South African model Thando Hopa is the first woman with albinism to cover Vogue

“I once said to a close friend that it would really be lovely to see a woman with albinism on a Vogue Cover,” South African model, activist and lawyer Thando Hopa wrote on her Instagram. “I would not have imagined that that woman would be me."

With her eyes gently closed and her head tilted towards the sky, Hopa has made history as the first woman with albinism to grace the cover of Vogue. The model is the highlight of Vogue Portugal’s “Africa Motherland” edition, an homage to Africa as the cradle of humanity, reads a tweet from the magazine’s Twitter account. The issue seeks to celebrate the full spectrum of African beauty and also features Sudanese model Alek Wek in an alternate cover of the April edition.

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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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Being the one to achieve this important first was “overwhelming” for Hopa. The South African model shared what this “footnote in history” meant on her Instagram. “I'm emotional, because I see progress and get to form part of a progressive story and narrative,” Hopa wrote. “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.”

In her cover story, Thando got candid about growing up with white skin in a “pigmented society” and how her albinism fueled her passion for activism. She also shut down the idea that inclusion in the fashion industry is just a fleeting “trend.”

“I do not think that human bodies should ever be called “trends.” I have a serious problem with people who say albinism is a trend, or vitiligo is a trend. Or people who say ‘It is so cool to be black right now,’” Hopa said. “Human bodies are not disposable.”

