Africa’s First Albino Model

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Refilwe Modiselle is breaking all the rules while sashaying down the catwalk as Africa’s first albino model.

“I was being tenacious and saying ‘no, wait a minute. This is a different representation of what African beauty is,'” Modiselle says.

“You’re told that a black child should be brown-skinned, but what do you then call a girl like myself? I’m not tall either. But there I was modeling with the likes of your Adiambo’s, your famous models that have really done well.”

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In 1999, Modiselle was just 13 years old when she was first approached to do a five-page shoot for a youth magazine aiming to showcase how the African fashion landscape would change with the turn of the millennium. It was her first taste of fashion, but she got the bug.

Yet it wouldn’t be until she finished her high school education and entered college (at the behest of her mother) that Modiselle found herself in front of a camera again.

The move kickstarted her career and soon the South African student was staring back at herself from glossy magazine pages and gliding down runways at high-profile events, like Mercedes Benz Africa Fashion Week.

“I was defying everything about what society says defines a model. I’m basically saying ‘OK, let’s teach our kids a different definition of beauty, or a definition that’s always been there but has just always been disregarded”, she said.

She also added that, “People with albinism are often not given the opportunity to get into such industries because we’re not known as extroverts, we’re not given a chance to be identified in society as people who have the potential to represent something,” 

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