So how does Hopa, who has just signed with New York model management, reconcile modelling with her desire to rectify the lack of inclusivity in popular media?
“My biggest challenge with modelling is not to fall into a stereotype. Prosecuting and modelling are both in the business of representation. Modelling usually implies that you are a prototype of some sort. But I went into modelling not to wear nice clothes or to become famous, but because I had a vested interest in representation,” she says. “A lot of people don’t understand that if you are a young girl and you don’t see your image anywhere… it’s difficult to understand how invisible you become in that society, that community. Your sense of belonging is not recognised.”
For Hopa, the most exciting and rewarding project she’s been involved in is appearing in the 2018 Pirelli Calendar, inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland — and which has an all-black cast, including Adwoa Aboah, Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong’o, Sean Combs, Whoopi Goldberg, and RuPaul, among others.
“I was the only cast member who was requested to write on the calendar. They felt that I was articulate enough to have a voice, and I was the most unknown person in the cast,” she says.
For the calendar shoot, Hopa says nobody asked her to look different from the way she is comfortable looking. “I love my blonde, kinky woollen curls, my pale eyebrows, and pale eyelashes. These things matter to me: they are me,” she says. “Another important thing is that I was cast not as a woman with albinism: I was just cast as me. My character could have been played by anyone. I was the Princess of Hearts — it wasn’t loaded with any kind of stereotype.”