MSN confuses Jade Thirlwall for fellow mixed-race Little Mix member days after she discusses Arab heritage

The singer, who has Yemeni and Egyptian heritage, has spoken of her frustration at the mistake

OBERHAUSEN , GERMANY - NOVEMBER 30: UK singers Jesy Nelson, Jade Thirlwall, Perrie Edwards and Leigh-Anne Pinnock of the girlband Little Mix perform at The Dome 2018 music show on November 30, 2018 in Oberhausen , Germany. (Photo by Tristar Media/Getty Images)
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Days after Little Mix’s Jade Thirlwall spoke out about racism she has been subjected to because of her Arab heritage, MSN illustrated a story on the matter with an image of the wrong mixed-race member of the band.

The story, which was reporting on Thirlwall’s personal reflections on race, was instead illustrated with an image of Leigh-Anne Pinnock, who had also spoken out against the racism she has experienced since joining the group. The mistake, Microsoft says, was the result of its decision to replace human journalists with artificial intelligence software.

Thirlwall criticised the site, saying she was sick of “ignorant” media making mistakes. “@MSN If you’re going to copy and paste articles from other accurate media outlets, you might want to make sure you’re using an image of the correct mixed race member of the group.”

“This […] happens to @leighannepinnock and I ALL THE TIME that it’s become a running joke,” she said. “It offends me that you couldn’t differentiate the two women of colour out of four members of a group … DO BETTER!”

Thirlwall’s grandfather was from Yemen, and upon moving to the United Kingdom, married an Egyptian woman. The singer recently spoke to the BBC about how her grandfather in particular had a huge impact on her childhood.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 07: Singer Jade Thirlwall of Little Mix attends a Black Lives Matter protest on June 07, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. The death of an African-American man, George Floyd, while in the custody of Minneapolis police has sparked protests across the United States, as well as demonstrations of solidarity in many countries around the world. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)

“It was interesting for me, growing up in an Arab community. My granddad really wanted me to be Muslim, bless him! My mam made me go to church on Sunday, but I went to Muslim school on Saturdays – it was next to the local mosque where my grandfather went.” She said. "I enjoyed it, but I’m not religious. I wish I’d stuck at it because I’m trying to re-learn Arabic.”

She also spoke about dealing with racism at school where she grew up in South Shields, despite many people being unaware of or wrongly assuming her heritage.

"I’d identify myself as mixed-race; if I delved deeper, I’d say of Arab heritage, I guess. I’ve had an inner battle of not knowing where I fit in or what larger community I fit into,” she said.

The mistake came as Pinnock, who is of Barbadian and Jamaican heritage, also spoke out about her struggles with being the only black member of Little Mix, which is one of the biggest girl bands in the world.

In an emotional Instagram video, she said: “I learnt that the dream of being in the biggest girl band in the world came with its flaws and consequences. Consequences such as knowing about the existing, underlying racism in the creative industries.

“You learn to understand you can’t be seen to be too loud, or too opinionated, otherwise you’re deemed a diva or aggressive. You learn that by walking into a room you are deemed unapproachable or offish before anyone has even approached you. You learn that voicing your opinion about the lack of diversity within the industry is like smashing your head against a brick wall.”

A spokesperson for Microsoft confirmed the image was changed as soon as it was made aware of its mistake, however, a member of staff for the company, who asked not to be named, told The Guardian: "With all the anti-racism protests at the moment, now is not the time to be making mistakes."