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NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10: Thando Hopa attends Pirelli Calendar 2018 Launch Gala at The Manhattan Center on November 10, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/WireImage)
Thando Hopa attends the 2018 Pirelli Calendar Launch Gala at Manhattan Center on November 10, 2017 in New York City. / AFP PHOTO / ANGELA WEISS (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)
“If I am afraid of showing me as I am, how will I eventually face it as an opportunity of representation? How can I state it is valid to be like this, if I am not OK with being like this? It was then my journey in Beauty began, by realizing I am enough. I am enough. It became a mantra. Only then I transformed part of my confidence into courage, because in the beginning I was very confident, but frankly I was confident just because I was getting validation. I needed to get to a place where I was happy with myself, whether I got validation or not." Some not so easy confessions here. . . Vogue Cover story written by a wonderful conversationalist / journalist @joanapem @vogueportugal Produced by @imi_oztas Features editor @patriciatrdomingues Editor in chief @sofia.slucas Photographer:@rhysframpton Styling @sallyannebolton Make up:@suuad_jeppe #thandohopa#photograpy#activist#activism#fashion#writer#diversity#inclusion#representaion#feminist#feminism#art#albinism#blackgirlmagic#iamenough#model#actress#southafrica#afro#kinkyhair#naturalhair#authenticity#thoughtleader#narratives#change#storyteller#body#representationmatters
Masterclass with @afi_sa Topic: Creativity through Diversity Photo by: @afi_sa Hair: @matilda_paley . . #thandohopa#photograpy#activist#activism#fashion#writer#diversity#inclusion#representaion#feminist#feminism#art#albinism#blackgirlmagic#iamenough#model#actress#southafrica#afro#kinkyhair#naturalhair#authenticity#thoughtleader#narratives#change#storyteller#body#representationmatters
My jourmey in media has been deep and I've cried a lot of tears in it. Thinking to myself that one day a black girl will run her hands through her blonde and kinky hair, her pale eyebrows and pale eyelashes and NEVER feel like that is not beautiful, worthy of adoration and celebration. Most of all that she (or he) will not be constantly viewed as the "other", not in society OR media. That they have agency over their image, representation and their story. I have learned a lot through trial and error and I -along with this industry - go through growth, change and self correction. When @dr_motsepe called me out on stage to acknowledge the work that was achieved because of all the culture creators who have deliberately worked with me to infuse an inclusive culture - I was at a loss for words. I went on stage and my heart was beating outside of my chest. I was thinking "we're really getting there, aren't we?" I'd like to thank her, @motsepefoundation and @janmalan for delicately working around this very beautiful night. Thank you - to my fellow co-creators, collaborators and change makers for being the change you want to see in the world and making this kind of progress possible. This was definitely one of my 2018 year end highlights. Dress by @davidtlale And now... for 2019!!! Let's keep building.
Universities are learning hubs. I think we sometimes forget that and get lost in the tests, degree titles and so forth. Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz Germany was such a mind expanding experience. Perspective sharing platforms help us process realities, thoughts, discoveries and experiences that we can exchange in order to work on a more improved reality. What a wonderful experience, thank you for inviting me to give my input and analysis as well as for me to recieve input and analysis from others. Photographer : @christopherhohl (yes Christopher, I've just credited you as a photographer 😁)
Eulogy for a Queen'- excerpts from Seipati Bulane-Hopa for Mama Winnie Madikizela - Mandela "Madiba was incarcerated but idolised and revered - he had that kingly presence in prison - so even in the hardship of his back breaking work by the quarry - he was not physically bruised and broken by mutilations of physical violence - while you were absolutely emotionally and physically brutalised and battered by it. Attempts to break you down so many times resulted in you being more resilient and emotionally immune to the horrors of cruelty relentlessly imposed on you but then - what else happened to you Mam Winnie - to your body and mind? Who was there to mend the scars and soothe the wounds? Did anyone ask? " - "When a leader falls they fall harder than anyone less known and when this calamity happens they become the easy prey for hovering vultures waiting to scavenge their carcass, unless a mass of hands are waiting to break that fall. Many times you fell and like the rock of the valley that refuses to be crushed, you rose up many more times than you fell. When Tata stood up to announce your separation to us he did not just separate from you, he separated from many of us. He left and we stayed behind. We took every painful step forward with you in prayer and in meditation. You may never have known but you may have felt our collective presence too. We wanted him to stand by you, towering and resolute. We wanted him to forgive you just as he summoned the will to forgive Verwoerd. We wanted him to say he agreed that you erred but to say too that he knows, more than anyone else, that to err was as erratically human as to forgive was as virtuously human. We wanted him to say that he loved you unconditionally regardless of the defiant spirit and rebellious nature you were perceived to have adopted at that time. We wanted him to say he will make sure you regain your posture as you made sure you put pieces of his emotional survival of prison together. " Captured by: Seipati Bulane Hopa #winniemadikizelamandela #women #inmourning
I observed something I'll always take with me moving forward in my life. When we were at the launch @iamnaomicampbell showed particular care for a model and cast member who was the youngest amongst us. I noticed how she took the time to mentor and look out for this young woman. If young girls had more women who did this, one can only imagine the strength they would gather up. They say we stand on the shoulders of giants. This woman right here is an incredible giant. Thank you for paving the way for so many women across the world. #pirellicalendar #thecal #afterparty
#NewYork, I remember coming here the first time. It felt like I was in a movie. The animated lights on Time Square, the jazz clubs in Harlem that introduced me to my soul. Beautiful city... Jewelry by @kirsten___goss
#onceuponatimeinphuket I fed an elephant that tried to kiss me with its nose
#inclusivity #education #awareness #afrikatikkun . #youthdevelopment
I was walking toward this man, i walked slowly, not because i was nervous but because i was in awe. He was so alive, everything in him was alive. Before i approached him he turned around, looked at me, paused then neared toward me with suspicion. "What lipstick are you wearing?" I rarely knew the kind of lipsticks make up artists put on my lips, i usually just knew the color, but this time around i actually knew. @frankieboyd and @jefftakesyou insisted i wear #ladydanger. I have to admit, i felt a smile lifting up my cheeks as i responded with a boastful whisper "Lady danger". He towered over me with a grin and said "i knew it!" This was my intro to @rupaulofficial. I get what people mean when they someone is larger than life. His eyes could make stars twinkle, his body doesn't trap the warmth he so easily exudes. #pirellicalendar #thecal #rupaul outfit by @gertjohancoetzee jewelry @kirsten___goss
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The decision to celebrate African beauty comes amidst a recent campaign for the publication to start an international edition for Africa. In an interview with Reuters, supermodel Naomi Campbell, a contributing editor for British Vogue, expressed a need for Vogue’s presence in Africa: “There should be a Vogue Africa. We just had Vogue Arabia— it is the next progression. It has to be.”

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