Albino Model Takes South Africa By Storm

Abena Agyeman-Fisher October 03, 2014

Refilwe Modiselle Refilwe Modiselle (pictured) has walked the runway and nabbed a number of fashion spreads in top magazines in South Africa. But Modiselle isn’t just like any other model; she is an albino, which makes her success all the more impressive.

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When Modiselle isn’t donning designer clothes for her fashion spots, she is a talk show host on “Ekse: Let’s Talk with Masechaba Lekalake.”

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But her rise to fame, hasn’t been an easy one. Modeling is infamously known for being a hard industry to crack due to its recruitment of models based on predetermined heights, look, and weight.

Still, when Modiselle was only 13 years old, she was solicited for a five-page fashion spread for a youth magazine, and from there, she was hooked.

Refilwe Modiselle

Modiselle wouldn’t model again until she was in college, but she credits her success to her tight-knit family who gave her a solid foundation in the face of constant questioning about her Albinism.

In addition, Modiselle had to overcome the many obstacles associated with South Africa and its shadow of Apartheid, which also made her particular path even more challenging.

Modiselle explains, “South Africa has a history of Apartheid, where race is such a big segregation. How do you then place yourself? You are a girl who is born in a black society: the township. And now you have to fit into a world where, you’re told: this is Black, this is Shite and you’re in a country that is constantly fighting these aspects. It’s something that is not easy because people try and place you and identify you in a specific way.”

Due to her upbringing, it was long, though, before Modiselle became comfortable fielding questions about both her identity and her skin color. And so by the time she officially entered the modeling industry, she was able to confidently promote herself.

“You’re told that a Black child should be brown-skinned, but what do you then call a girl like myself? I’m not tall either. But there I was modeling with the likes of your Adiambo’s, your famous models that have really done well.”

Modiselle knew she had arrived once she began modeling for Mercedes Benz Africa Fashion Week.


About her success, she says, “I was defying everything about what society says defines a model. I’m basically saying ‘OK, let’s teach our kids a different definition of beauty, or a definition that’s always been there but has just always been disregarded.”

And as she also continues to become a face  of South Africa, she looks forward to creating a legacy that she can be proud of, “I will teach through the things that I do. (My) plan for the future is just to grow myself as a brand and as an entity: to touch the world in different places and to be able to be a huge representative for Africa.”

Watch Modiselle’s life story here:

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Last Edited by:Abena Agyeman-Fisher Updated: March 25, 2016


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