These Individuals Are Challenging Society's Perception of Beauty


The face of beauty is evolving and since the zeitgeist is allowing for the democratisation of information and perceptions of what is beautiful is not imposed by conditioned standards of beauty. Though there is still progress to be made, we need to continually celebrate those who are at the forefront of presenting an idiosyncratic and much needed broader perspective of what is deemed beautiful. Here's a list of individuals who are challenging perspectives of beauty and paving the way whilst empowering others to embrace their uniqueness.

© Justin Dingwall

Moostapha Saidi Moostapha is a Johannesburg based model and frequent collaborator with photographer Justin Dingwall, the duo have collaborated on photo series titled “A Seat at the Table" which was informed by Saidi’s experiences living with the skin condition vitiligo. Speaking to Colossal Justin Dingwall says, "the series aims to start conversations about preconceived ideas and perceptions based on appearance, and how what we see affects what we think.” Through visual storytelling and his modelling work, Moostapha is expressing a clear message and the message is; I am a beautiful work of art and I will not let society tell me otherwise.

© Justin Dingwall

Thando Hopa The acclaimed model, lawyer and activist recently landed the cover of Vogue Portugal, a historic moment as the first person with albinism to land a Vogue cover. She entered the fashion industry in 2012 after being scouted by designer Gert-Johan Coetzee and since then she has received numerous accolades which have allowed her to not only be a spokesperson and representative for people with albinism but to also pave the way for up and coming models who look like her. In an interview with Iol Hopa says about beauty; "on a personal level, which is a level I find to be the most important, beauty is having a sense of enoughness."

© Tarryn Hatchett

Boitumelo Rametsi Soweto-born and based model and content creator Boitumelo Rametsi is the founder of Spotted Beauty, a project which originally appeared as her personal Facebook page in 2012 to raise awareness around vitiligo. For Rametsi the vitiligo started being visible at age 12, and by the time she was in varsity, it had spread throughout her body. Due to this, she found it challenging to accept it at first and had to go on a journey of self-discovery. Now that she accepted it and has discovered the beauty in it, she is using her two platforms B Glam SA and Spotted Beauty to raise awareness and subsequently has been a speaker on platforms such as Beauty Revolution to shift the perception of body and beauty ideals.

© Travis Owen

Sanele Xaba Dubbed Africa's first international male model with albinism, Sanele Xaba grew up in Durban and began his modelling career at age 15 but his journey of self acceptance wasn't an easy one since he contemplated suicide in his early teens due to being teased for his appearance. But after being scouted his perception started to change, he says in an interview with City Press , “modelling helped me to boost my humble confidence. I got to accept myself.” Xaba also says that he doesn't want to be labelled an "albino" and instead wants to be referred to as a black man. Xaba often visits schools educating the future generation about albinism.

© Elizabeth Wirija

Yvesmark Cherry Philadelphia native Yvesmark Chery also learned at a young age that being different can be misunderstood, like many who have unique qualities, he was teased at a young age for his appearance, now he has embraced being different and thus became a freelance model and an activist for people with vitiligo and has appeared in magazines like Vogue and Paper, to name a few. In a conversation with Dazed Beauty , Chery says, "being a male model with vitiligo, I can bring a new perspective. Through each photo that is captured, I plan to tell my story and send a message to others about confidence and accepting who you are."

© Bheki Mthembu

Nontobeko Mbuyazi Durban based model Nontobeko Mbuyazi has given herself the title God's masterpiece and rightfully so, since she is strikingly beautiful. The young model says she had to learn self-love because when she first joined social media she encountered cyberbullies so she became a model to spread awareness about albinism. Mbuyazi's bravery and confidence is exemplary in a world where many young people use social media to gain other people's approval, she has flipped the script and has used being misunderstood to reflect self-love and acceptance.

These are just a few individuals in a growing number who are informing society and representing fresh perspectives of beauty. And though there is still misinformation and misperceptions about albinism and vitiligo its up to us to become informed and to teach our sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, daughters and sons from a young age to embrace and not to condemn people who are different, but to recognize that different is just as beautiful.