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A woman who applied for a modelling photoshoot says she was left feeling "crushed and worthless" after she was rejected when managers found out she was blind.
Siobhan Meade, 37, from Hertfordshire, submitted her photos and was delighted when she was called by a manager from Commercial Models, who was keen to get her booked in.
But Siobhan says she was left in utter shock when the manager changed their mind after finding out she had lost her sight.
“In the call he said I’ve got what it takes to be a model," said Siobhan. “But his change in attitude and the things he said left me numb with shock.
“It was soul destroying and my confidence plummeted. I felt worthless, crushed and embarrassed because I’m blind - I shouldn’t have to feel like that.
“I didn’t think I would face such blatant discrimination. My blindness shouldn’t come into this.”
Siobhan had limited vision from birth due to cataracts, and lost all her sight following an accident when she was 16.
As a marketing and communications manager for Guide Dogs, Siobhan says she has no experience of modelling, but fancied giving it a go.
Siobhan said: “He was extremely enthusiastic and really upbeat about it so I thought ‘okay this sounds brilliant.’
“It really seemed we were on the verge of signing a contract, that we were dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s. He said the photoshoots would be between three and four hours and I’d need to bring five to seven outfits."
She said he told her he'd selected her from thousands, before asking her why she wanted to model. Siobhan explained she loved fashion and wanted to increase diversity in the commercial modelling industry, before explaining she was blind.
“He just changed," she continued. “It was a really sudden change in tone and attitude. He said, ‘but if you’re blind you won’t be able to sign a contract’.
“So I explained how I use technology which allows me to read and sign documents. You can’t tell from my photo that I can’t see.
"I said ‘you wouldn’t know would you’ and he said ‘no I’m gobsmacked’. Suddenly he said ‘I’m not a senior manager - I’m going to have to speak to my boss'."
Siobhan says he called again, five minutes later, explaining 'it's a no'.
Siobhan claims he told her: "‘It’s because you’re blind: the commercial industry is full of a**eholes and it’s fast moving.
"They get a lot of people in and there’s always so much happening.’ He was implying that I would be slow because I’m disabled.
“I was literally numb. I wanted to challenge him more but I was so shocked that he could say those things. I cried so hard.
“I felt like a worthless rag that had been screwed up and thrown away."
A spokesperson at Commercial Models said: “We explained to Siobhan on the call that we invite people in for a photographic session to test the waters in a professional environment.
“We create digital photographic portfolios to purchase for those who wish to try and progress and break into the commercial modelling/TV/film industries/talent shows influencers etc where digital images are required. Again, this was clearly explained to Siobhan on the recorded call.
“We were enthusiastic about Siobhan's picture she submitted but after a long chat with Barry and finding out she had a disability, i.e blind, and that she had in fact had some previous modelling experience with the Guide Dogs, Barry felt we were not best placed to help her.
“We stand by our decision that we felt we had done our best by Siobhan, giving her the best advice we could as she had previous experience and felt she had nothing to gain from having a shoot with ourselves at a cost to Siobhan considering she did not need our product at this stage as she had already worked in the industry.
“We are not a modelling agency and have never claimed to be one.”
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