Why Gert-Johan Chose A Girl With Albinism As The Face Of His New Collection!
Meet Thando Hopa, a 23 year old lady with albinism, who will be strutting her stuff at Gert-Johan Coetzee’s first SA Fashion Week show in two years. Hot as she is, Thando is not a model, she is actually a prosecutor who works for the NPA and her meeting with Gert kinda went like the stuff you usually read about when celebrities talk about being #Spotted. Thando was spotted in a mall, while out shopping, sometime in July.
“Thando is so striking and she has remarkable poise – she can literally stop traffic. That’s how I experienced her when she walked past me in the mall,” says Coetzee. “I just had to meet her.” After he introduced himself and the two had a conversation, Coetzee was convinced he wanted Thando involved in his new collection. “I am obsessed with colour and besides being really beautiful, Thando is the exact opposite of colour… visually she personifies the infinite possibilities of a blank canvas. The creative tension that causes is just so exciting!”
She was born with albinism, a rare genetic condition that leads to a complete or partial lack of pigmentation in the skin, eyes and hair. It is caused by a recessive gene that both parents have to carry for a child to be born with the condition. Persons With Albinism (PWAs) are vulnerable to sun exposure and most of them are in some way visually impaired, but otherwise they lead perfectly normal lives. Black PWAs with their white hair, pale eyes and fair skin naturally stand out much more than their Caucasian counterparts do and this often leads to bullying or teasing. Thando’s parents don’t have albinism, but two of their four children do.
“My parents raised my younger brother and I as if there was no difference between us and all the other kids in the neighbourhood, and for that I am very grateful. As a child I never had a role model who looked like me, so that is partly why I am interested in Gert-?Johan’s project. If one little girl out there looks at me and sees a world of opportunities for herself this would have been worth it.”
Thando admits that one has to be strong to keep one’s head high and that even though she now loves being different, it was hard growing up with albinism.
“I was horrified to learn that PWAs have been cruelly persecuted in certain parts of Africa – especially in Tanzania where many of them have been killed in muti murders. I feel honoured that I can play a part in the education process that may help to dispel some of the prejudice and superstition that people with albinism face.”
Well done to Gert on spotting Thando, we can’t wait to see her on the runway!