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Woman who applied to be a model was invited to do shoot - but rejected when they found out she was blind

·4-min read

A woman who applied to be a model was invited to do a photo shoot - but then rejected when they found out she was blind.

Siobhan Meade, 37, submitted her photos and was delighted to get a call back from a manager at Commercial Models, eager to book her in for a shoot, she said.

But she was gutted when the manager told her she was no longer welcome because of her disability.

The firm - which claims to create digital photographic portfolios to support models - admitted managers were "enthusiastic" about Siobhan, until they discovered she was blind.

Marketing and communications manager Siobhan, from Stevenage, Hertfordshire said: “In the call he said I’ve got what it takes to be a model.

“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.

She's a marketing and communications manager for Guide Dogs and has no experience of modelling, but fancied giving it a go.

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.

Bubbly Siobhan submitted a photo, and was delighted to get a text the next day from "Barry at Commercial Models" asking her to attend a shoot, she said.

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 ‘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, and explained she was blind, she said.

“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 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 arseholes 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 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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