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Axed Emmerdale actress Shila Iqbal has blamed hip hop culture for the offensive language she used in historic tweets which saw her lose her dream job on the soap, as she said she wants to use her situation to draw awareness to the power of words for young people.
The remorseful actress said she respected ITV’s decision to terminate her contract over the messages she posted six years ago, and said she wanted to help influence young people in realising the power of what’s put out on social media.
Asked whether she thought the language was OK to use at the time the tweets were posted, Shila argued that she and her friends as teenagers had been heavily influenced by the music that they listened to, in her case hip hop.
‘I think at the time, there was no malicious intent. It was banter between my group of friends,’ she said. ‘We were heavily influenced by the hip hop and rap music we listened to, it determined the language we used. I didn’t understand the meanings behind them and the implications those words have.’
Speaking to presenters Phil Schofield and Holly Willoughby, Shila, who was 18 when she sent the tweets, said she felt as the posts were made six or seven years ago it’s not fair to be judged on them now.
‘I think if a person has changed then no [it’s not fair], you should be judged as the person you are today,’ she said.
‘I think it’s a tricky one, I think ITV had a moral obligation, I respect their decision. We don’t tolerate that language in society. But I do question if it’s fair I’m being judged on what I wrote as a teenager. I wasn’t hurling abuse at anyone. That’s not who I am.’
Shila said she wanted to turn her situation around and use it to show young people the impact of their words, especially on public platforms like Twitter, and the damage they can do.
‘I want to use my negative situation to raise awareness, taking a moral responsibility,’ she said. ‘Young people will look up to me and I can influence them.’
As the interview came to a close, Phil Schofield revealed the actress had been struggling with anxiety since the incident and has found it hard to leave the house.
Asked what happens now for her career, Shila said: ‘Time will tell. This is a blow, I was at such a high point and it all came crashing down. I will move on, I’ll remain positive.’
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