… Shares his journey from discrimination to fame
By Jeoffrey Mukubi
TOVE Jeomba Kangotue is a 22-year-old University of Namibia (Unam) Media Studies student, who has risen through the ranks to become one of the country’s most sought-after male models.
Despite being born with albinism, as the youngest of 12 siblings, Tove says he has always been showered with love and acceptance by his family, and that this ultimately made him into the man he is today.
The energetic, outspoken and caustically sarcastic young man says he has developed a thick skin over the years, after facing prejudice from his peers from a very young age, because of his albinism.
He said that many of his fellow learners at primary and secondary school wanted nothing to do with him.
Albinism is still profoundly misunderstood, both socially and medically, but can best be described as a congenital disorder that is characterised by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes. This lack of skin pigmentation makes one more susceptible to sunburn and skin cancers.
The physical appearance of people with albinism is often the object of erroneous beliefs and myths influenced by superstition, which foster their marginalisation and social exclusion. This leads to various forms of stigma and discrimination.
Albinism is a genetically inherited condition, which is very rare, and worldwide, affects approximately one in 20 000 people.
Although rare in the Western world, albinism is quite common in sub-Saharan Africa, likely as a result of consanguinity, which relates to or denotes people descended from the same ancestor.
Both parents, who may or may not be albinos themselves, must carry the gene if it is to be passed on to the child.
Tove said he has never blamed people for misunderstanding his condition.
“Many of my peers did not want anything to do with me, because of my condition. I never blamed them, it is just what they were taught by society,” he told Confidente during an interview recently.
Tove, who considers himself a charmer, said that many people have ended up accepting and respecting him, once they have gotten to know him better.
The young model thanked his older sister for constantly keeping him grounded, while telling him to apply sunscreen and wear a hat, when he played outside as a child.
“My older sister would always remind me that I was different and special, and that I was meant for great things,” he said.
His modelling journey began in 2014, when he was walking around on the Unam campus, and a fourth-year fashion student asked him if he would be interested in modelling a garment at the university’s fashion show that year.
Ever since then, he has been gracing fashion events in Namibia, and has worn designer clothes made by many top local designers.
Tove has also been nominated in the Favourite Male Model category of the upcoming Simply You Magazine Fashion and Lifestyle Awards, which will take place on 2 September at the National Theatre of Namibia (NTN).
“Being nominated was such a surprise, because I thought there were better people doing bigger things than I was, but as the days passed, it has helped me see how much of an impact I have on people’s lives,” Tove said.
He said he is inspired by the positive responses, when people see his professional photographs, or when they see him act, sing or walk the runway.
Tove does not seem to have limit to his talents, and relishes the challenge of etching his distinctive look onto the stages and runways of the country.
“I haven’t had many challenges while modelling, because the industry looks for people with great personalities, as well as distinctive looks and memorable runway walking skills. I can safely say that I possess those attributes,” he said
Tove also told the Confidente that he loves life and the people that cross his path.
“I spend time with old time friends, who have been there and loved me – that’s my comfort zone. Other than that, I listen to music. I enjoy meeting new people, undertaking adventures to new places, and constantly involving myself with the arts, whether it’s dance, music, poetry or drama.”
Tove says he chose Media Studies, because he feels that the media has the power to change perspectives, and build the minds of future leaders.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015