Vogue Portugal cover breaks multiple barriers for Thando Hopa

By Amanda Maliba Time of article published Apr 7, 2019

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Thando Hopa continues to be a beacon of hope as an activist who breaks down barriers.

The model, who has albinism, has recently graced the April Vogue Portugal cover, alongside supermodel Alek Wek in an edition dubbed the ‘Africa Motherland’ edition which focused on African diversity and the continent’s luxury.

The Vogue cover aims to unveil the truth about African history and our diverse cultures that carry so much luxury and celebrate the birthplace of humankind, “scientifically speaking”, Hopa said.

Featuring on the cover of Vogue magazine is an achievement she never imagined attainable.

“First there was my geographical location, being in SA, and also because as a woman with albinism there has been no representation on any Vogue magazine until this cover.

“I didn’t believe it nor take it seriously at first, but when they assembled a team to come to where I was, I then realised what it meant. It is overwhelming because we have never seen a woman with albinism on a Vogue cover.

“But also just being a woman of colour and South African, it is so rare that I can’t even tell you at least in recent history who was on a Vogue cover.”

Hopa said the cover was about inclusion - a message that applies to us all. “So as an activist, I just felt that my body is a template because I stand for so many people. I stand for women with albinism, I stand for women of colour based in Africa, in South Africa, meaning I carry multiple identities.

“And carrying multiple identities, this then feels like we are breaking multiple barriers and that speaks to the progress that we are making.”

Hopa’s activism and modelling career started by chance.

After her professional career as a prosecutor who later advanced to working with sexual offence cases, she was scouted by local designer Gert-Johan Coetzee and thus began her career as a model.

She was the first South African woman to appear in the Pirelli Calendar and the first local ambassador for Vichy Capital Soleil.

“These firsts are just a by-product as I had a particular purpose that I had to continuously refine and understand better.

“I focused on the purpose and everything else just fell into place. I knew that the platforms that I go into will highlight things like inclusion and equal opportunities as projects I will focus on.”

Though not a first, Hopa was the only South African on the BBC Top 100 inspirational and influential women in 2018 list.

As a representative of African women on this cover, she said she has learnt that our diversity is more about cognitive diversity than surface level diversity. “Cognitive diversity speaks to our cultural experience or religious experiences, all of which are intertwined with where we are born. All those differences make our stories valid. They are valid because as individuals, they combine our uniqueness and authenticity that we can then use as currency,” she said.

Hopa is also part of the Beauty Revolution Festival, hosting a variety of panelists over two days, with the finalé at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg.

“The festival is the first of its kind and aims to celebrate women and infuse an inclusive culture of beauty as a viable business option.

“I will be hosting the panel and I get to speak to people like Pearl Thusi, Zanele Kumalo - the editor of W24 among others. As fun as the festival is, it needs to ask questions that create a revolution and a change in terms of the culture that has excluded us for such a long time,” she said.

And what does Africa mean to her?

“How our bodies are coloured gives you a story, where our bodies are born gives you a story. And for me Africa is a story that in essence my identity.

“I understand what we consider race, or nationality is really a product of imagination. But it is a collective identity and part of my story.”


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