Monday, 29 October 2012

Albino Models Seek To Revolutionize Beauty As We Know It

ALBINISM: Albinism is an inherited condition in which a person lacks the usual amount of the pigment melanin, which is the substance that gives color to skin, hair, and eyes. They face day-to-day health issues. But in some parts of Africa they have more problems to contend with than mere health challenges.

Sometimes as family members look on in horror, groups of machete-wielding men have chopped off the legs, heads, and genitals of albinos. Among the dead: a seven-month-old baby, a cassava farmer with two children, and a child murdered by his own father, according to reports by the BBC.  The brutal killings — 40 since 2007 — are fueled by rumors that albino blood, skin, and hair have magical powers. People are actually weaving albino hair into their fishing nets and fashioning amulets with albino body parts, hoping that these devices will bring them riches.
But several people who live with this condition have decided that they would strike back, because they didn’t ask to be born that way, they have decided to stand out even more. Those atrocities and the persistent discrimination have galvanized people around the world with albinism to organize and become more active and vocal in combating the discrimination and negative stereotyping they face, like Canadian albino Peter Ash, who founded Under the Same Sun, an albinism advocacy organization aimed at shaming the Tanzanian government into stopping the murders.
In Tanzania people with albinism are being attacked, killed or mutilated by witch doctors who believe that their organs or potions made from them can bring luck or cure disease.
In Zimbabwe people with albinism are reportedly being raped by those who believe that sexual intercourse with them can cure HIV/AIDS.
Around one person in 17,000 is born with the genetic disorder, which can also cause blindness. Diandra Forrest knows all too well about that. She was teased, taunted and had her ethnic background questioned while growing up in the boogie down Bronx. With a complete lack of pigment in her hair or skin, the New Yorker who grew up in the city’s mainly black Bronx community is used to sticking out a mile. But she knows that her presence at Africa Fashion Week has a much greater significance than just challenging ideas of what is beautiful.
Diandra Forrest
Thanks to Melissa Reed, her sixth-grade teacher who was also an African-American with albinism, the future model began to undergo a transformation from a shy, quiet child too afraid to speak up to an outgoing young woman unafraid to speak her mind and pursue her dreams.

Diandra Forrest
She’s signed with the prestigious Ford Models in Paris after initially starting her career with Elite.
“I’m a model, but I’m not a model just because I’m albino,” she said. “I have the look, the body and it’s just something that I’ve strived for, that I’ve always wanted to do.” “It matters a lot to me to be here, because I want to change the way people see girls with albinism on the continent,” she told BBC.

“I thought I had it so tough when I was growing up, with kids making fun of me all the time. I used to come home in tears,” she recalls. ”But that’s nothing compared to what people like me go through here, particularly in rural areas.
Refilwe Modiselle, South African model with albinism who grew up in Soweto, agrees.
Refilwe Modiselle – Africa’s first working model
Modelling since the age of 13, she is now the face of the South African fashion chain Legit and tells me albinism used to be viewed negatively but is now becoming more “mainstream”. ”I really feel that the work Diandra and I are doing is the beginning of a real change,” she says.
We cannot be quiet, we cannot stay hidden. ”And any girl with albinism who is walking on an international catwalk or even the street with her head held high is a much-needed role model.”
Ms Modiselle hopes she can be that catalyst for inspiration for the often racially divided society in South Africa and the continent as a whole.
“I’m the symbol of racial unity. I’m a black girl who lives in the skin of a white person and that alone should embody what a human being as a whole should represent. ”I’d like to be known as a model, and for all my other achievements, not for being albino.

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