10 Jul In Conversation with Best Actress Winner at the African Film Festival Refilwe Modiselle
- Is the first South African Model and Personality with albinism
- Won Best Actress Award in her acting debut
- The film “White Gold” deals with the mutilation and killing of people living with albinism in South Africa
- Refilwe breaks down the changing aesthetics of understanding “beauty”
Congratulations on your win. How did your involvement in this project begin? Walk us through encountering the script, to being cast.
Thank you, it’s an honour to achieve this milestone and, to my knowledge, be the only actress with albinism to receive this international award.
I received the script via my agent, who is cognisant of the work that I’m interested in and not the stereotypical archetype of how albinism issues are usually portrayed. I read the script and decided to commit my all to this heart-wrenching story and my audition was submitted to the UK-based producers, film maker and director. I received the good news that they loved my tape and were even more ecstatic after receiving my full profile to on board me to play “Mansa”.
Describe your personal investment in the role, a person living with reality of albinism in a country where mutilation, traditional rituals & brutal killing is still a reality?
Beyond my role as the lead, I also contributed insights as a person living with albinism in South Africa, for instance, telling Luke the director that referring to someone with albinism as albino is a derogatory term. We had to find ways of rectifying that, even to the extent that it translated in the script and the story. There were many indepth conversations about the dynamics of albinism and the experiences of those living with it in both South Africa and world-wide, down to physical attributes and mental and emotional differences. Much was explored to make the story work. Personally it touched on my activism work and of me sending a message about who I am through stories that are not heard.
White Gold Trailer
What lessons did you take away as an actress from this project?
Apart from the film winning an award and me being the best actress award, the real lesson was in continuing to believe in myself – that nothing is impossible. To be proud of how my performance was received. Being blessed with God-given talent and guided to this moment.
As the first South African model with albinism, what is your view on the changing global conversation on how beauty is defined, considering that you are a black woman, with a light skin, represented in the beauty and fashion industry?
It’s an ongoing conversation, as society has to unlearn what it has always led people to believe. Typically this is from a European standard of aesthetics. People were made to believe that beauty is really one thing, whereas beauty has many layers and representations. I do think there is an awakening, as people like myself begin to speak out and start having these conversations around these narratives. Change takes time and that is a reality. I’m just grateful to be a catalyst for that change in whatever humble way that may be. My goal is that new generations learn to love themselves , devoid of unrealistic, often damaging expectations.
Do you feel the world is catching up fast enough? As in the availability and access of skin care and make-up products for women with Albinism?
The world is aware, but I think the action is quite slow. People with albinism are seen as a minority, and many companies see to their mass markets first before they even look at a “niche”. It’s a slow work in progress.
You are at the forefront of changing perceptions of people and especially women who live with albinism in South Africa and the African continent. As you continue to break barriers and achieve success, what is your message to young girls with albinism?
My message is not just to women with albinism, but to people at large who have been made to feel that the need to conform to a societal standard, or norm. I say live your life to the fullest. No one is going to live out your purpose for you. We need to be cognisant of the circumstances that prevent us from becoming the people we need to be. Live your life to the Godly purpose given to you and for you. Just live, love, put in the hard work and be the best possible soul you can be. To society, a renewed sense of respect needs to be adopted regardless of ethnicity, colour, creed or religion.