Tea pickers wanted for modeling jobs &

promo photo shoots!

Lipton tea tin

We are: A very large tea company with small garden values. Small values in a garden, really.

We seek: Happy people, but this isn’t Disneyland. You’re not dead in paradise yet, so we’ll just settle for “people.”

Residency: Preferably from some former colony; because that means you’re not doing so well now.

Suitable candidates: We like Tamils from Sri Lanka, and lower caste Indians. Impoverished pluckers from Japan and China are quite acceptable. Model tea pickers from Africa? We could use some more. White skinned natives need not apply at all. Not that we think you would.

Attractive Tamil woman, Tea ad, colonial eraSex: Female. Unless you’re African, but if you’re African and male, then we can’t use you. Sorry, but you just don’t look as cute among the dainty tea leaves.

Body Type: Slender – but not obviously malnourished. Nobody wants to know your petty personal business, right? Right!

Attractive to Westerners: No open sores, callouses, chemical burns, or crooked backs.  Don’t need to see the pesky effects of your job on display.

Health: Must be compatible with “Attractive to Westerners”. See point above. Other than that, who cares, we’re not bloody socialists are we?!

Age range: Young, which means you must in fact be young. Even elderly looking tea models are only twenty-five years old, silly.

Hair: Long, needs to be clean on day of shooting. One bucket of fresh water will be provided for this purpose only. Remember, fresh water is not for drinking! No moving, and/or visible head lice. Put a cloth over your head.

Clothing: To be supplied. A full line of figure hugging “tea picking” outfits in enthusiastic colors available. Don’t bring your own work “clothes”, these are quite unsuitable. Nobody wants to see authentic, unless it’s “authentic.”

Demeanor: You must be willing and able to look ecstatic while hauling a bulky basket on your back. It’ll be full of the sixty pounds of tea you picked. Smiling is a must. Broken, stained teeth though not desired, are expected and can be photoshopped.

Capture from a Sri Lankan tea commercialAttitude: Convincingly but wholly unauthentic; you’ll need to be upbeat, inspiring, optimistic. Anything but your usual self, really.

Speech: Mostly not required. You’re not being interviewed!  If however, you think you *are* being interviewed, it’s likely those fair trade folks, in which case you need to keep mum. In exceptional instances entirely incomprehensible native chatter permitted.

Tea picking experience: Preferably not a lot, experience tends to translate into unattractive sagging flesh, bent spines,  deep wrinkles, and dark circles under the eyes. Not exactly attractive to westerners.

Compensation: Aside from a little fame on a cardboard tea box, or in a western tea ad you mean? What more is there to want?

For those of you still reading this, or having this read to you (50/50 chance if you’re Indian) we are currently considering adjusting the tea scales, for one time only, to start at true zero.

Chance of a life time! And you don’t have many. Chances we mean. Not lives. You old Hindu you 😉

Applications taken, after work only.


“From 1910 onwards, a variety of versions of the Tamil woman’s tea picker image appeared in Lipton’s advertising. In all of these images, the Tamil woman was shown smiling gently in a lush plantation.”

–Imperial Persuaders: Images of Africa and Asia in British Advertising, Anandi Ramamurthy, Published 2003 by Manchester University Press )

Old Sri Lankan Tea PickerOld tea ladyTea picking is hard work – long hours and little pay is the norm. For most tea workers, standards of living are below their country’s poverty level. The images commonly seen in ads rarely reflect the reality, which the workers experience every day.

These videos, Bitter Drops of Tea, parts 1 and 2, illustrate the difficult challenges that female tea workers in Sri Lanka experience. What they show is far removed from what we see in advertising on television, in print and on the web.

“…we make tea…by burning their blood.” S. Visvalingam, Researcher

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