Singer and songwriter. Appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2002. Born in Benin and began career at age six by performing in her mother's theatre troupe. Music is heavily influenced by West African rhythms and incorporates a range of other traditions, such as funk, rumba, salsa, jazz, souk and makossa. Recipient of a number of awards, including the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Music for album Djin Djin. First woman to be listed among "The 40 Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa" by Forbes Magazine; named the “undisputed queen of African music", The Daily Telegraph. As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, travels widely and makes time to visit UNICEF projects while on concert tours. 2007, co-founded the Batonga Foundation to provide African girls with secondary school and higher education opportunities. Campaigner for children and youth, speaking out on issues that affect them, especially their right to an education.View the profile
Advocate of diversity who has made mark globally. Diverse portfolio includes legal background, international modelling career and work as an activist which resulted in contribution to United Nations policy discussions around albinism. First black South African ever to feature in the Pirelli Calendar, photographed for its 2018 edition. Throughout tenure in the media, has promoted inclusion, diversity and representation. Was listed as BBC's top 100 hundred inspirational and influential women across the globe. Cover of Vogue Portugal magazine 2019 April issue, the first woman with albinism to ever grace the cover of the internationally acclaimed publication. Recently formed part of the panel of judges for Miss South Africa 2019.View the profile
About the talk
Thando Hopa is South African model, activist and lawyer. In 2019, she made history as the first person with albinism to appear on the cover of Vogue. In this video, she discusses how her career has given her opportunities to challenge perceptions and confront prejudice and stereotypes – particularly highlighting the fact that true inclusivity means finding space for everyone, affording everyone respect, and giving people agency over their sense of identity.
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So I'm going to tell you a little bit of a story. In the 1940s to American doctors run an experiment known as the doll test. So the scientist wanted to understand the impact of racial segregation and discrimination on African American children children would be called in and shown to dolls that look exactly the same with only one different the doll color. So I was sick, but you're showing versions of this experiment and I watched every 5 years old identify the and the oven
The person who directed to the children to reveal what qualities they thought each doll to have which doll is ugly. Which store is good. Which doll is mean? Now the video displays children despite their race assigned negative attributes who are the black doll and positive attributes to a long does it take until the question was also brought us back to the impact of the study and that is which doll looks like you now I pause when this happened because two observations ran through my mind. The first one was watching the heartbreaking Expressions on the faces of
African American children as a painfully reached for the doll. That looks most like it was the dog that zey and most of the children had a size negative attributes toward that I identify as a black woman. Another second of the vision. They would know African American children with albinism among the children who were being interviewed. So I started thinking about how I would have responded if I was one of those children, but that is mainly because my experience
but I was also quite aware that the white doll resembled my appearance in all Races in the lack of pigmentation in the skin hair and eyes and this means that for people of color with albinism usually have buddies that contradicts the dominant understanding about right. Know this experiment made me interested under $2,000 and historical forms of racial discrimination that merged into my one body my blackness in terms of race as my albinism in terms of color. So African American children would be born within the
intersection of race and albinism in the world when I was born. My grandfather named Newton Diana what time do which means a child of Love itself before I could speak for now going outside to up in a community that was filled with diverse people of color. And I remember I viewed my first day of school singing scary Adventure full of anticipation that my parents couldn't contain the energy out of my body. And I think the agenda was the only social stratification at this point that I
knew however, like most children who are different in one way or another school became an initiation ground. And that I was the only person in my school who did not have brown skin and not only that the lack of pigmentation that ran through my body including my eyes without being short-sighted. So I struggled to make up words and numbers of the chalkboard as well as on my school books. Number 6 of circumstances that my body found itself in was met with some antagonism from some of my pills as well as some adults.
And I grew to understand that there was a whole institution that was culturally created about my existence from derogatory names and almost all sub-Saharan African languages to a formalized English term, which some of you might know the term albino animal with a congenital absence of pigment in the skin and hair with a white and eyes, which I usually think of some other issues with that definition. But as a black person I have in my racial history of Soul Spot that has reignited whenever my existence is described in the same wavelength as you would an animal
cell organism is no different from me. So for charity my preferred terminology of a person with albinism not albino. But the plot that they can for albinism. In that in certain contact has been subjected to superstitious belief negative scientific interpretations that describe it and label it as a genetic disorder or A congenital disease to almost no representation of the Beauty Academy at the time. Forever young woman. I was living in a culture that was built up to dismiss marginalize and discriminate against my kind of Human
Experience albinism with cows really created something an institutionalized either know all this socially constructed Madness taught me the me as a society struggle to feed difference of part of human diversity and race gender sexuality of albinism the patterns of other similar. But my life went on with a semblance of functionality and I went through many chapters in my life and I landed on one strange but and lightning chapter which I locate my adult life. So the year was 2012 and I met designer
the fashion designer. I was a full-time prostitute at the time and he asked me to do a fashion shoot for his campaign. No, I was reluctant to say the least and I remember I had this conversation with my sister and I told her about the ridiculous Prospect of me being a model what she said in 10. She said, you know, I don't understand why you think this is such a ridiculous idea. Do you know how many prescriptions you could change using the tassel now? I was unaware at the time that she was actually giving me a mission
statement for the way that I was about to do. But anyway, I was out of pads and during our meeting I give him the most matter-of-fact legal voice that was loaded with years of institutional. I will do the watch links thing provided that we represent albinism in a positive way. No, I was about to embark on a journey. That would show me what an oversimplification that statement actually was. So I completed my project with cat and I actually had fun doing the shoot.
