Virgin Active, one of Sir Richard Branson’s companies, ran a campaign to advertise the health club chain and hired a South African deaf model. That model is former Miss Deaf South Africa 2012: Simone Botha Welgemoed. Virgin Active’s graphic department edited the photos to remove her cochlear implant with the final results showing no indication of Welgemoed’s deafness.
Welgemoed claimed that the removal was done without her permission which made her upset and confront the advertising department at Virgin Active.
Welgemoed is a model, dancer, and deaf activist and has been deaf since birth. Her cochlear implant was put in when she was two years old and is possibly the youngest child in South Africa to have the surgery. She has used it for her life and all the way to winning 2012’s Miss Deaf Africa title.
The title is one that Welgemoed took to heart and is serious about being a rolemodel for the deaf community, which is one of the reasons why she was upset about the photoshop. She had these words for the Virgin Active team:
If I claim to be an ambassador for the deaf, then am I not proud to boldly showcase who I am?
Virgin Active met with her and apologized to her with flowers and the promise to rerun the ad with the unretouched photos. They kept their promise and the photoshopped ads were taken down and replaced with the originals.
The company also has taken notice of today’s current trend of visibility in media; more companies are using models of color and with disabilities to represent them more widely in their advertising. Virgin became part of the new initiative earlier this year when they selected Nyle DiMarco for the magazine Attitude’s Man of the Year award.
Virgin Active apologises for editing out deaf model’s cochlear implant in campaign photo – Independent News UK