Fleur East has recalled being told she wouldn’t sell records if she opted to wear her hair naturally.
But the X Factor star, 32, said it was important to her that she wore her afro “proudly” and spoke about her culture and roots publicly.
East, a singer and presenter who came second in the 2014 series of X Factor, was opening about her experiences in an interview with Hello! magazine alongside her husband Marcel Badiane-Robin.
“When I went into the X Factor, one thing that I really didn’t want to compromise on was my hair,” she revealed.
“That, to me, is a representation of me, my colour and my culture, and I believe that should be celebrated.”
The singer revealed that she has previously been thanked by parents for choosing to wear her hair natural because it offered their children representation.
“I’ve been to shows where backstage I’ve met young black and mixed race kids whose parents have said ‘Thank you so much Fleur for wearing your hair proudly and for speaking about your culture and your roots, because my child has someone to look up to,’” she explained.
“And that is so important. I was in a group before X Factor and I was told to straighten my hair, that I wouldn’t be able to sell if I had my natural hair.”
It is Spice Girl Mel B who East credits for being her own role model. “In the music industry growing up there weren’t a lot of people who didn’t straighten their hair.
“That’s why I loved Mel B in the Spice Girls – she had her afro and I remember looking at her thinking how amazing it was, and it made me love my hair.”
East, whose father was white and whose mother is from Ghana also revealed she was asked about her hair and how she would wear it before heading into the jungle for I’m A Celebrity.
“When I went into the jungle a lot of people asked if I was going to braid my hair down, saying I couldn’t have my afro out in the jungle,” she said.
“But I wanted to have it out and wear it proudly.”
The singer also opened up about attending a Black Lives Matter protest recently.
“The atmosphere was amazing,” she said.
“I could have cried. Everyone was there. All races, all ages. It’s such a beautiful thing to see that.
“We don’t care where you’re from, we don’t care the colour of your skin, we don’t care what social class you belong to. It’s irrelevant.
“I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
Earlier this year East had a coronavirus scare after meeting Prince Charles, who went on to be diagnosed with COVID-19 soon afterwards.
Thankfully though, the singer later revealed that she was in the clear.
Read the full interview in Hello!, out now.
Additional reporting PA.