A woman who applied to be a model and was then invited to a photoshoot reveals how she was later rejected when the company found out she was blind.
Siobhan Meade, 37, from Stevenage, Hertfordshire, submitted photographs of herself and was delighted to get a call back from a manager at Commercial Models, eager to book her in for a shoot.
But she was left ‘shocked and numb’ when apparently told she was no longer welcome because of her disability, with Siobhan claiming one of the staff members implied she would be too ‘slow’ for the ‘fast-moving’ modelling industry.
The firm – which claims to create digital photography portfolios to support models – admitted managers were ‘enthusiastic’ about Siobhan, until they discovered she had a disability and were ‘not best placed to help her’.
Siobhan Meade (pictured), 37, from Stevenage, Hertfordshire, submitted photographs of herself and was delighted to get a call back from a manager at Commercial Models, eager to book her in for a shoot
But she was left ‘shocked and numb’ when apparently told she was no longer welcome because of her disability, with Siobhan (pictured) claiming one of the staff members implied she would be too ‘slow’ for the ‘fast-moving’ modelling industry
Marketing and communications manager Siobhan said: ‘In the call [the staff member] said I’ve got what it takes to be a model. But his change in attitude after 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, who is a marketing and communications manager for Guide Dogs and says she has no experience of modelling, but fancied giving it a go, had limited vision from birth due to cataracts, and lost all her sight following an accident when she was aged 16.
She joined a mailing list called Match Models and was delighted when they emailed her requesting a photo and inviting her to join their short list, on July 22, she said.
The firm – which claims to create digital photography portfolios to support models – admitted managers were ‘enthusiastic’ about Siobhan (pictured), until they discovered she had a disability and were ‘not best placed to help her’
Siobhan submitted a photo and received a text the next day from ‘Barry at Commercial Models’ asking her to attend a shoot.
WHAT ARE CATARACTS?
Cataracts occur when the lens – a small transparent disc inside the eye that helps to focus light – becomes cloudy.
The patches gradually become bigger over time, according to the NHS, and can lead to blurry vision and, in some cases, blindness.
Cataracts affect around half of over-65 in the UK. Some 24 million adults aged over 40 in the US suffer, according to figures.
In children they are much less common, with around one in 3,000 being born with them or developing them in childhood.
People are more at risk if they have: diabetes, suffered an eye injury, take certain medications or have other eye conditions.
Symptoms normally develop very slowly and include being more sensitive to light and thinking everything looks washed out.
Cataracts can be removed by surgery and replaced with an artificial lens. No other treatment is available.
Hours later she got a call from him and said it was all going well – until she mentioned she was blind.
Siobhan said: ‘He was extremely enthusiastic and really upbeat about it so I thought “OK 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 elected 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, and explained she was blind, she said.
‘He just changed’, she claimed, ‘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 after five minutes to say: ‘It’s a “no”.’ Siobhan claims 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.’ She added: ‘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’.
Marketing and communications manager Siobhan (pictured) said: ‘In the call [the staff member] said I’ve got what it takes to be a model. But his change in attitude after and the things he said left me numb with shock’
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 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, 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.’