Little Mix's Jade Thirlwall Gets Real About Life In Lockdown: 'I'm All Jigsawed Out, Hun'

The Break Up Song star is mixing her loves of drag and baking with her new MTV seres Served! With Jade Thirlwall.
Jade Thirlwall in the poster for her new MTV series
Jade Thirlwall in the poster for her new MTV series

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With the whole country on lockdown, people are having to be more imaginative than ever when it comes to keeping themselves entertained. So, in these challenging and turbulent times, we’ve never been so grateful to be following Jade Thirlwall on Instagram.

In the last few weeks alone, she has had us howling with her recreations of classic TV moments, her live-stream interviews and her kitchen segments.

We’re not the only ones either, as the Little Mix singer has now landed her own MTV series, Served! With Jade Thirlwall, which combines her love of drag culture with cooking, taking on a different famous queen in the kitchen each week via video-link.

Jade pays homage to Served! guest Courtney Act's infamous CBB wardrobe malfunction
Jade pays homage to Served! guest Courtney Act's infamous CBB wardrobe malfunction

“I love drag culture, I love baking, I love having a laugh and having a cheeky cocktail,” she explains. “So I thought, ‘why not put it all together and see what happens?’.”

Ahead of the show’s debut, we caught up with Jade about life in lockdown, her love of drag culture and Little Mix’s upcoming 10th anniversary...

First of all, how have you found the last few weeks of lockdown?

Well, the first few week, it was fine. I was so busy anyways [Little Mix released their most recent single shortly after lockdown began] so being indoors for a while and not having to do much seemed like an alright idea. But now, I’m definitely ready to just get back to work.

I’m all jigsawed out, hun. Do you know what I mean? And that’s why I’ve done this show with MTV, I was getting a bit bored, to be honest.

Obviously drag culture is a big part of the show – how long has that been a passion of yours?

When I really think about it, I feel like subconsciously, I’ve always been into drag culture. Right from being a little girl, going on holiday to Benidorm with my family and seeing the drag queens there, I was always so fascinated by these human dolls, I guess.

And I’ve always been a big fan of divas like Diana Ross – my ultimate idol – I’ve always loved the artists that were larger-than-life and fabulous, feather boas, Shirley Bassey-types, sequins, glamour.

Then once I discovered Drag Race a few years ago, I was just hooked. Being in London, I’ve got a lot of LGBT friends who took me out to gay bars and to drag shows, so my love for drag grew more and more, and now I’ve got quite a few friends who are drag queens.

Jade appeared alongside Drag Race favourites Alaska Thunderfuck, Courtney Act and Willam in Little Mix's Power music video
Jade appeared alongside Drag Race favourites Alaska Thunderfuck, Courtney Act and Willam in Little Mix's Power music video
Vevo/Hannah Lux Davis

What is it about drag that appeals to you so much?

It’s just so incredible that these people can literally transform themselves into these characters that are so exaggerated and beautiful and funny.

I know so many drag queens who are actually quite shy in real life, but transform into their drag persona and all of a sudden they’re like a different person. And for me, I can really relate to that. Especially before being in Little Mix, I’ve always been shy, but when I get on stage and create this new sort of persona, I can really enjoy myself.

Let’s talk about some of the guests on the show, because some of those queens are real loose cannons. Were there ever moments during filming where you were dreading what they might say next?

There have been a few times where someone might have said something a bit shady or a bit wild, but that’s the beautiful thing, it’s my show! So I can do what I want with it!

It’s all fun and games really, and we’ve definitely been a bit merry and had a couple of wines during some of it. That’s what it’s all about, I wanted it to be really authentic and not too scripted. So it’s literally me, in my kitchen, trying my best to cook something while talking to someone at the same time. And just seeing what happens, really.

I was going to ask whether there’d be a lot left on the cutting room floor – but it sounds like all the juicy stuff is going to be kept in?

Oh yeah! That’s the stuff that makes it funny. And I think having my mam part of it as well, it’s literally just what I would be going on anyway.

What’s her role in the show?

My mam is basically going to be judging who did the better dinner. And she’s been absolutely loving it, bless her. She’s on her own in lockdown at the minute, self-isolating, so I think it was nice for her to be a part of it, and she loves it all as well, to be honest.

Jade's mum, Norma, has appeared in Little Mix's Change Your Life, Power and Strip music videos
Jade's mum, Norma, has appeared in Little Mix's Change Your Life, Power and Strip music videos

Was she a harsh judge?

Yes. Especially when it comes to cooking because... I try my best, but I’m no Gordon Ramsay, do you know what I mean? I give it a good go, but nine times out of 10, the results aren’t going to be particularly mind-blowing.

So my mam likes to lay into me when I haven’t done a good job. There’s definitely no favouritism going on.

Kim Woodburn is on the show too, what was she like to work with?

Honestly… what an icon. What an icon! We’re just giving everyone what they want, do you know what I mean? Putting two huns on there for people to see.

She’s actually very lovely, you know? She’s very up for it, it doesn’t bother her when you talk about all her one-liners and stuff – she loves it. You can really go there with her and say what you want, which we definitely did.

But what was really lovely was that after I chatted to her on Skype, she messaged me and said ‘thank you so much for asking me to be part of the show’. She’s definitely a lovely lady. From what I’ve experienced, anyway.

