Refilwe Modiselle is a model and entertainer born in Rockville, Soweto, started her modelling career at the age of 13. She is best known as South Africa’s 1st albino model and Brand Ambassador for Legit. She has been listed as one of top 15 most powerful women locally and internationally on Oprah’s Power List for 2013. A ray of sunshine that brightens up life is how she perceives herself. Check out our interview with her below.
Who is Refilwe?
Where does one even begin *giggles* On a serious note though, Refilwe is a young ambitious visionary, filled with life and love individual, who strives to fulfil her heart’s purpose & desire. I am known as SA’s first albino model, former Summer Campaign Legit Ambassador, and a being of various other creative facets.
How is life like as an individual living with albinism in SA?
My life is not drastically different to that of the next young person; I’m treated quite normally as I’ve built that culture around myself. Yes I may go through the odd difference here and there, but Refilwe is herself. I am me.
How does it feel to be the first working albino model?
I feel pretty normal, in the context that, it’s not something I’ve let go to my head. I’m humbled and grateful for the unanticipated blessing in my life. I don’t think there is anyone that wakes up and blatantly guns to be the first at something. It’s all God’s blessings that should be acknowledged, show gratitude for and taken as an achievement to build forward from.
You were a brand ambassador for Legit, how did it come about?
I was called by the agency that had the account at the time, to be informed that I had been selected as the next Legit Ambassador for the Summer Campaign. I honestly thought it was a prank and so I hung up in shock, only to find that destiny had dealt me a beautiful card.
What was your role as a brand ambassador?
As the brand ambassador my role was to stands for the brand, be a speaker and its face within the endorsement period. My responsibilities also included Inspiring young ladies to be Legit wear divas…
What are some of the highlights of your modelling career?
– Firstly being able to do my first magazine fashion spread at age of 13, when that was something quite rare!
– Secondly was doing my first runway show in 2005, for David Tlale.
– Third highlight being modelling at SA’s Fashion week for the first time in 2010 and then again Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in 2012.
– Forth being my Legit Ambassadorship and being acknowledged as the 1st albino model in SA. After 14 years of building my modelling footprints, only then was the first time South Africa, let alone Africa heard of my existence, which ended up in me being acknowledged in the UK, Jamaica, Italy, Denmark etc.
– Fifth being the international exposure that came from my accomplishment. And lastly the most recent highlight is being listed as one of 15 most powerful women locally & internationally for this year’s Oprah Power List.
How did you feel when you did your first photo shoot?
I was just an excited little girl who didn’t know what to anticipate, but as soon as I got into it and took direction from the photographer, it all felt very natural. I had the time of my life, for me I was just an excited 13 year old doing something she didn’t understand but it would one day change her life. I was just having fun back then.
Who are some of your favourite models and why?
Alek Wek, I love how she was once called ugly and names, but today stands as the first African supermodel and has built a successful career for herself. Diandra Forrest who is a US female albino model I had the pleasure of meeting and she was a beautiful soul, very quiet & down to earth. Heidi Klum she is absolutely gorgeous. Kate Moss is another personal favourite because she broke the conventions of tall models by being a short model. I’m not skyscraper tall either, lol.
What was the best advice you ever received and from who?
My mom! From my peewee days she told me to “walk tall & keep my head up”.
What do you dislike about modelling?
For one the old conventions that don’t cater to the transformation of girls to qualify as models, e.g. height. Some clients not being freely open to fully classify me as black, hahahaha. I’m not the conventional black girl, so often there’s a lot of second guessing, which I’m over.
If you were not a model, what other profession would you have ventured in?
I haven’t always been a model only, that’s what most people don’t know. I am a qualified advertising specialist by profession; I’ve worked as a Media Co-ordinator and Brand Ambassador in advertising from age 20. I have gone on to work into other sectors in media, as a new business development manager and TV production manager. I didn’t work for 3 years, and then went back to being a brand strategist and later project co-ordinator. So I’ve pretty much balanced my corporate life with the creative life. It’s only this year I took the decision to venture full time as a model and to pursue my other aspirations. I am where I should be right now and building forward.
According to reports there has been persecution of people with albinism in East Africa based on a myth that mixing muti with certain body parts of albinos give magical powers. What do you think can be done to alleviate the stigma around albinism in Africa?
Firstly its addressing the stigma that being born with albinism is a taboo by embracing the skin difference. Teaching people that it’s merely a skin condition not a definitive of myths and perceptions that are put out there. Secondly I feel that in general, media has a huge role to play in portraying people with albinism positively as the average Joe, hence also allowing us to be depicted among people normally. Establish an association that registers us as the ordinary person not to be sidelined in various spheres.
What message would you give to people living with albinism?
Not only to people living with albinism but anybody who feels their flaws are a hindrance from living life fully. You are not your skin, so why feel sorry for yourself or allow other people to make you feel any less than the power that created you, being God. Love who you are and utilise your gifts.
What are you currently working on and where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
I’m modelling, kicking off my singing career as a solo artist and not a backing vocalist like I was previously. I am exploring the acting world; preparing to work on a film called Tell Me Sweet Something, with renowned filmmaker Akin Omotoso.
Building my portfolio as a motivational speaker, I am doing some MC work and I am a voice over artist as well, and the list could goes on. But in short, I am focused on building myself as a world brand that will leave a legacy and give inspiration where I can. And in 5 years I’ll be where my Maker wants me to be but definitely breaking more bounds.
If your house was burning down, what are the three things you would save?
My iPad, make up collection, and family album.
Where do you generally shop?
I shop anywhere where I’d spot something I like regardless of where it’s from. For me it’s about how something looks on one, not where it’s from.
Who is your celebrity crush?
Locally I don’t really have one, internationally it’s Boris Kojo and Idris Alba
Does Refilwe have a love life?
Hahahaaa I’ll reserve my comment on that one.
What was the worst pick up line you ever heard?
Is your father a terrorist….? Cause I swear you’re the bomb.
How can people get in touch with you (facebook, twitter, website and etc)?
FB Fanpage: Refilwe Vanillablaq Modiselle
Model Bookings: Star Model Management
MC , Speaker, Voice over artist bookings, Business inquiries: email@example.com