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Indian-origin model accuses Oz agency of racism

Press Trust Of India
Mar 16, 2011 at 08:21am IST

Melbourne: An Indian-origin model has accused an Australian modelling agency of racial discrimination as she is not a Caucasian, media in Melbourne reported.

According to a report in the local daily 'WA Today', 25-year-old model Kema Rajandran was told by a Parth-based modelling agency that her work chances were "limited" in the country because she was not Caucasian.

After living and working as a model in the UK for two years, Rajandran e-mailed a short biography and photos to Chadwick Models in Perth recently, and was "truly disheartened" at the response she received a short time later.

Indian-origin model accuses Oz agency of racism

Kema Rajandran was told that her work chances were limited in the country because she was not Caucasian.

"We think you are very photogenic and would be suitable for our Casting Division," the email from the academy coordinator read. "Please note however that as you are of non-caucasian heritage that your work opportunities in Perth would be extrremely [sic] limited."

Rajandran said given the "extremely multicultural society of Australia", she was shocked at the response, and hoped that by her speaking out about it, the practice of culling models based solely on their appearance would change.

However, Chadwick's Perth manager Tanya Muia said she was "gob-smacked" that the agency could be labelled as racially discriminating against Rajandran, and that they were simply relaying her chances of finding work in a tight Perth modelling market.

"This is just ridiculous. I don't see that this is race related," Muia said. "If we don't feel that she's going to secure work in the Perth market... then we tell [her] about it. We have the liberty to give an honest opinion."

Muia said Chadwicks, along with other modelling agencies, provided models based on industry demand and that as such had no control over the "looks" chosen for various campaigns.

"We are not discriminating in any way. We represent every culture out there," she said. "There is a bigger picture here other than just that one line, and yes, we will be changing it. But we have worded it (the standard email response) that way for 10 years. We've never had a complaint."

Equal Opportunity Commissioner Yvonne Henderson said while she could not comment specifically on Rajandran's case, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee either at the workplace or in the recruitment process, based on their race.

She said there are some exemptions in the case of artistic performance, however did not believe that modelling agencies would fit into this category.

Rajandran said she was extremely disappointed to learn that her Indian appearance would hinder her employment opportunity, especially given the extensive work on offer in the UK to models of "all ethnicities and cultures".

She said she had previously expressed her thoughts on Australia's predominantly Caucasian-based image, and until she saw this email, thought she might have been exaggerating it in her mind.

"This is not right, and I want to bring it to the attention of Australians," she said. "I'm sure they are going to try and justify it... but it is not an acceptable comment."

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