Jessie Reyez on speaking out about sexual harassment in music: “I was able to set a precedent”

"For a girl that hasn’t put out that song, it still might be mad difficult."

Jessie Reyez has discussed her decision to speak openly about sexual harassment she’s suffered in the music industry from the beginning of her career.

Speaking to NME for this week’s Big Read, Reyez discussed her 2017 track ‘Gatekeeper’ and its accompanying 12-minute short film, which was written after a producer promised her success if she had sex with him.

“I was able to have the mic and talk openly about [sexual harassment] and set a precedent for anybody that I’m dealing with,” she explained in the interview. “But I understand that’s a position of privilege because, for a girl that hasn’t put out that song, it still might be mad difficult.”

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Expanding on the scope of the issue, Reyez said: “I think it stems from the idea of equality and social pressures that are placed on women but not on men. For example, a dude can not wear any makeup and wear a dress shirt and pants to work and it’s fine, but if a girl did that every day she’d get criticised. When that changes more, that’s when things are gonna [get better]. It’s something that comes down to culture rather than headlines.”

She also spoke about Billie Eilish‘s powerful video message against body-shaming that was played at arena gigs earlier this year, where Reyez was supporting.

“Billie’s a legend, man,” Reyez said. “She’s a legend and she stands in her skin and she stands as who she is. I respect that video so much and I respect her for being able to speak out on that.”

Reyez released her debut album ‘Before Love Came To Kill Us’ last month. In a four-star review, NME said: “For the most part, ‘Before Love Came To Kill Us’ is a beautiful, heart-wrenching debut that sees its creator come good on her early promise. As Reyez half-raps on ‘Deaf’: “I’m taking everything I came for/I ain’t fucking asking.” Only a fool would bet against her.”

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