A Stevenage, UK, woman was offered a job to model for a photo shoot but said she was rejected after they discovered she was blind.
Siobhan Meade, 37, told the Mirror that she received a call from a manager at Commercial Models who said he liked her portfolio and wanted to book her for a photo shoot.
However, Meade said that when she mentioned her disability, the manager told her she was no longer needed.
Commercial Models – which claims to create digital photographic portfolios to support models – admitted managers were “enthusiastic” about Meade, until they discovered she was blind.
Meade, a marketing and communications manager for Guide Dogs, had no experience modeling but thought she’d give it a try. She was ecstatic receiving the call from Barry, the firm’s manager. “In the call he said I’ve got what it takes to be a model,” she said.
“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.”
Meade had limited vision from birth due to cataracts and lost all her sight due to an accident she had when she was 16 years old.
Meade told the Mirror, “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 Barry told her he’d selected her from thousands, before asking her why she wanted to model. Siobhan claimed she replied that she loved fashion and wanted to increase diversity in the commercial modeling industry.
And at that point, she revealed that she was blind.
“He just changed,” she said, “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’.”
She said he called again five minutes later to say “It’s a ‘no’.”
Meade claimed he told her, “‘It’s because you’re blind: the commercial industry is full of a******** 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.”
According to their website, Commercial Models is “the UK’s leading model-support service.”
When asked for comment, a spokesperson 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 modeling/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 ie 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 modeling agency and have never claimed to be one.”