Jesy Nelson: Don't suffer in silence
As a quarter of one of the world’s most successful girl bands, Jesy Nelson from Little Mix appears to have it all: fame, fortune and glamour. But in her new BBC3 documentary ‘Odd One Out’, Jesy reveals how things aren’t always what they seem.
In her documentary Jesy shares how online trolling, which she has suffered since first appearing on the X-Factor in 2011, has had a catastrophically-negative impact on her mental health. It's as much a journey of self-discovery and rehabilitation for Jesy as it is a reality-check for the viewer.
Filming exclusively for Bitesize, Jesy discusses the five key themes that arise in her documentary: cyber-bulling, depression, anxiety, social media and body image.
Through giving us a glimpse into the real impact of trolling and social media on her life, Jesy explains that her aim is to help "other young people who are feeling rubbish in themselves, or feeling really low and down".
Jesy was only 20 years old when she shot to fame with the girl band Little Mix on the X-Factor. Growing up and finding your feet in the adult world is hard enough, but she had to do it in the limelight and under intense media scrutiny.
Jesy first began to be cyber-bullied during the competition when she was trolled about her weight and called “the fat one from Little Mix”. In the Bitesize video where Jesy discusses social media, she tells us how, even on the night when Little Mix won first place and were on “cloud nine”, she opened her inbox to “101 messages”, the first of which read:
How on Earth were you ever put in this girl band? You deserve to die.
Cyber-bullying, or trolling, is when someone deliberately and persistently bullies another person online. It can range from insensitive jokes, to insults, to death threats. “I was told that my face was very deformed,” Jesy shares in our video on bullying, “and that I should chop my head off so they don’t have to look at me anymore.”
The relentless bullying had a disastrous impact on her mental health. On the topic of body image, Jesy’s mum shares some of the things her daughter used to say:
I don’t see me anymore. I literally see a monster looking back at me… everyone says that, so I must look like that.
Speaking about depression, Jesy shares how the bullying made her feel “embarrassed” and “ashamed”. “It got so bad,” she says, “to the point where I couldn’t even bring myself to get out of bed in the morning, and I just stopped turning up for work.”
The only way I can describe the pain is that it feels like constantly feeling heartbroken.
Jesy has recently opened up about how things got so bad that she tried to take her own life: "I physically couldn’t tolerate the pain anymore," she says.
Jesy still experiences symptoms such as anxiety now, particularly during filming when she feels “a lot of pressure to look good all the time”. She's on her journey to recovery, but admits: "I don’t think I will ever be the same again, but what I do know is that I’m getting better."
There's a "light at the end of the tunnel" she says in the documentary, "and if I can do it, then so can you."
Don’t suffer in silence
Throughout the documentary and our films, Jesy offers advice to help young people who are going through similar things.
Firstly, she stresses again and again the importance of speaking up about mental health.
If you just keep it in and don’t talk to anyone about it, you’re just gonna make yourself worse. Suffering in silence doesn’t help at all.
Whether that’s family, friends, a teacher, someone you trust or a trained counsellor, she encourages everyone to “just talk about anything that you feel not good about.”
Secondly, Jesy speaks about managing her relationship with social media, and how taking control helped her develop a more positive state of mind:
I started to feel better when I deleted Twitter and I just stopped reading negative stuff about myself.
It’s so easy to imagine that the rich and famous are magically exempt from feeling rubbish, or that their star status means that nasty comments roll off their backs. Jesy shows us that it's simply not true.
"If I could give my younger self any advice," she says, "it would be that I promise one day you’re going to be happy again."