The 28-year-old, whose father is Jamaican and mother is English and German, told HuffPost Australia it’s been harder to land modelling jobs due to the colour of her skin.
“I can tell you that when I started modelling, I struggled a lot because you walk into an agency and they’re like, ‘We’ve already got a black girl’,” she said.
“It’s like, well you’ve got 100 white girls with blonde hair, why can’t you have a diverse range of black women as well?”
Mahalia Handley, co-founder of social media movement Shine 4 Diversity, told HuffPost Australia that what Phoebe experienced is still “very common” in Australia.
“I’ve known many girls that have been rejected from agencies and been told it was because the agency already had an ethnic girl on their board,” she said.
Phoebe said some fashion agencies have been concerned that her aesthetic won’t resonate with Australia, but she argued the country’s population thrives on multiculturalism.
“I’m told a lot that you’ve got the height, you could be a commercial model, but you’re just too exotic looking and people can’t relate to you,” she said.
“And I would just always think, ‘What are you talking about? There’s so many brown people of different cultures in Australia that can 100 percent relate to me.’ But I guess people don’t want to see that, they just want blonde hair and blue eyes.”
The credit analyst, who models part time, said it’s been different recently because “mixed-races girls are quite popular at the moment”.
“I think at this current moment – and I’m so thankful for my sister because she’s in the modelling industry – mixed-race girls are quite popular at the moment. Curly hair is quite popular,” she claimed.
“I’m often told I’m ‘too exotic’ for some brands in Australia, and it seems wild for me to hear comments like that,” said Shine 4 Diversity’s Mahalia. “I’m from Darwin, my mum is Irish and my dad is from New Zealand. What can be exotic about that? Those are two very common countries for Australia.”
There has been some progress in the industry, and particular agencies have been signing on more models from cultural diverse background.
“It is exciting to be part of a future that acknowledges and embraces the diversity that is now part of the Australian modelling landscape,” said Leea Oak, General Manager of model agency Scoop.
“Scoop has always worked closely with their clients in promoting the multicultural faces that is now starting to dominate the local and international fashion world.”
Meanwhile speaking more generally, Love Island’s Phoebe said, “I do think there is a lot of racism in Australia”, but acknowledged, “I know that I am privileged because of the way that I look, being mixed race… I’m lighter skinned and my hair is straight”.
“I know that it would be 100 times worse for people who are darker than me,” she said.
Phoebe was the second person to be eliminated from Love Island Australia on Thursday night.
Earlier in the week she had pursued a same-sex relationship with Cassie Lansdell, the first of its nature for the Australian version of the show.
However the pair’s romance was short-lived after Cassie coupled up with newcomer Luke Packham.
Now that she’s left the reality show, Phoebe is still exploring her sexuality and “trying to figure it all out”.
“It’s really hard because I feel like I don’t think I can really identify as being bisexual… I’m just someone who is still trying to figure it all out,” she said. “I know that I am attracted to women. Whether that will be a massive part of my life going forward, I’m not 100% sure.”
Love Island airs Monday to Friday at 8:45pm on Channel Nine.