‘I lost everything because I talked about racism’

Eunice Olumide has worked with global fashion brands
Image caption,Eunice has had a long career, appearing in fashion shoots in Paris, Milan and Japan

Five years ago Eunice Olumide was in demand after a long career as a model, campaigner and performer.

However, an appearance on daytime television led to her unexpectedly finding herself at the centre of a race row.

The 5ft 9in Scottish supermodel was on Jeremy Vine’s Channel 5 TV show to promote her new book on fashion but the discussion turned to the subject of race and whether her TV career had suffered when she was younger because she was black.

After the programme, her comments were “clipped” and posted on the show’s YouTube page.

She says the clip, which has since been removed, described how she was “challenged” by co-panellists over her experiences of racism.

The online reaction to Eunice’s comments was overwhelmingly negative and she believes it resulted in significant damage to her career.

Lío London Pre-Launch Event
Image caption,The Flag Twins, Eunice Olumide and Dennis Okwera attend the Lío London pre-launch event in London

The 37-year-old, who was born in Edinburgh to Nigerian parents, told BBC Scotland News the co-panellists on the show dismissed the idea of racism in her personal story.

“What was not in the clip, which brought about the discussion, is that Jeremy Vine initially asked me, ‘do you think being black impacted your career as a presenter?,” she says’.

“I don’t talk about race because I want to, it is because I am always being asked about it.

“Why do you ask me triggering questions about trauma? Surely that should be done with warning? Would you ask a white model about social issues or the National Front?”

Eunice says she was “completely caught off guard” by the way the discussion went and left “traumatised” by the whole experience.

She says the fallout from the row also hit her career hard.

“Prior to the interview, I was in line for a major television show which I lost, I was dropped by my agency including all contracts and a six-figure sum, which means I had to move out of my home,” she says.

From Monday, Eunice will feature in a new Netflix docuseries, ‘The Outsiders’.

It seeks to highlight the stories of black “creators” such as radio host Julie Adenuga, comedian Munya Chawawa, and the new Doctor Who Ncuti Gatwa.

Director Simon Fedrick says the show will give them a ”powerful voice” to share their stories, their truths, and their visions for the future.

Eunice Olumide produced award winning TV programmes.
Image caption,Olumide with Graham Norton at Scotland’s Bafta after-party

Eunice was born in Scotland because her father was part of the Navy, stationed at Rosyth in Fife.

After her parents split, her mother set up home in Wester Hailes on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

”Racism in Scotland felt worse because, 20-30 years ago, the Afro-Caribbean community was too small to fall back on for that sense of shared group membership or support,” she says.

”Unlike places like England where the population is infinitely bigger.”

Eunice was 15 when she was spotted shopping on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow and recruited a London modelling agency.

She then rose to fame, appearing in shoots for high-fashion magazines and working with international brands.

Eunice, who has a postgraduate degree in film studies, has worked for the BBC, Channel 5, ITV and Sky television.

She also produced a podcast dedicated to women of colour called ”Sista Collective” on BBC Radio 5 Live.

In November 2017 she was awarded an MBE as part of the Queen’s honour list for services to Charity, Broadcasting and Arts, even though she says she ”wrestled” with the idea of accepting it.

But despite her success she feels an ill-fated appearance on daytime still casts a long shadow and she was punished for saying things that are now widely accepted.

She says: ”A whole lifetime of work has been overshadowed by topics about race.

“I lost everything because I talked about race.”

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