Johannesburg – The new year promises great opportunities for supermodel and albinism activist Thando Hopa, who has been selected as one of three global change-makers to address delegates at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, this week.
Hopa was hand-picked to be a part of WEF’s newly launched programme, the New Narratives Lab – which aims to bring under-represented narratives in society – alongside Azerbaijan photographer Rena Effendi and Kenyan film-maker and author Wanuri Kahiu.
The supermodel gained prominence with her advocacy work, which aims to inspire inclusion and representation for people living with albinism.
In 2019, Hopa became the first model living with albinism to grace the cover of Vogue Portugal, an accolade that not only broke barriers, according to her, but also emphasised the importance of inclusion and representation – a topic that will form the backdrop of her talk, titled “The Beauty of Inclusion”.
She said being the only South African selected to join the programme is a big responsibility and that she hopes to use the platform to get her message out clearly “because a platform like that is not easy to come by”.
“I think as the global community we have gotten to a point where inclusion is a necessity and won’t be able to survive with the cultural constructs that we had before,” she said, explaining that these constructs perpetuate exclusion whether in terms of race, gender or disability.
“The resistance has, through generations, become so powerful that the only way we can survive as a society is by redesigning the cultural constructs to be more inclusive,” she added.
As part of the year-long programme, Hopa will be mentored by and work alongside renowned singer and songwriter Angelique Kidjo. The pair jointly developed a curriculum that will empower Hopa with skills that will advance her advocacy work.
She said the New Narratives Lab was just the beginning of her work.
Reflecting on her own journey, she said she believes that society has achieved a significant shift.
Careful not to use her personal experience as a standard while multitudes of people living with albinism continue to be rejected, persecuted and even killed in their communities for being different, she said there was a lot to be done. “When I started in 2012, I remember that most of the media headlines would only describe me as an Albino model and nothing else, not even use my name for about three to four years. “But I have seen a significant shift that I believe will pave the way for future industry players who will find an environment that’s ready to receive them.
“WEF is truly a reaffirming opportunity, a confirmation that the work that one has been doing over the years is not falling on deaf ears. I am still in awe of how far my modelling career has expanded and has also raised me to such a platform,” she added.
Hopa’s talk will take place on Wednesday, 5.15pm to 5.45pm South African time.