The first Mr. and Miss Albinism were crowned in Nairobi.
Recently, GOOD reported on Senegalese model, Khoudia Diop, who overcame being bullied for her dark complexion to become a successful model. Her features were so distinct she was chosen as a stunning example of black beauty for The Colored Girl Project. Now, Kenyans with albinism have found a powerful way to celebrate their unique beauty while working to reverse a deadly stigma.
Last month in Nairobi, Kenya, ten female and ten male contestants competed in the Skin Beyond Skin Beauty Pageant. The first event of its kind attracted over 1,000 spectators to watch contestants from all over the country compete for the title of Mister and Miss Albinism. Albinism is a genetic disorder affecting over 15,000 Sub-Saharan Africans which leaves their hair, skin, and eyes without pigment.
“For so long albinos have been treated as half-humans because they [are] different. In turn this has affected our self-esteem and the ability to utilize and explore our skills and talents,”Loyce Lihanda, Miss Albinism Kenya, said. “We come from a mentality that we cannot achieve what normal people can because we are different. Yet time has proven that we can excel.”
In addition to showcasing their beauty, contestants dressed up as army officers, police officers and waiters to prove that albinos belong in all aspects of society. Their acceptance into the mainstream is important because of the deadly stigmas attached to people with albinism. Throughout Africa, albinos are hunted for their hair and body parts to be used in witchcraft ceremonies, forcing many into lives of seclusion. This persecution is so severe that the albino population of Malawi faces total extinction.