Alexandra Burke says she was told to bleach her skin to have a successful music career

Danny Thompson
Alexandra Burke attends the Commonwealth Day Service 2020 at Westminster Abbey on March 9, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images)

The X Factor winner Alexandra Burke has revealed she was told she would need to bleach her skin and not wear braided hair to have a successful career in the music industry.

The singer won the ITV talent show while still a teenager back in 2008, but says she has “experienced micro-aggression so many times” throughout her career.

Speaking on a video shared to her Instagram page, she said: “This isn’t a video to bash anyone, this isn’t a negative video, this isn’t that kind of thing at all.

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“This is simply me speaking about what I’ve been through in the past 11 years and finally feeling like… no I’m nervous about it, but feeling like I’m not ashamed to speak about it.

“It’s only right that I share my experiences in order to help other people speak up, too.”

She went on: “The music industry is such a funny little place. I love singing, I love what I do, but if it wasn’t for the love that I have for music, I definitely wouldn’t be in this industry. A few reasons are, when I first won The X Factor at 19, I got told: ‘Right, because you’re black, you are gonna have to work ten times harder than a white artist because of the colour of your skin.

X Factor Finalists Perform A Secret Gig At The Carphone Warehouse Store, Oxford Street, London, Britain - 01 Dec 2008, Alexandra Burke (Photo by Brian Rasic/Getty Images)

“‘You can’t have braids, you can’t have an afro, you can’t have anything that, basically, is my identity. You have to have hair, for example, that appeals to white people, so white people can understand you better.’ I mean, I was only 19 years old. There’s only so much you can understand at 19 when your life is completely changed overnight.”

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Burke added: “That was quite hard to digest.

“I got told to bleach my skin, and that was something I refused to do because it is absurd to me that someone can even remotely say to someone: ‘Bleach your skin so that you can look whiter’. Still to this moment it breaks my heart that I was told that.

“I’m really trying my hardest to hold back tears because it’s really, heartbreaking the s**t that went on.”