Little Mix's Leigh-Anne is embracing her Caribbean roots as she embarks on solo career

ITV News' Entertainment Reporter Rishi Davda spoke to Leigh-Anne on how her Caribbean heritage has proved vital inspiration for new music, with words by Multimedia Producer Lily Ford

Leigh-Anne has opened up on life as a Black solo artist post-Little Mix fame.

The 31-year-old detailed how embracing her Caribbean heritage - Leigh-Anne is part Bajan and Jamaican - has made for the perfect inspiration for new music as ITV News captured her first costume fitting ahead of Notting Hill Carnival this weekend.

Donning flag-inspired feather wings in preparation to play mas on the streets of west London, Leigh-Anne feels ready for the release of her new single - music inspired by her roots, beginning with a writing camp in Jamaica.

Influences from R&B to reggae has allowed Leigh-Anne a level of self-expression previously untapped.

Leigh-Anne will feature in her first ever Notting Hill Carnival this weekend

"The ball's in my court and I can do what I want... It feels really liberating," she said before her appearance in the annual festival's parade.

"It doesn't matter what race you are, who you are, everyone just comes together and celebrates Caribbean culture and the influence it's had - it just feels like a celebration for everybody."

Popular girl group Little Mix, best known for hits Black Magic and Shout Out to My Ex, won the UK X-Factor in 2011.

Now on hiatus, members Leigh-Anne, Perrie Edwards, and Jade Thirlwall are embarking on solo careers, heading up fashion brands, and in Pinnock's case, planning for "global domination".

"I don't feel like I would be here right now if I didn't have that experience," Leigh-Anne told ITV News of her years with the band, which once also featured Jesy Nelson before her departure in 2020.

"Everything that I went through in the group, how it made me into the person I am today.

Leigh-Anne spoke on the impactful years as a member of Little Mix

"Those years of experience are going to lead me to be the solo artist that I was always meant to be."

Leigh-Anne has already released her debut single Don't Say Love in June, but part of her drive as a solo artist, she said, is wanting to be the representation she didn't see growing up.

Her involvement with the Black Lives Matter movement and connecting with her heritage has been a huge motivator for the singer, as detailed in her BBC documentary titled Leigh-Anne: Race, Pop & Power.

"I have the power to change things within my own team and I have done that because it's so important for me to see representation - for so long I didn't see people that looked like me," she said.

"That doesn't have to be like that. So, I'm always going to make a conscious effort to make sure that my team is a certain percentage Black, why not?

"But in general, I still feel like there's a lot of work to be done."

Leigh-Anne admitted the industry can be a lonely one: "I do still feel a little bit lonely. Not as much as I did.

"The fact that now there is more times where I'm around other Black creatives - I didn't really get the chance before."

She has used this spirit to empower others and has even received an honourary doctorate in recognition of her anti-racism and racial equality work only last month.

Leigh-Anne is a co-founder of The Black Fund charity, which supports organisations that are "shaping, changing, and supporting the lives of the black community in the UK".

Leigh-Anne with Chancellor of Buckinghamshire New University Jay Blades as she received her honourary doctorate. Credit: PA

She was awarded an honorary doctorate in the arts by Buckinghamshire New University - a title she didn't think was possible for "little Leigh-Anne from High Wycombe".

"I actually cried when I saw that email come through," she said.

"I'm not doing things for recognition... Especially with my own experiences and things that I see are happening to other Black people and the Black community.

"I do it because I want to do it but to get that recognition is an incredible thing - and seeing how proud my parents were," she added.

Family is another motivator for the mother-of-two, who welcomed twins with partner Andre Gray in 2021.

She said she hopes her daughters will see "somebody that's inspired people" when they are old enough to google Leigh-Anne.

Her second single My Love is out on Thursday, September 7.

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