Nella Rose Is The Latest Victim Of Online Misogynoir

Photo Courtesy of ITV Pictures.
Before taking her place on this year’s season of ITV’s I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!, Nella Rose said her role in the famous Australian camp would be to keep the “morale and humour high” as she and nine other celebrities (including British television presenters, ex-boyband members, and a politician known for racist and fascist views) adjust to life on rice and beans, no phones, makeup, and the impending threat of being trapped in some horrendous challenge with thousands of maggots. For the hilarious, young Black online sensation who brought us the catchphrase, “Are you not embarrazzed?” we had high hopes that she’d be this year’s favourite to win it. However, the Youtuber’s first week in the jungle hasn’t quite played out as she and her loyal fanbase anticipated, and Nella Rose has unwittingly become the British tabloid's chosen villain of the series and the latest victim of misogynoir and vicious online trolling as a result. 
It was, of course, Nella Rose’s argument with Channel 4’s Fred Sirieix last week, that caused the British public to quickly reach for their pitchforks and has been insensitively dubbed 'Dadgate’. After Sirieix made a comment that at, 51, he could be her father, Rose accused the First Dates’ maitre’d of being “disrespectful” and a “weirdo”. Rose explained that since Sirieix knew her father had passed away the comment was essentially made in bad taste. As she explained to the Bush Telegraph last week, “Last night after dinner Fred made a comment about him basically how he could be my dad. I took offence to that because one of the first conversations we had together was me opening up about the fact that my dad’s passed away.” Following the camp clash, she expressed she no longer wanted to interact with the television personality or eat the food he cooked. Sirieix apologised and in the days that have passed on the reality show, it appears that they are on speaking terms. However, in the eyes of many of the British public, the damage has already been done.
Like clockwork, the comparisons between Sirieix’s calm and softly spoken demeanour and Rose’s so-called “bad attitude” made it easy for some to make unfavourable conclusions about who the online star is, with right-wing media brandishing the words “entitled” and “snowflake” at every conceivable moment. 
For others, it became the perfect excuse to unsheath some of their favourite racist and fatphobic tropes. Online trolls have been working overtime these past few days — Facebook in particular has become a dearth for truly heinous comments — whilst tabloids have helped to stoke the fire of misogynoir with the usual clickbait headlines, and unflattering photos of Rose, eyes wide, finger pointed, and mouth open, mid-shouting. 
Many have come to Nella Rose's defence by calling out the obvious and blatant demonstration of misogynoir witnessed across social media right now. Coined by Black feminist writer Moya Bailey in 2008, by its definition, misogynoir is the dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against Black women, and reality TV — whether as lighthearted and innocuous as Love Island, Strictly Come Dancing and I’m A Celeb — has a unique way of drawing out the worst offenders.
For Black women who choose to participate in mainstream television, misogynoir is an inevitable consequence of daring to be perceived by millions of viewers. Black women on reality TV risk putting their perception in the hands of TV producers whose main aim is to keep the public watching and time again, we’ve seen shows lean on the ill-fated angry Black woman trope to create a villain that many of the viewing public is all too willing to hate. 
It’s been more than a decade but few can forget singer-songwriter Misha B’s stint on ITV’s X Factor, when she went from being considered the talent competition’s frontrunner to what tabloids dubbed “Misha Bully” after accusations were made live on air. Years later in 2020, Misha B claimed the show created a bullying storyline for her that caused her to have suicidal thoughts. In 2017, singer Alexandra Burke suffered a disproportionate amount of online hate during her time on BBC’s dancing competition, Strictly Come Dancing. Burke was labelled a “diva” and “over the top”. Burke revealed that she had lost her mother just before filming, yet this revelation didn’t stop the barrage of hate-watchers on social media. That same year, per The Guardian, ‘research found that ethnic minorities were 71% more likely to be in the bottom two on Strictly than white contestants.’ That figure increased to 83% for Black women, the report stated. Black women should be able to step into the limelight authentically without the fear of unduly racism and prejudice. But, as demonstrated with Nella Rose, we’re not there yet. 

The very nature of misogynoir means Black women are held to a higher standard and expected to tone police themselves to make others feel comfortable and not appear as a threat. 

