Alexandra Burke says she was told to "bleach her skin" following X Factor win

Joe Anderton
Photo credit: Tim P. Whitby - Getty Images

From Digital Spy


The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing star Alexandra Burke has opened up about her experiences of racism in her life and the entertainment industry.


The star uploaded a 15-minute video to her Instagram page, in which she said she has been unsure about whether to speak out about these issues for a long time, but feels like the current Black Lives Matter movement and Misha B's recent video means it's the right time.

"The first experience that comes to mind was when I was 16 years old and I made it down to the Judges' Houses (on The X Factor), and this person in particular said to me, 'You haven't made it through but give me a call in a few months and I will take you on, I will sign you as an artist.'

"I remember calling this person and... the reply I got was 'I've already got one Black artist, I don't need another'. I still have to really take that in even now, years later. Wow, that was something that was said.

"It really sucked to hear that, because of your skin colour, you can't have this opportunity you were promised."

Photo credit: Rex/Shutterstock

Related: Sugababes member Keisha Buchanan opens up about experiencing racism

"When I first won The X Factor I got told 'you are going to work 10 times harder because of the colour of your skin. You can't have braids, you can't have an afro... you have to have hair that appeals to white people, so people can understand you better'. I was only 19 years old.

"I got told to bleach my skin, and that was something I refused to do, it is absurd to think someone could say 'you need to bleach your skin'. Still to this moment it breaks my heart that I was told to do that."

She also talked about "microaggressions" and how she had been told time and again that she comes across as "aggressive" for not smiling, having her hair a certain way or making certain music.

Alexandra then referred to her mother, who was also a singer who was belittled for being an outspoken Black woman, as her inspiration, and talked about how she was painted as a "diva" in parts of the press during her time on Strictly, while she was dealing with an injury and her mother's death.

Photo credit: Guy Levy - BBC

Related: Leona Lewis recalls confrontation with white racist shop owner

"I said 'I'll do (the launch show), but I won't do press, because if I opened my mouth I felt like I would just break down, and nobody would understand," she explained.

"So this journalist basically came up to me and said, 'Oh, so you're not doing press? Being a diva today, are we?' That person knows who they are... I don't need to mention his name, but he has painted me out to be a complete and utter bitch.

"He said, 'she's been backstage, she's been throwing chairs, she's been screaming at Tess at Claudia'. I was like, 'why couldn't Strictly or anyone from the BBC say something?' I was told to be quiet, and that is one of the biggest regrets of my life. I was so scared on that show.

"I'm not a bitch, I'm not a diva, I'm not as bad as press have painted me out to be, and I believe it's simply because I am a Black, strong woman who can speak up for myself."

The star also urged people to "speak their truth", to not be afraid and to be kind.

Alexandra's comments echo those of fellow The X Factor winner Leigh-Anne Pinnock. The Little Mix star also talked about being told she would have to work harder than her white co-stars, and that she was judged negatively without even speaking.

Meanwhile, former judge Tulisa Contostavlos has responded to Misha B's video claiming she was bullied on the show.

Digital Spy have reached out to representatives of Strictly and X Factor for comment.

For more information on how you can support Black Lives Matter, please visit its official website or donate here. Readers can also donate to the UK anti-discrimination group Stand Up To Racism, and the Unite Families & Friends Campaign, which supports those affected by deaths in police, prison and psychiatric custody.

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