I subconsciously conducted a survey randomly asking the opinion of people towards albinism. As much as i would like to say i got a positive response, i didnt.
Now these people do not exactly hate Albino, but literally from birth, they are made to believe albinos are a different kind of specie and had been marked x for taboo. Since then, the stigma has grown from generations to generations cutting across every corner and sector.
For this lawyer turned model, it was just that.
Thando Hopa is an albino woman who was born and is living in South Africa. Following her stigmatization, she changed her profession from Law to that of modelling for an inspiring cause – to change the attitude of people towards albinism.
The 25-year-old was persuaded to venture into the profession by celebrated fashion designer, Gert-Johan Coetzee, and has since used it as a tool to reaching others like her and the world, starting with South Africa.
According to her – “I eventually decided beauty is a decision and I am going to be beautiful despite what people say. My tagline is ‘a different shade of normal’”.
She stated – “I had been approached to do modelling before, but I didn’t go for it because I never saw the benefits. I thought, “It’s such a shallow profession – why would I want to do that? I am a lawyer.“
However, after one meeting with Gert in 2011, she considered the prospect, “Gert came to me and asked me if I would like to do a shoot and I said I would consider it.And then I spoke to my sister. And my sister said to me, “Don’t look at modelling as modelling. Look at it as an opportunity for you to actually change perception of albinism. Remember how you grew up. Remember how people really treated you.“.”
Thando has had her fair share of what an albino encounters in their day to day living. It is still an east African issue the ritual killings of albinos for wealth. She recalled how she used to get hugged by strangers for good luck, her teachers thinking she was mentally challenged due to her poor eye-sight and how a woman once screamed at her on the street, referring to her as the devil’s child.
Now, Thando has walked numerous runways, had shoots and appeared on the first issue of Forbes Life Africa.
Narrating her first runway experience she said, “The dress was gorgeous – black and green. I can tell you, I have never felt so expensive in my life. But I was actually so scared because in essence that was the first time I really walked in heels. I was even saying a little prayer when I was walking, “God, please don’t let me fall on this catwalk!’ I was absolutely frightened.”“
Modeling has helped Thando in more ways than she can imagine, “I could never go out without make-up but as time goes on, your confidence just grows. It took years for me to get to a point where I could walk around without make-up.” “People tell me I have become a positive influence for their children, for them to see that they can go beyond their circumstances.”