Decoding the queer appeal of Little Mix
Since winning The X Factor in 2011, Little Mix – Jade Thirlwall, Jesy Nelson, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Perrie Edwards – have blossomed to become one of the biggest and best girl groups of their era.
Along the way, Little Mix have established themselves as firm queer favourites. Pop bangers like DNA, Move and Shout Out to My Ex are staples at gay bars and LGBTQ club nights across the UK.
Almost every girl group has some kind of queer appeal, but Little Mix’s bond with their LGBTQ fans feels uncommonly strong.
Little Mix’s story has resonated with queer fans
“I think initially what made them appeal to LGBTQ fans was their X Factor narrative,” says Mark. He is 26, gay and from Derry and has seen Little Mix live three times. “They were underdogs who had to fight each week to be taken seriously, which I think is something a lot of us can relate to. Jesy’s difficulty with cyber-bullying also resonated with a lot of us. As their career has gone from strength to strength, I’d say their music has definitely helped them gain more and more gay fans. Songs like DNA, Move, Power, they’re more than just good pop songs – they’re also a little strange, which is something I think LGBTQ fans are more receptive to.”
Even if the group and their co-writers didn’t intend it, Little Mix songs often have lyrics which feel relatable to the queer ear. Weird People is a total outsider’s anthem. Touch’s thirsty reference to a guy’s “photograph with no T-shirt on” could have been written about gay Instagram.
Their songs have become anthems for LGBTQ fans
And it’s not too much of a stretch to interpret Power’s gender politics – “Baby, you’re the man / But I got the power” – as a celebration of power-bottom sexuality.
But one Little Mix hit has been particularly embraced as a queer anthem.
“I think Secret Love Song was a big moment for the community,” says J, a 21-year-old trans male from Newcastle who says he’s had a crush on Perrie Edwards “since day one”. “Queer people were identifying with that song, and Jade kind of went out of her way to let people know that was something she liked. Jade for sure has done a lot to make LGBTQ fans feel welcome and appreciated. That’s really spread across to the other girls too.”
“I don’t think there are many bands who are so outspoken and proud of their minority group fans in that way.”
Jade is a bigger Drag Race fan than all of us
It’s difficult to disagree with J. Jade Thirlwall is such a huge RuPaul’s Drag Race fan that Little Mix have covered Sissy That Walk at live shows. They also cast fan faves Courtney Act, Alaska and Willam in their Power video. But crucially, the group haven’t embraced the fun and fabulous elements of queer culture without acknowledging the community’s struggles.
Thirlwall celebrated her 25th birthday with a drag-themed party featuring input from LGBTQ charity Stonewall. Guests were asked to make donations instead of buying presents, then left with party bags spotlighting gay and trans rights.
“While we celebrated equality, drag and all things LGBTQ on the night, unfortunately it is still not so easy for others,” she wrote on Instagram. “Please visit their site to learn more and donate if you can for Christmas. Look forward to working with @stonewalluk more in the New Year.”
“They’re completely unabashed in their love of their LGBTQ followers,” says Anthony, a 32-year-old gay fan from Manchester. He says he identifies with Little Mix because “they embrace positivity in every guise – in terms of the LGBTQ community, women’s rights, body image, sex appeal, everything.”
“They’re proper advocates who aren’t worried about losing a fan,” Anthony continues. “I remember a few years ago, Jade handed their arse to someone on Twitter who dissed a drag queen.”
They are the ultimate celebrity LGBTQ allies
In fact, it’s no exaggeration to suggest that Little Mix – and Thirlwall especially – are helping to raise the bar for what pop stars as LGBTQ allies can do.