Brief Profile: Sanele Xaba

by Duke Magazine

Sanele Xaba is South Africa’s first international male model with Albinism. He has used fashion as his platform to create awareness around his genetic condition, which, in Africa, has been known to lead to discrimination and even being murdered in time past. 

Sanele was born in 1994, the same year South Africa transitioned from apartheid into democracy making him a first-edition “born free”. There was so much racial controversy surrounding him while growing in his neighborhood, as a lot of people mistook his skin tone for a white boy being taken care of by a black nanny. In the light of Sanele’s upbringing at the time where racial hegemony has been subdued in South Africa, his mother enrolled him at the fee-paying majority-white Open-Air School where he was ridiculed as he “an undercover black”. Although he was acutely aware of the stares that his alabaster skin and naturally ginger hair attracted when he was out in public, he says his mother’s insistence that “I shouldn’t look on my albinism as any sort of disadvantage” enhanced his self-esteem. But with puberty, it collapsed entirely. “When you hit 13 or so, you become self-conscious and you start to want to impress people,” he says. 

Xaba wears striped top, £75, Raf Simons x Fred Perry ( Image credit: Daniel Benson/ The Observer

This form of impugn on the skin tone of Sanele had a down tone on his psychology, as he was greatly depressed and surfed his way all out to getting a melanin pigment into his skin. With all his efforts of changing his skin color brought to futility, Sanele braced himself up to faced the ridicule and mischief that has been meted on him from people by toughen up and face the bullies. The strategy which worked for him and swayed people away from verbally assaulting him. 

Xaba wears sweatshirt, £235, Yeezy, and shirt, £480, Vetements, both; cords, £255, Etudes (

To corroborate his keen determination not to be an object of bully, Sanele developed his exuberance in athletics as a championship swimmer, and which enabled him to be able to socialize with a high-esteem already in stock. Sanele’s journey to stardom began at age 15 when he met a model scout who persistently groomed him to the walkway of the Durban Fashion Week as a model, and which subsequently got him a cover page for local designers in South Africa. He was later given a catalog work for the fashion line giant, Adidas, at where he did GQ magazine.

As an international fashion model and brand influencer today, Sanele is assiduously working towards giving other people born with albinism the temerity needed not to live in fear of the society, but to believe in themselves.

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