But the interest that the project generated from different industry chairs with help me quickly understand that this is not going to be an easy journey. I have this amazing shoot with folks Life magazine and actually documented a decision. That would be a whole division in my career. And that was to present my eyebrows and eyelashes as pale believe it or not. I had always always always out of my appearance by Dokken in my eyebrows and eyelashes on the first just how I presented my beauty to the world and to Magnolia Community. The image
of black albinism was usually not celebrated in which lobe of beauty culture associated with beauty accompanied with a lot of self-doubt. So the shoes ended but my decision has met with some resistance from industry corridors when I pursued my new appearance, the behind-the-scenes advice when something like this. But you have to put on mascara on your lashes and back in your browser of your face is going to disappear sweetie how to do a done with your makeup.
Did you forget your eyebrows? Another odd thing was I was just trying to look like myself. I was trying to embrace the unique characteristics that half a million people across the world are born with me look for it. know what the upcoming new world of diversity old ideas still participate in the dominant culture and I started feeling like I was unnecessarily choosing the route. Albinism was not the only representation that affected me. Because race gender and Nation
would also remind me of their representation in media black people women and African. I still warding off the impact of harmful representation in media that they didn't even have a full control over and the representation expressed itself and exploitative representation objectification and misrepresentation to communicate and social inferiority. Albinism my blackness my Womanhood and my African nurse would make the questions of who I represent my body attractive scenarios that reminded me consistently that I carry more than just one identity.
My in front of the camera image was usually accomplished after maneuvering micro questions and stereotypes not just about albinism, but about race gender and Nation to Now I'm going to give you a couple of examples. Race, so we would love to find you, but you wouldn't. Could we make her lips smaller? Oh, I'm sorry. I just can't work with her like this. No the new ones to text that I received were not just limited to raise because being a woman came with its own set of
challenges gender. Hi, I know that I'm asking you to do this pain late onset. relax I'm just asking you to put on poop pasty. I mean you're going to seriously have to stop being so conservative. No to be Sia female sexuality and sensuality at to be celebrated but from agency and his sovereignty expectation or obligation. next Africa Could you tell us about the albino killings in Africa? What are some of the superstitions albino Africans have about albino? Oh, could you let us know
about the most frightening experience in your country? Mount I would read about Africa's if it has one face country not a continent with complexity and variation. I was consistently asked to confirm the same narrative indiscriminately without much context given needed albinism awareness was being invaded by an Angel ring stereotype of what Africa is singularity understood to be a place of fear, violent struggle and Witchcraft overlooking balancing narratives about family community progress and
culture. I felt as though the environment was closing in on me and that it was not ready to receive or adapt to different not in content or inform. I felt like there were just too many stereotypes to juggle two met prejudices to counter too much racial and gender history that was playing out in my everyday activities in my area. Not as a black African woman with albinism my very existence attract social and political consequences and all of it. It is my world between
world in the same way. I could not just pick one doll. I cannot just pick one identity is that it is this and that The combination of a mini world is a cultural resource. And if I've learned anything from my various experiences. It is that we are a product of culture. We are a result of all the narrative and the cultural construct that are projected onto our bodies. However, we can we save these narrative and become uses of culture. No, I've learned to use my multiplicity as a capital asset.
In that I choose projects that give me various access points for Humanity through my multiple identities and I find the project that allow for consultation shed control over representation creation authenticity and allow for an embracing of multifaceted leave an undeniable Castle footprint. But most importantly they bring us closer to a narrative and cultural reform. Now the next project that I'm going to share with you. I might collaborations with all kind of like my favorite and adult now. The first one is the Audi and taggable campaign with partners with Ogilvy and the
campaign was about challenging stereotypes and singular identity math. Now that's was the award-winning and taggable campaign and the next one of the Pirelli calendar and all cost calendar that really spoke about race and representation. But also does the historical adaptation of Alice in Wonderland and the next one was the first Sheena campaign this campaign spoke about women solidarity as well as affirmations and it was called the I am all woman contain and the last one I'd like to share with you is Vogue which not only made history in
terms of albinism and representation celebrated the beauty of African fashion and luxury No. Looking back at the doll test. The Gap that I inhabited within the test reminded me that there's always a world Between Worlds. And the Unseen existence does not amount to an absent existent and the reminder manifested in a dying but informative media Journey that asserted that an absence of representation does not translate to an absence of Life of talent of perspective of complexity and of value. Know if we responsibly access one another's
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