FKA Twigs, who was born Tahliah Barnett, opened up about facing “horrific” racist abuse during her three-year-long relationship with Robert Pattinson in a new interview with Louis Theroux for his Grounded podcast.
“It was really, really deeply horrific,” said Barnett of the public backlash she received from Pattinson’s fans. “It was at a time where I felt like I couldn’t really talk about it. If I was going through that now, I feel like I’d be able to talk about it, and do some good with it. But I don’t know whether it was because of my age or whether it was because of the social climate or whether it was because being Black and from Cheltenham and from a low-income family and having to genuinely work twice as hard as everything I do to get a seat at the table–because that is true. People talk about Black excellence, but that is because we have to be excellent to be considered average. I’d worked so, so, so, so, so hard, just to get a little seat at the table. And then I got there and people just called me the most hurtful and ignorant and horrible names under the planet.”
The disdain in the Twilight actor’s fans was seemed to be in wanting to see him date a white woman, added Barnett. “He was their white Prince Charming and I think they considered that he should definitely be with somebody white and blonde and not me,” she said. “Whatever I did at that time, people would find pictures of monkeys and have me doing the same thing as the monkeys.”
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This constant racist barrage from fans took a mental toll on her. “I used to think it was really hurtful but really stupid,” Barnett said. “I remember it had this massive, dysmorphic effect on me for about six months to a year, where every time I saw my pictures and photographs I would think, ‘Gosh, I look like a monkey, and people are going to say I look like a monkey. So I need to really try and hide this monkey-ness that I have, because otherwise, people are gonna come for me about it.’ … Obviously, I know now that’s completely ridiculous. But it is essentially bullying, and it does affect you psychologically. It’s really sad.”
FKA Twigs and Robert Pattinson at the 2016 Met Gala in New York City.
Despite this, Barnett wants to reassure everyone that she’s overcome the racist bullying. “I now love how I look and I’m very confident and I feel really good, but it was deeply unfair at the time that I was made to feel so self-conscious and so ugly,” she said.
Barnett and Pattinson were briefly engaged before ultimately splitting in 2017.
The “Cellophane” singer also opened up about deciding to go public with her allegations of abuse against former boyfriend Shia LaBeouf. In December, Barnett filed a lawsuit against LaBeouf for “relentless abuse” inflicted upon her during the course of their nearly year-long relationship, according to reports from The New York Times and Variety.
“The majority of this year, I have been recovering from being in an abusive relationship,” she said. “It’s difficult because it’s not something that defines me, but it is now a big part of who I am.”
Barnett recalled thinking about whether or not she wanted to publicly share allegations of domestic abuse prior to the lawsuit. “During COVID, a lot of victims are basically in a confined space with their abusers and not being able to get out,” she said, “and I felt like I wanted to come forward and talk about it, because it is something in society that’s a really big problem, and it’s really common, but for some reason, we don’t talk about it and we just ignore it.”
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Barnett said part of her decision to come forward was “to raise awareness to the science of abuse, just via my experience.”
At the time that the lawsuit went public, she told the Times, “I’d like to be able to raise awareness on the tactics that abusers use to control you and take away your agency.”
LaBeouf addressed the suit in a statement to the Times. “I’m not in any position to tell anyone how my behavior made them feel,” he said. “I have no excuses for my alcoholism or aggression, only rationalizations. I have been abusive to myself and everyone around me for years. I have a history of hurting the people closest to me. I’m ashamed of that history and am sorry to those I hurt. There is nothing else I can really say.”
If you or someone you know is suffering from intimate partner abuse, call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). For more resources, go to thehotline.org.
This article originally appeared in Harper’s BAZAAR US.
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