All Saints star Shaznay Lewis experienced casual racism as a pop star in the 90s
The 'Never Ever' hitmaker could completely relate to Little Mix member Leigh-Anne Pinnock's past comments in which she shared her experience of racism as the only black member of the girl group also admitting she felt "invisible" and would often cry because she was the least popular member of the band
23 September 2020
Shaznay was also the only member of All Saints who was black and she was able to pick up on the subtle discrimination aimed towards her during the band's hey day.
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Speaking to Music Week, she said: "When I saw Leigh-Anne Pinnock's video [discussing racism] it felt as though she was talking about me. When she spoke about Little Mix travelling to different countries and how she was perceived just walking into a room, I felt like that a lot. It's not as though anybody was horrible or rude, you could just notice a difference in where people would point the conversation, little things. I'm lucky because of my character, nothing like that would have ever affected me [enough] to speak out, but we're in different times now."
Shaznay - who is joined in All Saints by Melanie Blatt and sisters Natalie and Nicole Appleton - has nothing but admiration towards Leigh-Anne, 28, for having the courage to speak out.
She added: "I thought, 'God, this girl is way younger than me and she's had so much courage to be so honest'. If she'd never said it, I probably would have taken my feelings to the grave. It took a young girl like her to come out and say something where I honestly felt she'd been eavesdropping on conversations I've been having since my teens. I have so much respect for her."
Shaznay - who co-wrote the majority of the group's hits such as 'Pure Shores' and Booty Call' - can recall being told by All Saints manager John Benson that her music wouldn't have been as successful in the charts if she wasn't in a group with three white women.
She said: "I owe [London Records founder] Tracy Bennett and [All Saints manager] John Benson a great deal, they were really good to me. John is a dear friend and I remember him saying, 'If you'd released those songs either by yourself or with an all-black female band, they wouldn't have done as well'. He wasn't saying it with malice, he was just being honest. I probably was shocked, but 20 years later I completely understand what he meant, and it is a fact ... Things are unbalanced and a lot of it is to do with money. Sometimes people don't have time to do what's fair because they just want to do what sells. What that has done is educate people less and made black people in the industry feel alienated. My position is quite strange because I'm a black, female writer, but I'm in a band with three white women that are possibly the reason why I've done so well, I don't know. I'm glad the lid has been opened. Knowledge is power. If we don't educate ourselves, then we can't change the future."