A few months ago, I received a very exciting message from my agency letting me know that I had been booked for a big artist's music video! As a disabled model, I feel it is important to share the good and bad experiences I may face within this industry because it'll allow people to understand what we go through where appropriate changes can be made.
Unfortunately, I wasn't shown that well in the music video and I wasn't able to capture any behind the scene photos due to a no filming policy on the day of the shoot.
"Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance"
Once I received that very exciting message, I had to go and get my dreaded covid test to ensure I was able to be on set, which is standard protocol. I don't know if it's just me, but my anxious mind automatically thinks of the worst case scenario - my test will come back positive, I won't be able to do this amazing job and all of my hopes and dreams will be over (slight exaggeration).
I got my test results a few hours later and was given the all clear to be on set. I normally receive call sheets, location and times the day before a job so I wasn't surprised that the call sheet for my first music video was sent to my agency at 11.30pm the night before. Like I said before, this is normal for this industry but as a disabled model, I have to take into account everything (transport, times, location and accessibility).
Arriving at the location was pretty easy. The building where hair, makeup and styling was taking place was accessible enough. There was a lot of waiting, sitting around and changing of outfits - the 'changing corner' was not appropriate for any disabled person, which I have found on many jobs. I'm often left balancing and leaning on my mobility aid for support, whilst putting on my clothes and trying not to be seen by anyone else on set.
When casting directors are hiring disabled talent, I feel an appropriate changing space is one of the most important things to consider as this is something I have to face with almost every job! I think when hiring disable individuals, casting directors should make sure the space is suitable and big enough for any type of mobility aid like wheelchairs and ensure the talent is comfortable with changing in front of others - this would make our lives much easier with small changes like this!
"Challenging the status quo takes commitment, courage, imagination and above all, dedication to learning"
Once the clothing on all of the models was finalised, we were then called to set. At this point, I was unaware that I would have to walk 15 minutes down the road in the rain - this might seem mediocre to non-disabled people, but as someone who has restricted mobility and uses a mobility aid, this didn't sit right with me.
Mini buses were made available to other talent on set, but not for my particular scene of the music video. This option would have been great for myself and the other disabled models if we felt we needed transport. A group of around 25 of us proceeded to walk 15 minutes down the road - I fell behind due to my restricted mobility, but there were a few lovely women (someone from the team too) that stayed back with me so I wasn't alone.
We arrived at the location and was on set for a good few hours. As I wasn't aware that filming would be taking place outside, I had to stand for several hours in the rain and cold, which wasn't great for me because I suffer with osteoarthritis, Chronic Pain Syndrome amongst other invisible disabilities. I wish a chair would have been provided considering the team knew that they had hired someone with a disability - this would have eliminated the elevated pain I felt after the job. Aside from all of this, I met some lovely girls during this experience and one particular woman from the team always asked if I was okay.
I think it's particularly important for disabled talent to know the conditions in which they're filming in ahead of time so we're prepared both mentally, physically and arrangements can be put in place - this should be a must!
In the future, I hope that production take into account everything when hiring disabled talent because I find casting directors pick us to be more inclusive, but often forget the other side of things. We all deserve to be treated well, whilst still being inclusive and challenging the status quo.
This experience was definitely one to remember and I'm grateful for it although I wouldn't want to experience this again too soon! It has given me the chance to write about my experience and hopefully change this industry with time and patience.
This blog was written to provide better understanding to casting directors and this particular experience has not put me off doing anything like this again - if anything, it has pushed me to share my experiences with you, to show you that it isn't all glamourous and most importantly to show that change definitely needs to happen.
"Be the change you want to see in this world"
If you're a disabled model, actor, performer or creative I would love to know some of your experiences in the industry. Feel free to message me on Instagram!