When former Miss Deaf South Africa posed for an advertisement for a local chain of health clubs she was excited about the prospects of seeing herself on billboards… until she saw the published ad.
Model and dancer Simone Botha Welgemoed said the advert, which shows her in pose with her blonde hair pulled up in a tight bun, is missing one prominent and personal feature: her cochlear implant.
When she discovered the omission, Simone took to Facebook to express her disappointment in the company and the advert.
“They just went and without my permission decided to edit the cochlear implant out, because why!? It doesn’t fit with their pretty little picture of portraying the perfect life that is Virgin Active?”
While deaf models, actors and entertainers have had some advancements in being accurately and respectfully portrayed in “hearing society,” this current situation still shows there is a long way to go in breaking down stigmas and negative perceptions around hearing loss.
Research shows that “minority groups (including single parents, disabled people and the LGBT community) are featured in less than 20% of advertising,” according to Marketing Week, despite 65% of consumers feeling more favorable about a brand that promotes diversity.
Jules Dameron, a Deaf filmmaker and director who led the #DeafTalent movement, encourages equal opportunities for people with hearing loss, allowing them to “be the norm in all areas of entertainment.”
“I want them involved in TV shows, movies, awards, not just in our niche groups,” she told HearingLikeMe.com earlier this year. “The mentality that ‘deaf people should only play deaf roles’ has been the mentality of the deaf community since the ’90s. I just feel that it’s unethical for a privileged person to play a role that is meant for others. Deaf people already can do the job themselves.”
“I just feel that it’s unethical for a privileged person to play a role that is meant for others. Deaf people already can do the job themselves.”
There have, however, been positive examples of #DeafTalent in advertisements recently. Earlier this year, Gap actively featured a baby with little, pink hearing aids in their GapxDisney collection.
Read more: Baby with Little, Pink Hearing Aids Featured in National Ad Campaign
Virgin Active has since apologized to Simone and is in the process of removing the ads, according to LimpingChicken.com
“An apology is not going to undo how we’ve made Simone feel, but we are really sorry,” the company wrote. “We have heard the call to take down the posts and all collateral featuring these images are in the process of being removed.”
On Saturday, Simone posted on Facebook that the company has since offered a “heartfelt apology, beautiful flowers and contract to join the gym.”
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