their own tribute videos.
Jesy says: ‘When we went to America we knew we had fans there, but in all these other places, it’s a bit overwhelming. We just feel really lucky.
‘Our fans are so incredible - they’re so supportive. They’re the most amazing. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them so we’ve got a lot to thank them for.’
But not everyone has been so kind. Jesy in particular has suffered vile abuse online about her appearance. The group is now involved with BeatBullying and the #Deletecyberbullying project.
‘They approached us,’ she explains, ‘and as soon as they came to us we wanted to get involved because all of us in the group have had bullying towards of us, and we wanted to make people more aware of bullying on things like Twitter and social media.
‘It is really, really nasty. Some people do it as a joke, they think it’s funny and they jump on the bandwagon, but there have been kids take their lives. It’s awful – I think people should be more aware. We’ve all been through it and it’s not nice at all. If people were more aware, I think it would help.’
They’ve also had to cope with the high level of scrutiny that accompanies their every move.
‘I don’t think we’ll ever get used to it. It is really strange because we all feel we’re very normal.
‘It does just come with it. We were all just thrown into it and had to get used to it very quickly. We don’t look at the magazines or the newspapers much – I don’t think it’s healthy – and we just ignore it. You don’t need that negativity in your life.’
Fortunately, the young women – at 23 Jesy is only just the oldest – have formed a strong bond since being thrown together on The X Factor.
All four had originally entered as solo performers, but the show’s bosses decided to give them another shot if they would form a group together. They were mentored to victory by Tulisa Contostavlos.
Jesy recalls: ‘We were really lucky – it was fate. I shared a room with Leigh-Anne at boot camp and then Jade was one of the first people I met there.
‘We all became good friends and we said that if we didn’t make it as solo singers we should form a group ourselves. We had already planned it ourselves.
‘We hung around together a lot of boot camp and maybe they saw a chemistry.
‘ I argue with all my family, but never with the girls. ‘It sounds well cheesy but we are literally best friends. They’re like my sisters. I love them to bits.’
Even with their hectic schedule, they’re already looking to album number three – they announced earlier this month that they’re postponing a headlining tour back in the States to concentrate on it.
‘We had a week off and now we’re back in the studio writing our third album,’ says Jesy. ‘It’s been going really well – we’ve only had three sessions so far but we’ve already written some great songs. We’re excited for everyone to hear it.
‘I don’t think people realise how involved we are in the writing side of it –we always do write a lot.
‘It’s a lot cooler, it’s probably got more of a dancey vibe to it. People should be excited about it.’
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