Thando Hopa

Based: Johannesburg

Thando was born in Sebokeng and raised in Lenasia South. Growing up she had two older siblings, extremely supportive parents and a loving grandmother who played a massive role in her upbringing. Thando had a lovely childhood which was filled with love and a whole lot of singing.

The issues began when she started the first grade. She went to a public school which had a lot of students. It was here where she started to notice that she had a different pigment to everyone else. In high school Thando insecurities began to manifest, she continuously tried to hide her albinism so that she could be like all the other children to the extent that she walked around in the sun without her cricket hat because people were making fun of her for the hat. Her mother was so angry.

Modelling has been the one thing that made her reflect and dig deep into her self-esteem, to question her motives for wanting to alter her appearance.Being on the cover of Marie Clairewas an awesome experience. To be on the cover of a reputable magazine and to look the way she looked. She didn’t have to colour in her eyebrows, her hair was in its natural afro state. I felt that it showed a positive image for black children growing up with albinism to have someone on the cover that looks like them, She appreciated the fact that she was not required to look like what society perceives to be the perfect cover girl look. Marie Clairehelped her express her truth in this respect.

Thando had to be creative in navigating her way through the world as a person who is considered to be legally blind. She experience limitations in the industry as well.Acting is her main love, however the roles that came to her are very boxing and limiting in their very nature often having prejudices and supernatural connotations. She is never just presented with a role that requires her to be a doctor or a lawyer like actors and actresses normally receive.

The recent Pirelli calendar with P.Diddy, Naomi Campbell and Whoopi Goldberg was a huge accomplishment for Thando. To be featured as the first South African and to look the way she wanted, it was on her terms. Thando was the only task member asked to write on the calendar, the only other person was the editor of the French Vogue. She went in as a model and representative for South Africa, albinism, blackness and womanhood and found her space as a writer. It was serendipitous.

The words we use in our indigenous languages to refer to people with albinism are derogatory and offensive. We should develop our languages to ensure that the correct terminology is used without offending people. It is pertinent that we look into this. Commissioner Nomsonto  Mazibuko presented a term recently ‘Abantu be fuzo’, in isiZulu. Without these developments, our right to dignity and equality will continue to be encroached upon.

Thando would like to get to a point where we feel the fullness of our human agency, where we can navigate the things that we do without having to fight so many barriers. The more fluid she has in her career and society, the more she knows that the work she has done is worthwhile. Thando is beginning to see it and she will not stop until we are in a place where the new generation does not have to work as hard as she did to break through barriers.

Her message for young people living with albinism, especially young girls, is that you are enough, you have everything in you to navigate this world. Everything outside of you is for your growth. Continue to know that you are enough, you are beautiful and capable. Cultivate that sense of worthiness, that is your mantra.

 

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