Jade Thirlwall from Little Mix is a fucking hero.
This isn’t news to anyone in her multi-million-strong fanbase, but as a young female popstar, she is criminally under-appreciated by far too many people – particularly those who don’t fully grasp how influential celebs can be, those who assume pop artists are just glorified puppets, and those who tweet “TRASH!” when women appear on telly without every square inch of skin covered up. (Gosh, do not get me started on that last group.)
But the 25-year-old needs much more credit.
I could go on for years – decades! - about how great Little Mix are at pop music, but in terms of being a visible role model, Jade specifically is unbeatable in comparison to virtually any other A-lister who reaches the same demographic: primarily, but not exclusively, queer men and young women.
As a cisgender man, I’m not the best-qualified person to talk at length about the example she sets for the latter; although her unapologetic speech at the Global Awards is just one example of her sheer amazingness. But as a gay man, I’m so, so pleased that someone like Jade is one of the most famous people in the country.
It’s not just that she speaks fondly of the queer community. After all, in 2018 you’d be hard-pressed to find a popstar who isn’t vocally supportive of equal rights - nowadays it’s headline news when someone’s discovered to have tweeted the word “faggot” back in, like, 1901. But there’s a difference between turning up at a Pride celebration saying “love is love”, and actually being an incredible ally. Both are important, of course, but Jade is in a league of her own here.
She’s wonderful because when she says she supports the LGBTQ+ community, she provides receipts - and she provides them often. Whether it’s specifically through her music or it’s being socially conscious in her spare time, she brings her A-game.
For example, while it’s not uncommon for pop songs to become queer anthems among fans, it’s rarer for the artist to be so vocally in on it themselves. Jade has been repeatedly very clear about Little Mix’s ‘Secret Love Song’ and its allusions to repressed same-sex attraction, and it was her who recently helped a male fan propose to his boyfriend before they performed it at London’s O2 Arena last November. She was also flanked by drag queens in the music video to the quartet’s 2017 hit ‘Power’.
Looking beyond the music, she went above and beyond late last year when her 25th birthday party was a drag-themed fundraiser for Stonewall, and she was also recently photographed visiting the charity’s London HQ “learning what it means to be an ally”. And that in itself is essentially what being a good ally is: it’s a mix of supportively speaking out, and taking the time to listen and learn.
To many, the ramblings of a singer are not that worthy of attention – and indeed, in December 2015 when Jade said she was “saddened and ashamed” by the government’s vote in favour of bombing Syria, she was met with a chorus of condescending replies ordering her to “shut up and stick to singing”.
But here’s the thing: as trite as it sounds, what someone with Jade’s platform says really can make a difference. Perceptions of the LGBTQ+ community are better than ever but they’re still a long way from perfect – and if someone with a platform as big as hers can work so selflessly to encourage support and acceptance, she deserves to be applauded. At the very least, she deserves a guest judge slot on RuPaul’s Drag Race.