When Jesy Nelson won X-Factor back in 2011, she should have felt on top of the world. In reality, all she wanted to do was go home. Vile internet trolls who ridiculed her appearance drove her into such a deep depression that a few years later, Jesy even attempted suicide.
WATCH: Jesy opens up in the latest episode of GLAMOUR Unfiltered revealing the horrific affects of online bullying.
In her heartbreaking BBC Three documentary, Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out, the Little Mix star explores the effects internet trolling has had on her own life and others. The results: one of the most tear-jerking documentaries that is a stark reminder of the effects bullying online can have.
Here, in the latest episode of GLAMOUR Unfiltered, Jesy joins our Josh Smith to discuss her journey towards self-acceptance, from starving herself for ‘four days’ to the steps to recovery she undertook through therapy…
What journey have you been on with online trolls?
I went from someone who really wanted to perform from a really young age - that was all I knew - to going on X-Factor, which I thought was going to be the most incredible experience ever and it becoming the worst experience of my life. It was mainly due to social media and how much it affected me. So, when they were like, ‘here’s your mobile phone, this is what you’re going to have, you need to have Twitter because you need to start engaging with fans and connecting with them. They need to start knowing who Little Mix are.’ I was like, ‘okay cool.’ But it was not the experience I expected it to be. It was an endless amount of comments of what people thought of me and my appearance and I didn’t know how to deal with it.
What kind of comments were the biggest trigger for you?
People commenting on my face. I got used to people calling me fat because I was like whatever I’ve seen it so much. People started going in on what my face looked like with memes and people would chop my head off in group photos and replace it with a monster or ET or a sloth. I became a joke to everyone, and it really knocked my confidence. I never experienced anything like it in my life. I thought I’d be able to deal with it, but I couldn’t. If people knew it affected me, they went in more and that baffled me a lot. Everyone could see how much it was affecting me and yet people seemed to want to do it even more.
Was it easier to deal with having the Little Mix girls beside you?
It made it worse because I was being compared to three other girls. I honestly think if I had been a solo artist, it wouldn’t have been as bad. Because I was being compared to three other girls, it made people have more of an opinion. If I had been on my own, there would be no one to compare to.
How did the trolling affect your own relationship with body image and beauty?
I never had an issue with my weight or how I looked before X-Factor or social media and then as soon as I got it, I slowly mentally started to believe everything people were saying about me. It consumed my whole life, every single part of me including relationships, work, friendships and eating.
You said that you stopped going to work. What were you doing and thinking when you were at home?
The way I used to see it was if I’m not singing with them, I won’t get pictured so there won’t be an article for people to then comment and troll me on. If I’m not seen with them as much, people won’t have as much of an opinion. But instead, it caused more of an opinion because people were like, ‘where’s Jesy? Why’s she not with the girls?’
What was the turning point when you thought you could come back out the house again?
When I got rid of Twitter. I was addicted to social media. My daily routine was waking up at 6am and typing the worst things about myself into Twitter. In my brain, I thought, ‘this is how I can deal with it. If I keep reading these, my brain will eventually get so used to seeing them that it won’t affect me anymore.’ It didn’t help at all. It made me more and more depressed and made me a completely different person. I eventually started speaking to a therapist.
What are you telling yourself to get on stage?
I didn’t want to be on stage and eventually my love of performing meant I ended up hating it and it stopped me wanting to go on stage and perform. The things that got me through it was fans. Seeing their support and how much our music affected them.
It’s so great you can openly say you went to therapy…
I think people were almost quite embarrassed to say they see a therapist. Everyone’s got problems. Since making this documentary, it’s helped me so much talking about it because I couldn’t before. It made me too upset because I wasn’t talking about it. It was like a heavy weight I was carrying around with me for so many years and since I’ve been speaking about it, I now do an interview and don’t cry.
What’s the biggest lesson you learnt from therapy?
As long as I’m happy with myself and mentally happy, it doesn’t matter what other people think. Everyone’s always going to have an opinion, you can’t stop that.
It’s amazing that you’ve come out the other side…
I never thought I could feel happy again, ever but now I’m sat here, openly talking about it. I never thought I’d be doing this documentary or this interview feeling confident, empowerment and back to how I used to feel. That’s why I wanted to make this documentary because there are so many people who go through life thinking that’s it. I’m going to feel like this forever and it isn’t. So many people commit suicide because they don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. I want people to know if you stick through it and talk to people, it gets better.
What’s been the hardest thing to film in the documentary?
Meeting Sian’s mum and dad who took her own life. The fact her Mum and Dad could open up and it’s not even been a year since she passed away and be that brave to tell me her story. They must be so mentally strong, and I just thought it was so incredible that they want to share that story to help other people. That was horrible.
How did that change you and your perception?
It was an eye opener for me seeing the effects of what it does to the people you leave behind. So many people go online and think whether they’re having a laugh with their mates and someone’s the butt of the joke or whether they think that person isn’t going to see it. You don’t know that. That person can see that, and that one comment can completely change their mindset and how they feel about themselves. People need to know the effects it has on people. You must feel crap about yourself to want to make someone feel that low and that’s why trolls do it. They don’t feel good about themselves and doing that makes them feel better.
Do you ever wish you could take away the fame and not have to deal with this level of hate?
It wasn’t the fame. It was social media that affected me and then being in the public eye meant I couldn’t get away from it. I had to roll with it and get on it and I really struggled with pretending to be happy.
You have the most vocal supportive fans so why did you give more weight to the negative comments?
It was everywhere. It was in magazines. It was exploited on x-factor. I couldn’t get away from it. There probably was loads of positives, but I didn’t let myself see it because all I saw was the bad ones. Once you see one bad comment you see a million and that’s all you can think about.
What’s the most extreme thing you’ve done in order to conform to something you think should have been like?
I so desperately wanted validation from other people. I just wanted to be Jesy. I didn’t want to be Jesy the fat one. I wanted people to see me as normal, so I punished myself. I starved myself. If I did eat, I hated myself, I’d punish myself and make sure I didn’t eat for four days. It was horrible, a vicious circle.
You recently opened up on Instagram about how you are finally allowing yourself to be sad. How game-changing has letting it out and crying been for you?
That’s why I fell into such a deep depression because I didn’t allow myself to be sad. I just had to be happy all the time. The only time I was allowed to be sad was when I went home, went to sleep and then I’d cry myself to sleep. Then I’d get up the next morning and pretend to feel fabulous and happy and I wasn’t. Now when I’m sad I let myself be sad and then I’m over it because I’ve let it out. If you feel sad, be bloody sad. It’s ok. This is the most I’ve ever loved myself and I never thought that would happen. There are so many girls that probably feel that way and think they’re never going to feel good about themselves, but you can, and you will and it’s all about talking and letting people know how you feel. You will get through it and you will get over it.
Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out is released on BBC I-Player today