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industry change Alexandra Burke reveals she was told to 'smile more' when her mother was dying

Burke previously revealed she was asked to bleach her skin after her appearance on the X Factor


Alexandra Burke (Yui Mok/PA)

Alexandra Burke (Yui Mok/PA)

Alexandra Burke (Yui Mok/PA)

Singer Alexandra Burke has said she was told by her former management team to "smile more" while her mother was dying because she did not look "approachable".

The former X Factor winner previously revealed she was asked to bleach her skin after her appearance on the talent show and has now said she does not believe "complete change" in the music industry will come in her lifetime.

Ms Burke, who won the ITV series in 2008, shared an emotional video last summer, shortly after the death of George Floyd in the US, in which she detailed her own experiences and said there is a "notion within the music industry and institutionally that whiter is better".

The 32-year-old singer, who is now a West End star, said her first experiences of the prejudices of the industry came when she was just 12, after she appeared in the talent show Star For A Night.

"I started getting comments like 'Because you're black, you won't get that far', 'Because you're black, you need to work 10 times harder'," she said.

Ms Burke said it escalated after she won the X Factor, when she was 19, adding: "It only really hit me when I got asked to bleach my skin after X Factor."

She said she was particularly upset by an incident with her then-record label ahead of a performance at the London Palladium.

"I had my hair in a bun, with a couple of baby hairs," she said.

Baby hairs are the wispy hairs that sometimes grow around the hairline, and can be styled using gel.

"Half an hour before I was due on stage, my hair stylist came up to me and said 'I've just been told you look quite aggressive with this hairstyle.'

"He said 'Your record label's just told me you look aggressive, so we have to change it.' I said: 'What part of me looks aggressive?'

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"He said it was the baby hairs stuck to my head."

When she joined Strictly Come Dancing in 2017, she said she was told to "smile more" by her then management team, adding: "That's why I let them go. They used to say to me 'Every time you don't smile, nobody warms to you'."

At the time, her mother, singer Melissa Bell, was in hospital, dying of kidney failure.

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