As expected, it is taking Black women watching on (likely triggered and traumatised) to remind the wider public that Nella Rose is a human being who deserves a modicum of tenderness. When a Black mixed-raced online comedian did an offensive TikTok parody of Nella Rose’s I’m A Celeb clash with Fred Sirieix, none of us were really surprised. When a Black UK grime artist launched unnecessary vitriol regarding Nella’s size and appearance on Twitter, no one was surprised. It’s exhausting calling out misogynoir amongst your own. 
Black celebrities like Charlene White — who also experienced trolling during her stint in the I’m A Celeb jungle — are attempting to reignite the calls to “Be Kind” and encourage empathy for Nella Rose. “'If you have not lived the jungle life, you cannot really understand how hard those first few days emotionally and psychologically — let alone when you're someone who has spent the past few years of your life without having parents to guide you, as has Nella,” the Loose Women presenter wrote in her iNews column. “And, come on now, she's not even 30. She is allowed to find her feet in the world and not always get it right.”
At just 26 years old, Nella Rose has experienced the immeasurable pain of losing both of her parents all while carving out an impressive career on social media and television. On her YouTube channel in 2018, Rose spoke about the monumental heartbreak of losing her mother at 19 years old. “Literally not even a month, a couple of weeks, after I turned 19 my mum passed away and it was something that you don’t expect. You don’t plan, it just happened. I didn’t wake up that day and think ‘Oh my mum is going to pass away’,” she said in the video. “She literally just died in my arms. It is the worst thing that happened in my life. I will never get over it. I have learned to deal with it, but I do not see myself healing from it anytime soon.” Rose later turned to her followers to speak out also losing her father in 2020, in an Instagram post, she wrote: ‘Gonna make you the proudest dad ever in the years to come because I know you’re still by [my] side every step of the way.’
What’s clear from Nella Rose’s experience, not everyone is willing to understand the non-linear flow of grief, how different it can look from person to person and how grief can sometimes take on the face of anger. We don’t know exactly how Rose is coping with her grief, but we do know that Black women aren't always afforded the grace to act out, express hurt, feel triggered or, as White suggested, get things wrong without significant consequences. The very nature of misogynoir means Black women are held to a higher standard and expected to tone police themselves to make others feel comfortable and not appear as a threat. 
But Nella Rose doesn’t tone police in the I’m A Celeb jungle, regardless of the millions watching. Nella Rose says what she thinks and means what she says (it’s why she’s excellent and hilarious reality TV show material and simply great to watch). It’s also why when she went head-to-head with former UKIP politician Nigel Farage about his “anti-immigration” views. Rose — who is Congolese and was born in Belgium before moving to the UK — didn’t hold back and asked Farage in front of the campers and millions of viewers watching, “Why don’t Black people like you?” She also reminded him that as an immigrant herself, she is “one of the numbers” he has long tried to control entry into this country. 
It hasn’t escaped me that Nella Rose’s character is being hung out to dry in the court of public opinion, whilst Nigel Farage — whose list of political sins stretches long — is taking advantage of this high-profile PR campaign (a significant portion of British public vowed to boycott the show if he was allowed to take part and, I’m A Celeb viewership numbers have suffered). Obviously, it’s a well-oiled reality TV formula to put a bunch of distinctly different people in one high-pressured environment and stoke the fire until one or all of them burn out or figuratively, explode. I am always intrigued to see who comes out the other end unscathed — and, in this particular case, I’m very confused as to why that person is Nigel. Fucking. Farage. 
I am sure there will be many who will read this and be quick to rubbish how race plays a factor in whom the British public chooses to support, or how there seems to be a limited amount of empathy, and kindness distributed amongst Black people on these shows or elsewhere, but I refuse to be gaslighted. There isn’t enough compassion witnessed online, period, and, recently published research by charity Glitch found that Black women face a disproportionate amount of hate online. “We found over 9000 more highly toxic posts about Black women than white women in a data set which highlights the way that Black women are more likely to be racialised, i.e. referred to in reference to their race or ethnicity,” reads the 2022 report.
It’s hard not to talk about misogynoir in the UK, especially within traditional media, without mentioning Meghan Markle — even though she has long packed up her white gloves and fascinators and ran from this dreaded island. Markle’s experience — from suing tabloids to calling out racist comments said within palace walls — has become a case study for how rampant racism is in the UK, no matter how much you try to assimilate to its ideals.
The transition into mainstream media has not been smooth so far for Rose. Though Nella Rose has already found fame and community online (her achievements are vast and well documented), introducing herself to an audience who may not relate, will mean her intentions, her humour, and her talents, will sometimes be lost in translation. Do I think Nella Rose will be OK after this? Absolutely. I have high hopes for Nella Rose’s redemption period. I want Nella Rose on my screen even more. She deserves to be there. Her ambitions shouldn’t be overshadowed by hate. How much longer should we accept racism as a consequence of a Black woman chasing her dreams?

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