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SA albino model's success story

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iol tonight pic ss albino model Refilwe


Refilwe Modiselle poses for a picture at Hyde Park Hotel after her interview with Saturday Star. The 27-year-old model from Orange Groove is taking a break from work and will be going to United Kingdom on 21st December for a holiday. Picture: Sharon Seretlo

Johannesburg - South Africa’s first albino model, Refilwe Modiselle, 27, is hoping to have a white Christmas in the UK this year.

It will be the cherry on top of a fantastic, successful year for the model.

From modelling campaigns, demanding photo shoots, fashion shows and co-hosting a lifestyle talk show, Modiselle is proof that hard work gets you everywhere regardless of who you are or the colour of your skin.

The model, singer and socialite is set to leave for Cambridge today and will spend quality time with friends she has connected with on social networks.

“This will be the first Christmas I spend out of the country and away from my family. I worked hard this year and I’m looking forward to taking time out, relaxing and sightseeing,” she said.

When she was young, Christmas was the time she cherished the most with her now late father.

Growing up as the eldest of three girls, Modiselle said she not only struggled with her albinism and jeers from her peers, but also faced normal challenges.


“Imagine losing a father at the age of 11, not being able to enrol at a university because you don’t have money. Watching your mother single-handedly raising you and your siblings, finding work and becoming a breadwinner.

“Being retrenched from a cellphone company at 23, that’s what really hurt me,” she said.

But by putting God first in all she did, Modiselle developed a thick skin.

While entertainment and modelling agencies were resistant to take her on board, Modiselle worked hard, performing as a back-up vocalist for singer KB and rapper Zubz.

Today many admire her for her resilience. She and Nigerian supermodel Diandra Forrest are regarded as two of the most successful models from Africa. Her all-time favourite model though is South Sudanese-born Alex Wek.

“When they called her ugly she went out to prove them wrong. She is one of the greatest models to have emerged out of Africa.”

Modiselle receives letters from young albino girls she has inspired. “Many tell me they want to be like me. I stop them immediately. My job is to encourage people to draw inspiration from my work.”


She refuses to be seen as anything but a normal person.

“I urge people to understand that I’m not an albinism activist. I’m not where I am today because someone felt sorry for me. It was all through hard work,” she said.

With her birthday on January 2 she plans on partying hard in Cambridge.

On her return next year Modiselle plans to resume work on her first movie, Tell Me Sweet Something, directed by Akin Omotoso, and will continue with her talk show and motivational talks.

“This is just the beginning for me,” she said.

Saturday Star

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