Britain’s Got Talent’s judge opened up in an interview for Cosmopolitan about her first-hand experiences with discrimination in showbiz. The former Mis-Teeq singer faced prejudice herself when a magazine that interviewed her said they won’t put her on the magazine, because a black woman on the cover wouldn’t sell.
Sadly, I’ve learnt that prejudice still exists in parts of the entertainment industry. I did an interview with a magazine once and the journalist quite openly said they wouldn’t put a black person on the front cover because the magazine wouldn’t sell. It made me angry because it shouldn’t be about the colour of the person’s skin, it should be about the person, Alesha recalled.
She went on and said that, unfortunately, black women are still a minority on television in 2013, even though Britain is such a multicultural country. There still aren’t many black women on prime-time TV. Times are changing, but it’s interesting we’re in 2013 and still experiencing firsts. Hopefully in the next 100 years things will balance even more. Britain is an amazing multicultural place to live in, and that should be celebrated and represented.
When Alesha joined the Strictly Come Dancing panel, the BBC was very proud about having a woman of colour on the show, and they told her this openly. She said it was a nice thing for them to acknowledge this.
Alesha was subjected to prejudice ever since she was a young girl, but she didn’t let other people ignorance affect her journey to success. I grew up in Welwyn Garden City and, when you’re a woman of colour in a predominantly white area, you become aware of prejudice from a young age. I was the only mixed-race girl in my school, but for me that was a positive thing; it made me unique. If it wasn’t for spending time with the black side of my family, perhaps I may have felt like an outcast, but I never did. Alesha said it was hard to find a role model while she was a teenager, a female ethnic role model, because there weren’t very few in music and TV. There were very few British black women on TV or in music when I was a teenager; when you’re growing up you need someone you can identify with.I remember at Christmas being bought a doll that didn’t look anything like me so I threw it away. When I saw Neneh Cherry singing on TV I was so glad that there was someone of the same ethnicity – and with the same curly hair – for me to look up to, she said.
When Alesha told her father that she wants to have a career in music, he told her she won’t get anywhere because of her skin colour. And that made her more determined. When I first told my dad I wanted to be a singer, he said, ‘What makes you think you’re going to succeed? Black people from this country don’t succeed. I remember that conversation as if it was yesterday because he was right – if you looked at the UK charts at the time there weren’t many black British artists selling records. But I’ve always said you can’t use colour as an excuse. I had to do what was right for me. In a way that gave me the determination to work harder.
Her first five years with Mis-Teeq were a continuous struggle for money. The girls were a minority girl group that had to fight all the odds and work really hard to pull it off.They didn’t have much money in the beginning or they didn’t go to stage school, which only ‘made the success so much sweeter’.
Ever since she turned 30, Alesha has been feeling even happier in her own skin: Since I turned 30, I’ve never felt better in my own skin. I feel positive about getting older. I don’t worry about the future because that will take care of itself. I don’t carry around past baggage because what’s that going to do for me? We only have now. The fact that I’m still working in the industry now, ten years on, is something I’m so thankful for. There is no door you can’t open.