Jesy Nelson Quits Little Mix: The Consequences of Celebrity Journalism
Sanity before vanity, always.
Targeted by journalists relentlessly, it is no surprise that Jesy Nelson has finally quit the UK’s biggest girl group of all time, Little Mix. As a result of the nine years that Nelson has been part of the girl band, she has developed severe mental health conditions: anxiety and depression. The urgency of her struggles was emphasised in her attempt to take her own life in 2013, only two years after winning The X Factor. The question is, to what extent did journalism’s role affect Nelson so greatly, that she felt the only answer would be to abandon her passion altogether?
When Nelson publicly declared that she was leaving the UK’s largest girl band last week, it was no shock. Nelson has been mentally and physically absent for a while, her disappearances becoming more frequent and disconcerting. The tipping point was when Nelson did not appear in the final of the girls’ own talent show Little Mix: The Search, despite her presence in the majority of the episodes before. The show’s explanation of Nelson’s absence was that she was feeling ‘unwell’, leading to a circulation of numerous articles demanding ‘Where is Jesy?’. Soon after, the press announced that Nelson was taking an ‘extended break for private medical concerns’, before she released the shocking statement on Instagram that she was leaving the group altogether.
How is journalism to blame?
Articles are written by journalists who research the material that is being written online, so the vile comments that trolls wrote about Nelson’s body image have consequently turned into articles about her size. For example, one disgraceful troll wrote to her “you are the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen in my life, how on earth were you ever put in this girl band? You deserve to die”, leading to articles revolving around her body dysmorphia; her hate for her appearance. Some could argue that the trolls are the catalyst, but if the media didn’t encourage them, would Nelson still have felt the same sense of shame about herself?
Nelson is a victim of bad journalism. This is the lack of information, misinformation, disinformation and a disregard for the truth or the reality of people’s lives. According to the professor and author Stuart Allan, news coverage is “distorted by celebrity and the worship of the celebrity, by the reduction of news to gossip, which is the lowest form of news.” Rather than factual information that informs and educates society, Allan argues how even news concerning celebrities has fallen down the gutter, failing to provide any beneficial use in the world today. The impact of bad journalism is detrimental, as Nelson elucidated that her mental health is horrifying. She stated:
“The constant pressure of being in a girl group and living up to expectations is very hard”.
It is inevitable that with fame, comes pressure. But pressure at such a price has stemmed from some journalists and the media who have projected unreasonable standards onto society. They have placed Nelson under the microscope copiously, judging her outfits, actions or even words. Since Little Mix entered the spotlight in 2011, newspaper articles and tabloids have constantly surrounded Nelson’s body image. The breadth of this issue begun when Nelson was still a contestant on X Factor. She had a mental breakdown, as a result of internet trolls writing cruel comments all over Twitter about her biggest insecurity, her weight. Nelson’s weight was perfectly average, the only difference to her other bandmates being that she had a curvier frame, giving the illusion of wider hips. Nevertheless, journalists and the media were aware of Nelson’s body anxieties and decided to fixate on this, for the duration of her time as a Little Mix member. They commented on minor details in her day to day life, and made them out to be monstrous acts. Please tell me how the headline below deserves to be news.
The Sun composed a whole article detailing how Nelson has (wait for it!)… only gone and enjoyed a meal from McDonalds! Shocking, I know. Food and drink is simply an act of keeping alive, so what difference does McDonalds make to any other meal? The connotations of the fast-food chain McDonalds are unhealthy and fattening, if not consumed as a healthy, balanced diet. This subconsciously presents the reader with an article of the body conscious Nelson eating high-fat content food. Pocklington has framed Nelson, as the pun ‘she’s lovin’ it’ is mocking, suggesting that her enjoyment for the fatty food is no surprise. The whole article surrounds Nelson’s dietary intake, which is written with a judged and criticising attitude, in a humorous tone of course (so it’s not taken seriously!). The fact that her dinner is a ‘feast’ portrays a banquet enough to feed twenty people. I sense judgement. Also, does anyone actually care what she is eating for dinner? This supports Allan’s point, highlighting that not all news articles are necessarily news, but just irrelevant gossip that should have no place in society.
It goes without saying that journalists have to find news to write about. But, at the extent of someone else's happiness? This is too far. The line needs to be drawn. I don’t see any articles about any other band members enjoying a McDonalds ‘feast’, do you?
The media’s obsession with Nelson’s body image continues. At the Brit Awards 2016, Nelson wore a nude-toned floral dress. Though it would not be to everyone’s taste, the journalist stated ‘Jesy Nelson’s high-necked dress left her with a frumpy finish’. The word ‘frumpy’ suggests old-fashioned and moreover, has connotations of ‘fat’. Nelson’s biggest insecurity is her body, thus, what does this article gain out of labelling an insecure celebrity about something they are told they should be insecure about? Is this gossip or news? It’s definitely not the latter…
Consequences of Bad Journalism
It is not unjust to say that the media writing articles, such as the above, has directly affected Nelson. There are consequences. The headline below shows that Nelson then attempted to lose weight, not only so she gains self confidence, but to subtract her label as the ‘fat, ugly one’.
Two girls from the biggest girl band are seen buying weight loss drinks, after the media has constantly brandished Nelson, in particular, as overweight. Though the two girls should not have to conform to the media’s standards by wanting to lose weight (there’s nothing wrong with them anyway!?) what else do the media expect after insinuating that Nelson should be slimmer?
Moreover, are two girls buying weight loss drinks actually news? Or just futile chatter. Idiot culture, it appears.
Coined by the American investigative journalist Carl Bernstein, idiot culture is the media which is “illusionary and delusionary — disfigured, unreal, disconnected from the true context of our lives”. The three articles I have included above all show elements of idiot culture, writing about issues that give no relevance to society, in regards to the news sphere. Rather than notifying the public with relevant information, (the prime purpose of news) the public are being ambushed with tonnes of insignificant information, such as Nelson’s food intake or outfit choice, resulting in the production of meaningless articles. Bernstein continues to point out that “the press, the media, the politicians, and the people are turning into a sewer.” This metaphor comparing present celebrity journalism to a underground drain suggests that bad journalism is the utter garbage that passes through. Vivid, I know. It could also relate to how celebrity journalism is sometimes initially pleasurable for a quick, trashy read if needed. However, the more that is produced and the longer that it carries on for, the lower the quality of journalism sinks, and thus, the lower it sinks the mentality of the celebrities themselves.
Lastly, I conducted the poll below, asking if the public thought that journalism and the media had influenced Nelson’s decision to leave Little Mix.
Out of the 22 votes that I received, over 90% agreed that journalism and the media had affected Nelson’s overarching decision to leave the group. This exemplifies how society can see journalism’s major role in society and the profound effects, mentally and physically, that bad journalism has had on Nelson as a whole. Obviously, is it not just bad journalism that has contributed to her poor mental health, but it would be wrong to say that it hasn’t played a substantial part.
Overall, Jesy Nelson has been the pinnacle of bad celebrity journalism, and has had to pay the price. We must change celebrity journalism for the better, where less judgement is given, and more authenticity is created. (Less gossip please!) Nelson’s sanity must come first, and I commend her for it. What’s more expensive than your own peace of mind?
“There comes a time in life when we need to reinvest in taking care of ourselves, rather than focusing on making other people happy.” Jesy Nelson.
If you want to find out more about Jesy Nelson’s struggles, watch her ‘Odd One Out’ documentary on BBC iPlayer.