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Little Mix's Jade Thirlwall an 'inspiration' for discussing Arab heritage

Fans have heaped praise on Little Mix’s Jade Thirlwall after she revealed her desire to reconnect with her Egyptian-Yemeni heritage

Fans have heaped praise on Little Mix's Jade Thirlwall after she revealed her desire to reconnect with her Egyptian-Yemeni heritage during an interview with Vogue Arabia.

Thirlwall, 27, told the fashion magazine she had "supressed" her Arab identity when she shot to fame as part of girl group Little Mix in 2011, because she "wasn't proud" of her heritage.

"All of a sudden I was thrown into the limelight [with Little Mix], and people didn't know what I was, so I went along with it. I had suppressed who I was because I wasn't proud," Thirlwall said.

I had been bullied into thinking I should be ashamed of my identity, so I didn't talk enough about my heritage in interviews. It makes me sad to think about it now.

Twitter users were quick to praise Thirlwall for her frank honesty, drawing parallels between the singer suppressing her identity and their own experiences of not "fitting in to a 'group'".

Other users said the Little Mix singer was an "inspiration [to] all Middle Eastern girls around the world" and had made them proud of their own heritage.

Thirlwall, who was brought up in Laygate, South Shields, also told Vogue Arabia she "experienced microaggressions" as a result of her skin tone and heritage through secondary school which had caused her to express her identity.

"If you weren't evidently black or white, you were put in this big bowl of one 'other' thing," Thirlwall said.

"I used to get called the P-word, which I don't understand as I'm not Pakistani. I was also called half-caste," the Little Mix singer explained, "during one incident someone pinned me down in the toilets and put a bindi spot on my forehead", in reference to the red dot worn on the forehead, most commonly to represent a married woman in Hinduism.

Despite facing racism, however, Thirlwall told the fashion magazine she had positive memories of her Islamic heritage through her grandfather, who was a devout Muslim that came to England from Yemen in 1943.

READ: Egypt TV presenter Radwa El-Sherbiny under investigation for hijab comments

He would regale relatives with stories about his trips to Makkah and regularly cook Arab food, according to Thirlwall, who recalls particularly fond memories from Eid.

"I remember him fasting for Ramadan, and during Eid I would wait for him outside the mosque and say Eid Mubarak to his friends as they came out, and they would gift me a pound coin," Thirlwall said.

Twitter users also praised Thirlwall for her openness about religion, with one user writing that young Muslim girls and boys would now feel more able to "embrace their religion/heritage".

"As a MENA muslim girl, [thank you so much]," the user added.

Others said they felt connected to the Little Mix singer over her Islamic background.

Speaking to Vogue Arabia, Thirlwall said she now plans on making up for "lost time" by rekindling a connection with her Arab heritage alongside her mother, Norma.

The singer said she plans to read about events in the Middle East; become more aware of crises in the region; and restart studying Arabic.

Some social media users praised the Little Mix singer's decision to learn Arabic, saying the choice showed Thirlwall was proud of her Arab heritage.

Meanwhile, others voiced their support for Thirlwall saying they were pleased the singer was becoming more confident in her identity, terming her a "force for good".

Others called for more interviews with Thirlwall on her Arab heritage, asking for the Little Mix singer to embrace fashion trends from the Middle East.

Vogue Arabia's Instagram page, which posted images from a shoot with Thirlwall and her mother, was also flooded with messages of support in both Arabic and English.

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