John Cody, Remix, June 20, 2023
A Black male model from Nigeria, who has been celebrated in a wide range of Irish publications where he also complained about “Black stereotypes,” has now been convicted of rape and sentenced to four years in prison. However, despite extensive photoshoots featuring the male model and a focus on him being Black, the Irish Examiner decided to run a photo for the article that depicted him as a White male gripping prison bars.
The original crime dates back to April 2018, in which the 25-year-old Utseoritselaju Uwatse, who is also known as Laju Uwatse, raped a Limerick college student in the Cratloe Wood Student Village.
Numerous Irish publications had written gushing pieces about Uwatse in the past, with a special fixation on his race. Uwatse was born in Nigeria but moved to Ireland as a child. A profile of the model was included in the Irish Examiner entitled “Leading the way for a new generation, the ones to watch in 2022.”
In the article, the Irish Examiner stated: “He’s quickly becoming one of our best-known exports in the fashion world, but Laju Uwatse was a shy teenager when it was first suggested he should consider modelling.”
Uwatse’s role in the 2018 incident was not yet known to the press when the article was published; however, the woman he raped waived her right to anonymity in order to name the suspect in the case.
The woman also read a victim statement in court: “I don’t think there are any words that would convey the damage that you have done. The woman who is here today is broken down. I felt guilty for the heaviness I brought to my friends and family.”
Despite there being a wide range of photos to choose from of Uwatse, and despite playing up his race in previous articles, the Irish Examiner, when reporting on Uwatse’s conviction, depicted a White male holding prison cell bars in its latest article on the topic.
Uwatse has been sentenced to four years in prison, and is expected to serve around two years for the crime, according to experts.
Other publications also covered Uwatse before his conviction. In a profile by the Irish Times, he discussed race and his photo was prominently featured:
Laju Uwatse, a 22-year-old model from Limerick, recalls a period where he used to dislike black people. “I reached a point where I didn’t like black people; the stereotypes that were around us made me hate being compared to it.” Uwatse believes these stereotypes, and the attempt to escape them, is why he and so many other young black people set ourselves aside and strive to be seen as the same as everyone else; we never want to give people an excuse to treat us differently
The Irish Times has not bothered to cover Uwatse’s latest conviction.
After the trial, the victim spoke about the incident, saying: “I think a lot of women don’t come forward because they’re afraid of not being believed and that was definitely my fear too and something I struggled a lot with. I’ve fought for this day for five years, and it makes it all so incredibly worth it to have gotten such support. I’m very proud of myself for never giving up.”
However, she said that it was never her intention that Uwatse was jailed. “I’m very grateful for the result. It never mattered to me how much time he spent behind bars. All I ever wanted was an apology.”