Kim Woodburn leaving the Celebrity Big Brother house in 2017
Kim Woodburn leaving the Celebrity Big Brother house in 2017
Karwai Tang via Getty Images

Obviously I can’t ask about drag and not ask about Drag Race UK. How did being a judge compare to what you envisaged, because you’ve obviously been a fan for a long time…

Oh yeah – a superfan. So when I finally got to be part of it, I was just trying my best not to freak out all day. Just being on set and everything, it was like a dream.

I couldn’t stop staring at Ru, and what’s quite cute is that the first time I met Ru was a couple of years before at Drag Con, where I was fully literally willing to buy a $1000 doll just to get the chance to meet RuPaul. And then luckily I bumped into Michelle Visage and she was like ‘nah nah, don’t worry, I’ll take you to meet him’. So to go from that to actually being on the show, it was a dream come true.

When Drag Race UK was first announced fans were calling for you to be a guest judge straight away. Honestly, how pissed off would you have been had you not been asked?

To be honest, I was secretly happy that the fans kept hounding the show every single day… I was like ‘come on do your worst, fans’ – and it definitely worked.

But would I have been pissed off..? I think I’d have been disappointed. But when I got the call to say they’d officially asked me to do it, I could have screamed, honestly. Highlight of my career. One of, anyway.

Jade on the Drag Race UK judging panel
Jade on the Drag Race UK judging panel

Did anything surprise you about being on set and watching the runway as it happened?

Yes. Firstly, it was absolutely freezing in the studio. I guess because they have to make sure none of the queens’ faces melt off, but it’s really cold in the building. So I had a little hot water bottle on my knee under the desk while I was on the show.

And you have to always look forward because obviously the lighting on the show is insane, the most flattering light you could ever wish for. But I kept staring at Ru and I kept getting told off to keep looking forward. But I couldn’t help it! I was just in awe. I just wanted to have a proper look!

Watching it back, did any of the queens come across differently to watching it in real life?

It was interesting because my week was the week that The Vivienne had a bit of a down week, and was in the bottom two. And obviously, [when you’re judging] you don’t see any of how they’re doing beforehand.

It wasn’t the best performance, but I remember thinking at the time, ‘I really hope that she does well’. So it was interesting watching the show back afterwards and seeing her journey, and how well she’d actually been doing up until that point.

Drag Race UK winner The Vivienne is among the guests on Served! With Jade Thirlwall
Drag Race UK winner The Vivienne is among the guests on Served! With Jade Thirlwall
Karwai Tang via Getty Images

As a Little Mix fan, it’s been great in the last few years to see you all doing your individual projects. Do you feel like as time has gone on, you’ve all become a bit more confident in branching out outside of the group?

Yeah, definitely. For the first few years we were all terrified, and doing anything by yourself would have been so scary. We so heavily relied on each other – and also, I think we didn’t want the press to feel like we were branching off and splitting, when it’s very far from that.

As we’ve matured and got more confident in ourselves, we became women in the group, and we all have very different hobbies and interests and identities, we sort of agreed that, yeah, it was the right thing to start reaching out and doing our own thing – while still being together.

And I think people can tell that it’s nothing to do with wanting to be on our own, it’s just a case of again showing what our loves are and what our passions are. And we support each other in doing that.

You’ve got album number six on the way which is very rare for a girl band and practically unheard of for an X Factor act. That must be something that you must be really proud of.

Oh 100%. We can’t believe it’s been nearly 10 years – and you’re right, it’s so unheard of, especially for a girl band, to last that long. I guess the key to that is always thinking of the bigger picture, being in it together, supporting each other, nobody trying to, like, outshine anybody else.

We said from the beginning that we wanted to stay equal – and there have been times over the years when people on the team or whatever have maybe said something about someone in the band coming to the forefront, and we’ve always been very adamant that we never wanted that to be the case. The minute you do that is when a band starts to fall apart, so we’ve always stuck to our guns and what we believe in, and that is all of us being equal. And it’s worked for us!

Little Mix performing in 2019
Little Mix performing in 2019
Joseph Okpako via Getty Images

Almost 10 years in, do you feel like Little Mix gets the recognition for being a band that has been on top for all that time, and continues to have success?

No, not really, to be honest [laughs] I think for women in general, it’s hard getting the recognition you deserve. And so for a group of women, or a girl band, it’s incredibly hard. Because I feel like, for some reason, there’s this weird stigma attached to being in a girl group, especially a pop band.

It took us literally years to prove to everyone that we’re credible, that we write our music and we actually stand up for things that we believe in. It did take us a long time to get to that point.

Even with the Brit Awards, it’s incredibly heard to even be nominated for the group category – I don’t think a girl group has ever won Best Group at the Brit Awards which, for me, is mindblowing. So I think there’s still a long way to go in terms of celebrating women. Properly. And appreciating what we’re about.

That’s not me complaining by any means, because we’ve had a lot of success, and we’ve been fortunate enough to win Brit Awards in the past, but there is that feeling of being a bit of an underdog. Even in the X Factor days, I don’t think anyone expected us to do as well as we have done. But the proof is in the pudding, really.

Served! With Jade Thirlwall will debut on MTV’s TV channels from 29 June. The first episode is now available to watch online here.


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