Nadiya Hussain’s story of racism in the modelling world is one everyone should read

In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests taking place all over the world over the last few weeks, including several across the UK, in response to the brutal killing of George Floyd, an African American man, by a police officer, many people of colour have shared their personal experiences of racism.

Over the weekend, this included Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain, who took to Instagram to bravely recall a powerful and utterly devastating story from her teenage years.

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I was responding to an ad in the paper, back in the day when we looked for jobs in the paper…there was an ad for a hand model needed to model jewellery. I called. Made an appointment. No previous experience required. I had hands, I needed the money, so figured it was a no brainer! It was a sure thing, I was counting my pennies before I had even got the gig… walked in on the day. The room went quiet, the room filled with white faces and white hands. The receptionist stumbled. I sat down while she called someone in. I was met by a women who came and greeted me. I figured it was my turn to show off my hands. She said ' im sorry I didn't know you were black' 'yes, right but the ad wanted hands, I have hands' 'black hands dont sell jewellery'. That was her response. The blood rushed to my face. I was so embarrassed, I was now a deep shade of burgundy. I never really thought about my hands, till the colour of the skin that covered them stopped me from getting a job. When you are a teenager, already a little lost, words like this stick. Fast forward to my 30s and now my hands are in my cookbooks and in cookery shows, even now I look at them and still I have a seed of doubt imbedded telling me that people must be disgusted by the sight of my brown hands. But as you can see from my second picture, you know how I feel about it now. I use my hamds with pride and allow them to grace cookbooks and cookery shows, to hold my chidrens hands and stroke their little faces, to cook, to feed… to hold! I have since worked with Swarovski with these very hands, worn their jewellery with pride! When I worked with them they never knew the anxiety I felt at the thought of showcasing my hands, but I did it anyway! We need to start representing with our voices, with our eyes, with our thoughts, with our hearts and with our hands! I am taking ownership back with my hands ! #represent #hands #withallofourbeing #timeforchange @swarovski

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Her story recounted the time she took on a modelling job as a teenager, only to be told that ‘black hands don’t sell jewellery’.

Nadiya wrote: ‘I was responding to an ad in the paper, back in the day when we looked for jobs in the paper…there was an ad for a hand model needed to model jewellery. I called. Made an appointment. No previous experience required. I had hands, I needed the money, so figured it was a no brainer! It was a sure thing, I was counting my pennies before I had even got the gig… walked in on the day.

‘The room went quiet, the room filled with white faces and white hands. The receptionist stumbled. I sat down while she called someone in. I was met by a women who came and greeted me. I figured it was my turn to show off my hands. She said ‘im sorry I didn’t know you were black’ ‘yes, right but the ad wanted hands, I have hands’ ‘black hands dont sell jewellery’. That was her response.

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My brown skin, it was something I was reminded of all my life! Before I could speak, before I could enter a room, I was reminded, people were warned, that my skin was brown. That I was darker than my siblings (not to mention all the other traits that made me undesirable) but being brown was the thing, the thing that everyone saw. Darker than her siblings, darker still in the summer. 'What can you do'? 'Never mind'. My parents were consoled. So imagine their horror when I chose to marry a man fairer than me! When I was told 'you can only marry someone the same colour as you' 'a fair man wont marry a brown girl' I wanted to prove them wrong! We wanted to prove them wrong! He never said, 'I don't see your colour' like many people say to prove their allieship, he said 'i see your colour and it is the most beautiful thing I have seen'. That is all the love I will ever need. In a world where I've imagined what it would be like to be fair, to be white, he sees my colour, but more importantly so do I. For those of you growing up in a community where you are considered lesser, than your fairer counterparts, remember you are not alone! We don't need to have fair skin, the pointy nose and the slim waist to be desirable, marketable or 'marriage material'. We are everything and we better start believing it! @sadhi.b @musabahussain

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‘The blood rushed to my face. I was so embarrassed, I was now a deep shade of burgundy. I never really thought about my hands, till the colour of the skin that covered them stopped me from getting a job. When you are a teenager, already a little lost, words like this stick.’

The chef and TV star went on to explain how the hurtful experience has continued to affect her to this day, saying: ‘Fast forward to my 30s and now my hands are in my cookbooks and in cookery shows, even now I look at them and still I have a seed of doubt imbedded telling me that people must be disgusted by the sight of my brown hands.’

Two pictures accompanied the story – the first of Nadiya holding her hands out to the camera, and the second showing her with both middle fingers up in an act of defiance.

‘But as you can see from my second picture, you know how I feel about it now. I use my hands with pride and allow them to grace cookbooks and cookery shows, to hold my chidrens hands and stroke their little faces, to cook, to feed… to hold!

‘I have since worked with Swarovski with these very hands, worn their jewellery with pride! When I worked with them they never knew the anxiety I felt at the thought of showcasing my hands, but I did it anyway! We need to start representing with our voices, with our eyes, with our thoughts, with our hearts and with our hands!’

Nadiya finished her story with a simple but powerful statement: ‘I am taking ownership back with my hands!’

We stand with you, Nadiya.