• Clodagh Meaney

Miss Universe Ireland Fig O'Reilly opens up about racism

The NASA datanaut also works as a model

By Clodagh Meaney

Miss Universe Ireland Fig O'Reilly has shared her experience with racism.

The NASA datanaut who also works as a model opened up about her career in an interview with Humans of Dublin.

"My modelling career started when I was nineteen. At the time, I was living in Italy with my father while I was going to university," she began.

"One day, I was in Milan when I got scouted by two modelling agencies. I was so excited about the opportunity that I ended up signing with one, took a break from university, and moved to Milan full-time."

"For the next four years, I was going back and forth between Milan and the University. I loved living there," she said.

"I made a lot of friends and although I experienced a lot of blunt racism in Italy, at the time, I hadn’t really thought about it a lot. That was until an incident happened that really stayed with me."

Fig explained that she was once hanging out with friends in a crowded restaurant in Milan when the incident happened.

"There was a man standing behind me. I think I may have bothered him by standing with my back too close to him. But, before I could even recognise his presence, he decided to burn his cigarette through my dress," she said.

"He then looked me in the eyes and said the ’N’ word," Fig recalled.

"Although my 19-year-old self recognised that it wasn’t fair of him to do and say that, I remember trying to figure out what I did that was so awful that it provoked him to treat me that way."

"Over time though, while similar incidents pile up, you begin to desensitised yourself from these encounters. You stop trying to deal with them and you stop overthinking them. You began to accept that, well, this is just how it is when you look different," she said.

"By the time I won Miss Universe Ireland as the first black Irish, I was so grateful for the overwhelming support from the people of Ireland that I was somewhat prepared for the few racist comments on social media, because I had a more important mission in front of me," she asserted.

Fig said that she wants to be a role model for girls and women who can identify with her and her story.

"I wanted to show them that if I can get there, they can do it too."

© 2020 by EMPWR

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