1. ITV Report

Ballet dancer slams Virgin for photoshopping hearing aid

The airbrushed advert (left) and Simone with her hearing aid. Credit: SWNS

A deaf ballet star has slammed health club chain Virgin Active for photoshopping out her hearing implant in an international advert.

Simone Botha Welgemoed, 27, has been deaf since birth and was fitted with a Cochlear implant in 1992.

But when she saw the gym advert that she had modelled for, the internationally-acclaimed dancer realised her implant had been airbrushed out.

The South African performer said: "I was shockingly surprised and it felt like somebody just dropped a bucket of water on me.

"I couldn't believe what I saw when my sister tagged me in the Virgin advertisement on Instagram, I couldn't believe what I saw.

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"I was born profoundly deaf and received my CI (Cochlear implant) at the age of 22 months.

"At that stage I was the youngest child in Africa to receive it, without my CI I hear absolutely nothing at all."

She immediately contacted Virgin after spotting the error on social media.

Simone, who is the principal dancer with Bovim Ballet Co in South Africa, added: "Virgin Active immediately responded to my post on Facebook and made contact with me to meet with them.

"We had a discussion about what happened and they were extremely apologetic about everything.

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"Somebody on the creative team, probably uneducated about hearing disability if I can say so, told them to remove it.

"Unfortunately nobody thought the better of it and that the impact of the bigger picture would be an unwelcome one.

"Virgin took off all the adverts and put the original one back on."

Simone is the principal dancer with Bovim Ballet Co in South Africa. Credit: SWNS

Simone has previously modelled for Virgin in their 'Ballet Barre' series, when the firm learned she was hearing impaired.

A spokesman for Virgin said the firm issued an immediate apology and re-ran the campaign using the image "unretouched".

He added: "We 100% accept that the action of photo-shopping the image is not in line with our values as a business, nor in keeping with the welcome we extend to everyone...

"We got it wrong and we realise that."