Last week, after nine years as part of the world's biggest girl group, who made history by becoming the first group to win The X Factor, Jesy Nelson announced she had left Little Mix.
Throughout her career, Nelson has been subject to a torrent of vile abuse, all of which hinged on highlighting how different she is from the other members of Little Mix.
Last year, Nelson released a heart-wrenching documentary, Odd One Out, which detailed the years of cruelty she has been subjected to by online trolls, leading her to make an attempt on her own life. She revealed the devastating impact the attacks have had on her mental health.
The documentary struck a chord with viewers who felt Nelson had raised an issue that isn't talked about enough – social media and its implicit connections to debilitating mental health conditions. She met the family of a young girl who had taken her own life due to the way she was treated online and the relentless cyber-bullying she was at the mercy of. Nelson's visceral reaction to the family's ordeal created an instant connection between her and millions of viewers at home. Suddenly, she wasn't a global pop star; she was an innocent person who had become yet another target for this form of abuse.
Nelson's willingness to share her struggles have been a lifeline for her young fans, who all too often face similar challenges. Little Mix has a large LGBTQ+ fanbase and worked to protect this community from the internet's harsh treatment. Her openness and honesty have created an environment in which she has empowered people to speak out and seek help for whatever they are going through.
However, fans were left shocked when, following the release of their sixth studio album, Confetti, Nelson absented herself from the group's promotional obligations, including performances and the final of their talent contest TV show, Little Mix: The Search. The reasons for her disappearance were kept relatively quiet, but, given her history, many loyal fans worried she was struggling again.
After weeks of the band appearing as a three-piece, Nelson shared an emotional announcement via Instagram explaining her difficult decision to leave the group. She explicitly referenced the toll being in the band had taken on her mental health and felt it would be the best decision to begin a new chapter.
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In choosing to leave Little Mix, Nelson is showing every person who feels crippled by the weight of their own mind that it's ok to stop doing something if it's too difficult. It's ok to say no and set boundaries. The decision, although heart-breaking for her fans, is powerful and important.
Her choice to prioritise herself, rather than do what will please the masses, is a battle-cry to anyone suffering to put themselves first. Her departure is a result of abhorrent treatment from trolls and the high expectations of online critics. It could be the catalyst for a productive conversation on tackling the trolling that infiltrates online platforms to such a dangerous degree. The burdens that come with opening social media are frequently too much to handle.
Nelson's decision to leave Little Mix underscores her humanity. It is a necessary reminder that we are all human and aren't built to withstand the storms that the strains of modern life often bring. For now, no one knows what her next steps will look like. Perhaps she will release music as a solo artist, or she will never record music again. Many hope she will continue her important work raising awareness for mental health issues.
The most important thing is that whatever she chooses to do next should be whatever is right for her.
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