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East Anglia Future 50

'Don't call me a Barbie doll, I have a degree,' says model used by farm firm

PUBLISHED: 14:03 11 January 2019 | UPDATED: 10:17 12 January 2019

Melissa Sharp, who is  a graduate, professional dancer and personal trainer, has hit back after criticism of her for promoting an East Anglian farm machinery firm, Agrifac UK Ltd. Pic: Melissa Sharp.

Melissa Sharp, who is a graduate, professional dancer and personal trainer, has hit back after criticism of her for promoting an East Anglian farm machinery firm, Agrifac UK Ltd. Pic: Melissa Sharp.

An English literature graduate who wore a tight dress to promote an East Anglian firm says she is "sad and baffled" by the online storm it has sparked.

Melissa Sharp, based in Surrey, has hit back at harsh criticism of her on social media for promoting an East Anglian farm machinery firm. Pic: Melissa Sharp.Melissa Sharp, based in Surrey, has hit back at harsh criticism of her on social media for promoting an East Anglian farm machinery firm. Pic: Melissa Sharp.

Melissa Sharp, 26, was paid £100 a day and all expenses including food, travel and accommodation by farm machinery company Agrifac to attend the Lamma agriculture show in Birmingham.

But a picture of Miss Sharp with a company employee posted on social media caused outrage online with many saying the use of models was outdated.

An online poll by this newspaper showed 74% were in support of the models and not offended by the picture.

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But the reaction online continues to flood in with many people stating it was bad for the farming industry which is trying to attract more women.

Comments ranged from “the glamour girls are embarrassing” and “not great for encouraging women in this industry,” to “sends a subliminal message that men can aspire to be anything they want while women can aspire to be garnish” and “disappointing and completely outdated misogyny”.

One critic, tweeted: “As a female farmer made me wince in 2019 that ridiculous cheap hooker outfits are needed to showcase anything serious.”

But Miss Sharp, who is also a professional dancer and has just finished panto in Northampton, has hit back. She said: “I feel sad and baffled especially why other women would downgrade me rather than empower me.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m a dancer or a shop assistant or a police officer, I’m going out to work and earning a living.

“Just for the record, I’m a personal trainer with my level six qualification and I’ve also got an English literature degree from Kingston college.”

She said the dresses were given to her to wear by Agrifac, based in March, and the boots were part of her cheerleading uniform. “I was completely covered up, the only thing showing were my kneecaps.”

She added: “I know the picture may have looked like we were just decoration but we were there to talk to people, encourage ladies to the stand and I do know about the products; one man was very impressed when I told him about the Condor sprayer. After the Twitter storm began, I just thought, ‘I’ll continue to do my job’ and I think I did it even better to prove a point.”

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