Eight years after she shot to fame on The X Factor, Nelson describes how she navigated the trauma of being relentlessly bullied on social media
When Jesy Nelson was 19 and working behind the bar at a pub in Dagenham, Essex, she remembers watching The X Factor on TV, and thinking: I know I could win that. In 2011, she did just that, as part of the girl group Little Mix and thought: This is the worst day of my life.
Competing in Simon Cowells singing contest unleashed ceaseless criticism of her appearance and weight (although rarely her voice). All I cared about was what people were saying about me, she says now.
Winning offered no respite. When Little Mix were crowned, the first Facebook message she saw was from a stranger. It read: You are the ugliest thing I have ever seen in my life. You do not deserve to be in this girl band, you deserve to die.
I should have been on cloud nine, she says. I had Leigh-Anne [Pinnock, also of Little Mix] in my room being like: This is the best! and I was like: No, this isnt.
Little Mix went on to become the biggest British girl group since the Spice Girls, but Nelson was consumed by the trolling and abuse on social media. Within two years of the finale, she had depression and an eating disorder and had attempted suicide.
The downward spiral and her eventual, slow recovery are the focus of an intensely personal BBC One documentary, Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out. Before shooting it, she says, she had never spoken publicly about her struggles in the spotlight.
When we meet in a corner of BBC Broadcasting House in central London, Nelson, now 28, is friendly and glamorous, dressed in a double-breasted tangerine suit. It is the eighth anniversary of her X Factor debut and #8YearsofLittleMix has been trending on Twitter all morning, thanks to their fans, the Mixers.
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