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.
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.
‘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.