It was important to be cast as a black woman: Thando Hopa on Pirelli calendar

The beauty is making strides as the first black South African model to be featured in one of Pirelli's iconic calendars

30 July 2017 - 00:00 By NOTHEMBA MKHONDO
Lawyer, model and activist Thando Hopa.
Lawyer, model and activist Thando Hopa.
Image: NICK BOULTON

As a lawyer, a model and activist, you're a woman of many hats. Tell us about your journey so far.

I started off as a prosecutor and during this time I was scouted by Gert-Johan Coetzee. I juggled both professions for four years.

Then I eventually took a sabbatical from law to pursue my interest in the arts. At that point it felt like a new world began.

You've been Coetzee's muse for years. What does your relationship entail?

We've come a long way from the sceptical young lawyer who sat on his couch five years ago.

He's become a very dear friend of mine. I don't work with Gert as a model, I work with him as Thando. That alone shifts the dynamics in our relationship.

Our work is a collaboration, he appreciates my voice and I appreciate his.

What was it like working with famed  Vogue photographer Tim Walker on the Alice in Wonderland-inspired Pirelli calendar?

He was considerate and engaging to everyone at all times. Tim and I sat and spoke a lot about the project. I feel we understood one another and he spoke as though he can already see the world he wanted to create. This made his set feel light, never intimidating, just a beautiful creative space.

What were you wearing for your shot? Who was the designer?

It was styled by Edward Enninful, the new editor-in-chief of British Vogue. The dresses I wore were Elizabethan, quite "princessy", with a touch of creative licence here and there.

What was it like working alongside the stellar line-up of people in next year's calendar?

Every star had a unique trait about them that was captivating. For me, the humility Whoopi Goldberg showed to everyone around her, including me, made me look up to her even more.

The calendar has a cast of black women and men. What does this say, and what did it mean to you to be part of it?

I think the use of race was symbolic of the bigger picture. It was to break the barriers of image monopolies. The calendar's message was a call for diversity.

Alice is a fictional character and Wonderland is a fictional world. There's no reason for her or the other characters to only be represented in one way. Fiction represents possibilities and possibilities belong to anyone.

In stories there needs to be a greater level of representation, we shouldn't limit certain images to stereotypical roles and narratives.

On a personal level, it was important to be cast as a "black" woman who played the Princess of Hearts. I think it's a move towards inclusivity.

WATCH: A behind-the-scenes look at the Alice in Wonderland-inspired Pirelli calendar shoot 

ANC Conference 2017
X