Edinburgh supermodel tells of racist abuse growing up in city

Eunice Olumide says she became desensitised to racism. Picture: Getty
Eunice Olumide says she became desensitised to racism. Picture: Getty
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Scots supermodel Eunice Olumide has spoken out about the racism and challenges she faced growing up as one of the few black people in Edinburgh.

The international catwalk star who was first “spotted” in Glasgow aged 15, said she coped with the abuse by trying to “block it out”.

Edinburgh-born Olumide, MBE, who grew up in the city’s Wester Hailes and whose career has included working for designers such as Tom Ford, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Prada, Vivienne Westwood and fellow Scot Christopher Kane said: “The racism was just normal. I definitely felt isolated, but I got used to it and became desensitised to it all.

“Then when I tried to get work early on in my career in Scotland I found that I wasn’t getting basic work such as catalogues because Scotland wasn’t ready for women of colour as models.”

Describing an incident on a shoot in Scotland the supermodel said: “I was about 19 years old and the make-up artist didn’t have make-up for black skin. So she just used a dark pencil to scribble on my face. When I spoke up about it I was seen as difficult to work with and not booked by that client again.”

She has previously commented on how hard it was being black in the Capital while she was a child. She said: “What I went through then, I wouldn’t wish on anybody and I think it was harder because I was in ­Scotland and not other parts of the UK, where there were more ethnic groups.”

Olumide, 29, keynote speaker at yesterday’s “Adopt An Intern” (AAI) event at the Capital’s City Arts Centre, gave a speech to an audience of ethnic women wanting to return to work. AAI, a UK-wide body, has arranged 1400 paid internships for graduates of all ages, the unemployed, underemployed and for black and ethnic minority women wanting to return to work.

She spoke to those attending the event of the importance of setting goals and targets and finding practical ways of integrating them into everyday life.

During the event Olumide agreed to become AAI’s patron.

Michael O’Brien, director of Model Team, one of Scotland’s leading fashion model agencies, said the modelling scene north of the Border was gradually becoming more diverse.

“So much of what Eunice says is true, but things have changed a lot over the past ten years. We represent a complete range of ethnicities can only supply the kind of models clients are looking for. I work with casting agents who’ve asked me only for non-Caucasian people of colour.

“Scotland doesn’t have a huge fashion industry but most people realise you must represent everyone.”