X Factor winner Alexandra Burke recently spoke out about her experience as a Black woman navigating through the music industry today.
In a 15-minute video posted to her Instagram page on Saturday (June 20), Burke opened up about the racism and various microaggressions she has endured over the years.
She recalled her first audition for the X Factor when she was 16-years old. Although she lost out in the early rounds, Burke said an unnamed person on the show told her to give them a call in a couple months with a promise that they would sign her. Thinking this would be “the break that [she’d] been waiting for,” Burke called the person only for that individual to tell her, “I already have one Black artist, I don’t need another.”
Although devastated, she tried her luck again and this time won the British talent show at the age of 19 in 2008. Following her win, Burke recalled how she was told she would “have to work 10 times harder than a white artist because of the color of your skin.” She was also told not to wear Black hairstyles such as braids or an Afro in order to better appeal to white people.
Even more shockingly, the 31-year-old singer recalled how she was told to bleach her skin, which she refused to do. “It’s just so absurd to me that somebody could even remotely say to someone, ‘Bleach your skin, so that you could look whiter,” Burke said in the video. “Still, ’til this moment, it breaks my heart that I was told that.”
She continued, “I’ve been told by previous management companies, ‘You have to smile more on your Instagram because you come across aggressive…’ ‘You can’t have baby hairs showing on any hairstyle that you do because you come across as aggressive.’”
One of her previous labels was against her releasing “certain kinds of music because white people don’t understand that.”
“I am so upset with myself that I allowed that,” Burke said as she broke down in tears out of frustration over her treatment. She went on to speak about how she was singled out by an unnamed journalist as a “diva” and the label stuck to her amongst the press over the years. She called the experiences “heartbreaking.”
“I believe it’s simply because of me being a strong Black woman. I can speak out for myself because that’s how I’ve been taught,” she said towards the 12:30 mark. “This is the first time I’ve felt like I can speak up on all of that.”
Listen to Alexandra Burke’s revealing remarks below:
(Photo: Dave J Hogan/Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)