By Nomali Cele
Thando Hopa, the international model and activist, joined Tbose Mokwele for an in-depth conversation. They covered her life, work and the tunes that soundtracked her life. The 2 May show of The Best T In The City was themed ”Not Like Other Kids” and Hopa, who has albinism, was candid in sharing her experiences of growing up different.
The former prosecutor grew up wanting to act and her father wanted her to be an accountant, she eventually went on to study law. Her career took her into prosecution working for the NPA, which would be her gateway into activism. At one point, Hopa specialised in prosecuting the NPA’s sexual offenses.
Thando Hopa on her childhood
“I was the only not-pigmented person!” Thando Hopa said of her childhood in Lenasia with a laugh
On the question of whether she knew she was “Not Like Other Kids”, Hopa told Tbose that she didn’t realise she looked different, even to her parents. She also didn’t realise some people might not like her for her difference.
Going to school was a shock. Having come to school not wearing her school uniform, Thando Hopa told Tbose that in her child mind, she thought that’s why the other children were not treating her well. But she soon realised that wasn’t the case.
Back at home, her parents still gave her the same reassurance and praise she’d always known from them as she figured out her place in the bigger world. “Both my parents have affirmed my existence, [but] they can’t control what happens outside,” she told Tbose.
Her modelling career
Thando Hopa’s international modelling career began in the mid-2010s after her sister suggested it. As a result, she is one of the most prominent African models today. One of her big came when she was cast in the 2018 Pirelli calendar. It featured an all-black line up of faces (including entertainment legend Whoopi Goldberg, actor Lupita Nyong’o, model Naomi Campbell and more). Her inclusion was a powerful statement on the different hues of blackness. The Perilli calendar was styled by now-British Vogue editor-in-chief, Edward Enninful.
In April, Hopa’s career hit a new milestone as she was on the cover of Vogue Portugal. When the cover came out, Hopa wrote on her Instagram, “I once said to a close friend that it would really be lovely to see a woman with albinism on a Vogue Cover, I would not have imagined that that woman would be me.”
Listen to Tbose’s conversation with Thando Hopa below.