Thando Hopa is a model, a lawyer, an aspiring poet and she is an albino who has created an outstanding record in the modelling industry.
Between 1998 and 2015, 164 people with albinism were killed and some 264 others attacked in 25 African countries ranging from Tanzania to Burundi, according to Under the Same Sun.
Thando Hopa never allowed her albinism to stop her from achieving greater heights in what she has set out to do.
“I have been dubbed a cover girl for people with albinism, but I never saw myself as that,” says the 26-year-old diva, who refuses to be seen only in terms of her lack of the colouring pigment.
“There are so many facets to a person,” she explains, thereby rejecting the term “albino” as a setback.
She tries to change the idea of albinism from being a condition that is seen by superstitious people as fatal in Africa and can lead to discrimination and even sudden death.
While some people see albinism as a bad condition that renders ones life fruitless, others see it as a supernatural event in any black family and also something that brings luck “One taxi driver, for instance, told me that having met me would help him earn a lot of money that day,” Hopa recalls.
Such beliefs can sometimes lead to some terrible consequences for the albino, as evil people may mutilate or even kill people with albinism to use their body parts for rituals aimed at acquiring power or riches.
Thando Hopa was not interested in modelling as a career when she met designer Gert-Johan Coetzee at a Johannesburg shopping mall in 2012. She recalls the day she met the designer that changed her story.
“Dressed in black, Coetzee passed me, ran back and asked if I would be interested in a photo shoot,”
Hopa had received similar proposals before and rejected them to focus on her legal career as a lawyer. But she never received such invitation from a designer as prominent as Coetzee. Her sister encouraged her that modelling would allow her to overcome all the negative ideas about albinism.
“Modelling brought me into contact with creative people, made me see the world as bigger, made me dream more and opened me up to being more creative,” says Thando Hopa, who reads out her poems to people at open-microphone sessions.
People with albinism are vulnerable to sunburn and other skin diseases plus visual problems.
The condition is usually caused by recessive genes and often leads to discrimination. Thandoo Hopa recalls people calling her names like “white monkey” when she was growing up in the city of Johannesburg.
She still sees modelling as coming second to her job as a prosecutor at a Johannesburg court. “I deal with a lot of rape cases, with children with trauma,” says Hopa, who wants to empower people with albinism, and also victims of crime and social injustice.
Read more: buzzsouthafrica.com