Thando Hopa, The First Woman with Albinism to Appear on Vogue Magazine


Thando Hopa is a South African woman born in 1989. She is a model, lawyer and activist from South Africa. Hopa made history by being the first woman with albinism to appear on the cover of the prestigious high fashion Vogue Magazine, Portugal (Paulina,2019). Vogue Magazine entitled its 2019 April issue “Africa Motherland”. This is meant to recognize the beauty and diversity of the African continent and highlight the significance of representation. This is due to the fact that the African continent is usually referred to as the “cradle of humanity” and the place from which all human beings originated.

Albinism is a rare group of genetic disorders that cause the skin, hair and eyes to have little or no colour and is associated with vision problems. Thando Hopa was born with this condition but still managed to appear on Vogue Magazine’s cover (Jazzi,2019). A lot of people have congratulated her for her boldness and achievement while also appreciating the Vogue Magazine for its revolutionary cover which has shown their inclusivity. Thando once mentioned to a friend that it had been her dream to one day see a woman living with albinism on the cover of Vogue Magazine, little did she know that she would be the first.
Hopa mentioned that growing up, her parents always told her that she is beautiful but that was not the case when she went out into society. She, therefore, developed a sense of inadequacy before she finally perceived beauty as being herself and accepting whoever she is. She had to evolve a feeling of self-satisfaction in order to release herself from the perceptions of society and what is considered beauty to be. At the time when Hopa went into the modelling career, she was already a prosecutor for sexual offences cases. She kicked off her modelling career with the intention of boosting her self-confidence. After on, she took a break from her law career to take up modelling as a platform for representation (Barbara,2017).

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I once said to a close friend that it would really be lovely to see a woman with albinism on a Vogue Cover, I would not have imagined that that woman would be me. "We are the ones we have been waiting for." I'm emotional, because I see progress and get to form part of a progressive story and narrative. I got to a place in my career where I appreciate every specimen of my body and knowing that wherever I go, my existence, the way it is, has always and will always be enough. Thank you for allowing me to make a footnote in history @vogueportugal Thank you to the people who advised, supported and contributed significantly to this journey, who harnessed the essence of representation and inclusion. @gertjohancoetzee @melshaw001 @asandasizani @lynetteb_ Dr Precious Motsepe @unalbinism @audisouthafrica @asifhoosen @khanyi_matla @phindiv @pirelli Tim Walker @bbcafrica @bbc @motsepefoundation @afi_sa @glamour_sa @marieclairesa @foschinisa @pridemm @fashion_friend1 @staceylhanmer @kirsten___goss @beautyrevolution_za @samhopa @wokeproject @mimiinblue @adwoaaboa @infra_red_99 Not to mention I worked with an amazing team, it was one of the most unique and refreshing experiences I've ever had. Produced by @imi_oztas Features editor @patriciatrdomingues Editor in chief @sofia.slucas Photographer:@rhysframpton Styling @sallyannebolton Make up:@suuad_jeppe Journalist @joanapem P,S thank you to @shaundross for sending so much love my way and @diandraforrest for the shout out. #thandohopa#photograpy#activist#activism#fashion#writer#diversity#inclusion#representaion#feminist#feminism#art#albinism#blackgirlmagic#model#actress#southafrica#afro#kinkyhair#naturalhair#authenticity#thoughtleader#narratives#change#storyteller#body#representationmatters#voguecover

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It was during the process of doing activism for albinism through modelling that Hopa received an email from Vogue Magazine Portugal offering her a cover opportunity photo shoot and also a chance to talk about her work as a diversity advocate. When she enlightened her mother about the matter, she was afraid that it could be human trafficking agents. However, after a lot of inquisition, they came to realize it was legit. In that event, she went for the shot in Cape Town where she even brought some of her family jewellery which was very South African to represent their culture. That is how she landed an opportunity to grace the cover of Vogue Magazine. She was also recognized with the 100 women award from BBC for her diversity and inclusion advocacy.

For many years in a number of African countries, including South Africa, there has been a lot of stigmatization against people living with albinism. Some Africans still have superstitious beliefs that certain body parts of the people living with Albinism can transmit magical powers. Others also consider them a curse hence they can bring bad luck to the society. This is very severe in Malawi and also some East African countries especially Tanzania where up to this era Albinos have to hide, escape or live in fear due to the fright of persecution, killing and being dismembered. It is the likes of Thando Hopa and other individuals and organizations who are helping reduce the rate of such incidents.


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