For everybody else on the train, it was probably just another Thursday.
Bored looking commuters skim reading the tabloids, crying babies, breakfast bar wrappers… then there’s me. This wasn’t a usual Thursday. In fact, as we approach Kings Cross my thoughts were as follows: get cash out, top up Oyster, ask Little Mix how it feels to be on the way to world domination…
Somehow, I squash the nerves, laugh at myself (probably half delirious) and follow Google Maps to an East London studio. When I’m let into our big, airy room, I see rails of the most gorgeous clothes lining the walls, and hear the delicate sounds of a RnB playlist. It still doesn’t feel real, like this is actually going to happen. We can’t have pulled this off, could we?
The trill of a Geordie accent brings me back to reality, or further into the dream. I still haven’t worked it out. Spinning around, I see Perrie. Her nails are covered in foil, her long blonde hair swinging behind her, and we meet instantly in a hug as she introduces herself. I find Jade fingering through the clothes, pulling out pieces and holding them up for Leigh-Anne’s approval. Then Jesy emerges, all princess curls and cherry red trousers.
So, for one pinch-myself day, I joined the ultimate girl gang. Then almost found myself kicked out for letting a Pretty Little Liars spoiler slip.
The girls build each other up. I stand beside them as portraits are being taken, watching them cheering each other on and cooing over every shot as they appear on the laptops. They effortlessly, and almost subconsciously, sing along in perfect harmony with each other to the songs that play. They lean on each other, quite literally, and have a sense of one another – it’s endearing, and beautiful to quite clearly see the unbreakable bond that they have.
I don’t know who I’d be without Little Mix. It sounds dramatic, I’m aware. But if there were no Little Mix, there would quite simply be no Little Mix songs. And without those songs, who would I be? I walked to college listening to DNA, with that record giving me the courage to come out of my shell, to raise a hand in class and to share my writing with the world to take extra steps to being a journalist. That album made every questionable fashion trend and confused moment of self doubt okay. I had my first real boyfriend during the Salute era. It made me realise that falling in love was as magic as the girls had described and the heartbreak was just as intense too, but ultimately that I was strong. Get Weird was the wild rush of freedom that I found from living at university with my best friends, and the anticipation that my life was really about to start. We danced around the kitchen in slipper socks at 3am to that album.
Finally, Glory Days has made me embrace, and most importantly, learn to love myself. As I sit down with the girls, I tell them this, and watch their eyes widen as they reach to hug me. It means the world to them, that their music doesn’t only empower them, but others too. We’ve evolved together; from being shy, cautious girls with a dream to strong women who are determined to rise above any expectations and succeed. It’s a natural evolution, and one that should be celebrated.
Huddled around a LEON takeaway order, we talk openly and enthusiastically about why we should be able to have an open dialogue about sex with young people. We decide that the taboo is that the topic itself is even taboo. The girls suggest that in the age of social media, these conversations are more important than ever, as young people should be building each other up rather than dragging each other down. They confide that they have their bad days, that they often call their mums for some advice (“The only way is up!” – Perrie’s mum), and find rockstar release in throwing fruit at hotel room walls. Of course, the girls suffer from insecurities too, and share that writing and performing helps to kick those down with a stiletto boot, in the same way that listening to their songs fight back my own.
Little Mix’s songs are maturing; they’re discussing every aspects of relationships and empowering their bodies and embracing their femininity. It’s something that so many people need to hear, so that they can be reassured and encouraged to be proud of who they are. So when The Sun got hold of our interview, and managed to twist the context of their words into something derogatory and idealist, it made even more of a point as to why our conversation was so important. Women should be able to sing about their bodies, to talk about their desires, and to perform their art in whichever form makes them feel the best about themselves. Without shame, judgement or belittlement.
I’m proud to call Little Mix my idols. I’ve watched them grow from bubblegum pop optimists to power-house fierce women on the pursuit of empowerment. They’ve soundtracked every step; from the self-discovery teenage years to the toughening rebellious years, to the loud and proud embracing of daring and individual personality. To now; a time for women to finally feel comfortable enough to show that they’re confident in every element of themselves. Their songs are tokens of strength and friendship. Because no love is worth taking away your self-love.
Main shoot by Jack Margerison
BTS images by Tom Pullen
Buy your copy of Volume 21 in the tmrw webstore
Words by Tanyel Gumushan