As the first group to ever win The X Factor in 2011, Little Mix has spent the past decade navigating the music industry from teenagers to women, discovering who they are with and without each other, and making music to uplift and inspire. Ten years later, Jade Thirlwall, Perrie Edwards, and Leigh-Anne Pinnock, who have just been named Glamour UK’s Women of The Year as Gamechangers In Music, they’re ready for all the years that are yet to happen.
Interviewed by Glamour UK’s Entertainment Director, Josh Smith, Little Mix is opening up for the first time as a trio. Since Jesy Nelson announced her departure from the group in December 2020 to take care of her mental health, Jade, Perrie, and Leigh-Anne have been nothing but supportive and even protective of their fellow sister and former band member. Regardless, their talent still stands and so does their hope and excitement for the new “dawn of Little Mix,” as Jade puts it.
“We’ve made music to boost people up, make people happy, and to inspire them,” Leigh-Anne says, reflecting on their achievements as one of the biggest girl groups of all time. Having made six full-length studio albums, receiving 100 award nominations, and consistently selling out tours all over UK and Europe for the past ten years, Little Mix has redefined what it means to be a girl group in the twenty-first century.
Following the release of their latest album, Confetti, Jade, Perrie, and Leigh-Anne opened up to Glamour UK to talk about their journey as women in music and how they’ve grown over the last decade.
“We’ve shown that women standing together works, even with all the obstacles in our way,” says Jade, in a Zoom interview with Josh Smith. Having endured both judgment and backlash from the British press that the current time wasn’t right for another girl group, Little Mix pushed back with feminist anthems, empowering imagery, and love songs meant to heal almost any heartbreak, but how were they able to sustain for ten years? One word. Sisterhood.
“We persevered and got through it. We grew and became adult women together. It’s impactful, to show others that you can have longevity, you can break barriers, win awards and break records on the back of sticking together and being a force of women,” Jade continues. “If I had a little girl, seeing that unfold before her, from being ten years to 20 years old, what a great thing to have in the pop industry as a message to young women.”
“I do think our sense of sisterhood is better for when we do have shit times together over the years,” says Leigh-Anne, “Or if we’ve got on each other’s nerves because it’s never been an option to not be together and we’ve always known that we are sisters. It helps you to learn forgiveness, learn to be more patient, and be more compromising because you’re in a group dynamic where it’s literally that or you don’t be together.”
Ten years in the life of a woman can often be very defining. Growing up in the spotlight as teenagers to dating in the public eye, Little Mix has grown in their own right as the women artists we know and love today, but it wasn’t always easy. In an industry where how you look often matters more than how well you sing or where men are always the ones in charge of life-defining decisions, the girls have had enough of the misogyny they’ve faced throughout their careers.
“The first thing women in the industry get asked about is boyfriends,” says Perrie. “We spent far too long being patronized, especially by men in the industry,” Jade explained, backing up her bandmate. “We’ve always had a voice as a four,” explains Leigh-Anne. “We’ve been a force and we’ve always been very, ‘We stick together on things.’ But there have been times, like with labels, [where they’ve] backed us into a corner and it is obviously mainly men. They see us as four women and don’t take us seriously. We’ve had that for our whole career. Even until recently. I’m asking, ‘Has much really changed?’”
While women still struggling to lead the music industry in the way they want to today, the kind of change that has come over the last ten years is the confidence and self-discovery that Jade, Perrie, and Leigh-Anne have now found. From using their headline shows to sing feminist anthems to an audience full of young girls to rallying in support of the LGTBQA+ community, the girls have recently found power in speaking up for what they believe in. When before something like saying you were a feminist was seen as taboo, the girls don’t have to think twice now – thanks to their growth and a move away from their former record label – about embracing their feminine energy in their music, their images, or their activism.
“Someone really wise said to me, ‘When the history books are written, what’s going to be said next to your name?’ That is such an important quote because you know what we are using our voice for? It’s inspiring people.”Leigh-Anne
Inspire, they have. Imagine a fifteen-year-old girl watching X-Factor one night and seeing a group of four girls win an entire singing competition for the first time. Imagine, ten years later, that she’s twenty-five, and running an online magazine that highlights the women who sang the songs that gave her confidence when she couldn’t it find at ages seventeen, twenty, and twenty-four.
Everything that Little Mix is is inspiration. From dedicating love songs to the trans community in front of a worldwide audience to empowering their fans to embrace how they look, no matter what anyone says, their female power not only exists in their vocal range, their music, and their shows, but it also lives in their style, their sisterhood, and their legacy – and the resilience that has kept Little Mix persevering for the last ten years is the same that will keep them inspiring other women for all the years to come.
Photography by Aitken Jolly for Glamour UK