When lawyer Thando Hopa was spotted at the age of 23 by a designer and asked to model his clothing, she thought modelling was a shallow career.
But then she realised that it was a great opportunity to change public perceptions of people with albinism on media platforms that define society’s sense of beauty.
As a child, growing up in Lenasia township outside Johannesburg, her teachers said she would never finish school, a fate that befalls many children with albinism because their poor eyesight, a symptom of albinism, is mistaken for learning disabilities.
It is this lack of knowledge that she is trying to change. Twenty years later she proved that not only could she finish school, but also qualify as a lawyer and work at the National Prosecuting Authority.
As she began to embrace her hair and her skin without make-up, she was chosen to be on the cover of Forbes Africa and, soon after, as a brand ambassador for skincare company Vichy. She will continue to model part time, because she believes the media is a powerful conduit to spread awareness.
“My albinism is not what defines me. It is merely a facet of my identity, alongside being black, a woman and a South African, and all the other elements that make me who I am.”
– Ilham Rawoot