"Black hands don't sell jewelry," Nadiya Hussain was told at the audition

By Mary Honkus and Mary Honkus
June 15, 2020 03:20 PM
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Credit: Nadiya Hussain/Instagram

Since winning The Great British Bake-Off in 2015, Nadiya Hussain has continued to create a name for herself, publishing multiple cookbooks and starring in her own Netflix series Nadiya's Time to EatBut before her career took off, she auditioned to be a hand model and was rejected due to her skin color.

In a lengthy Instagram post, Hussain, 35, recalls the horrible experience. "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 jewelry," she wrote along with two photos of her hands. "I called. Made an appointment. No previous experience required. I had hands, I needed the money, so figured it was a no brainer!"

Hussain goes on to explain that when she walked in for the audition the whole room went silent. She recalls only seeing "white faces and white hands." The receptionist struggled to speak as Hussain waited for her turn before a woman came out to speak with her and told her she wouldn't be able to audition.

The woman said to Hussain, "I'm sorry, I didn't know you were black."

" 'Yes, right, but the ad wanted hands, I have hands,' " Hussain responded. The woman proceeded to tell her that, "black hands don't sell jewelry."

"The blood rushed to my face. I was so embarrassed, I was now a deep shade of burgundy," Hussain remembers. "I never really thought about my hands, till the color 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."

Nadiya Hussain
| Credit: S Meddle/ITV/Shutterstock

Hussain is now in her thirties, and while her hands are featured in her cookbooks and television shows, they're still an insecurity for her. "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," she said in the post. "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 children's hands and stroke their little faces, to cook, to feed... to hold!"

Since the incident, Hussain has gone on to work with the jewelry company Swarovski, which has been a positive experience for her.  "When I worked with them they never knew the anxiety I felt at the thought of showcasing my hands, but I did it anyway!" she says.

The baker joins dozens of celebrities speaking out about racism amid protests and social unrest following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota police officers.

"We need to start representing with our voices, with our eyes, with our thoughts, with our hearts, and with our hands!" Hussain advised on her Instagram post. "I am taking ownership back with my hands!"

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

• Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.

ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.

• National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.