We are so excited to finally have shot this campaign which has been in the works since the start of 2020! Alas 2020 had plans of its own – from the bushfire disaster, to talks of a virus that quickly swept the world over and the social injustices which further set in motion the Black Lives Matter movement and protests across the world. There’s no doubt that our generation has never witnessed a pandemic of sorts like this before!
After such a pandemonium of a year it was great to get the creative team together and shoot our new Spring Summer 2020/21 campaign. This campaign is very significant and dear to us and it celebrates the beauty of diversity. Not just diversity of culture but challenging the perception of beauty and what is beautiful.
Our campaign headliner Weah Bangura, being of African descent, was born with the congenital disorder – albinism. This leads to causes like pigmented white skin, blond hair, sensitivity to bright light and the sun, as well as blurry vision and erratic eyeball movements. Even though models like Shaun Ross, Diandra Forrest, Winnie Harlow have made skin issues like albinism & vitiligo much more accepted in mainstream media, growing up with these skin disorders is a whole different story!
To that end, we sat down and chatted with Weah a little bit about growing up with albinism.
Q: So Weah, tell us a little bit about yourself, man.
A: Well my name is Weah, hahaha, and I’m 23 years old. I was born in Africa; I’m half Sierra Leonean & Liberian, and I moved across to Sydney in 2003. I’m a model and an aspiring actor, have hazel eyes and blonde hair…. and I was born with albinism.
Q: How was it like growing up with albinism as a kid?
A: Growing up with albinism was quite difficult for both my mom & I. Being a kid bursting with energy, I was limited to what I could do and how long I could be outside each day. You can imagine how hard that was for a kid. I didn’t understand why I had to go through this and it felt like I was locked up in prison at home most days. I was only allowed to play one hour a day, and the rest of the day was me looking out the window watching other kids. I remember looking out every day wishing I wasn’t born this way.
On top of that the bullying and teasing of being different than all my darker skin peers. Kids can’t accept differences especially when you look so different and don’t fit into norms.
Looking back now I know everything happened for a reason. My mom really helped me get use to taking care of myself and how I would live with albinism for the rest of my life. She really sheltered me from a lot of harshness and also witch doctors in Africa who prey on albino children.
Q: What are the symptoms that you face on the daily?
A: I don’t really face a lot of symptoms per say, but I just have to be careful of the sun on the daily. My vision is also not its best, but I can get around and do the things I need to do with no problems.
Q: How have you embraced albinism today?
A: It actually took me a long time to embrace my albinism. It was not till I hit the later part of my teenage life that I started to embrace the idea of being different and accept myself for it. I realised that being different and rare was meant to be my calling. I was born to stand out and inspire others who were born like me too. I see it as a blessing and I don’t let anyone come in my way for it!
Q: What are the challenges you face as a model in this industry?
A: I faced and continue to face a lot of challenges in the modelling industry in Australia being an albino model. Agencies find it very hard to represent me and I am continually told that there is no market for me here. I just take it in my stride and do what I need to do! I work with clients that embrace my look and hire me for what I bring to the table. The drip is real!
Q: How was it like being a part of this Mr. Fierze campaign?
A: I was approached by Joel, director of Mr. Fierze, on the street out one night for modelling! Not only did he tell me that I was perfect for his campaign, but he mentioned that he was born with vitiligo which is a milder form of albinism. So, the correlation was perfect. I knew then that we would be creating magic in the future! In fact, I have always wanted to tick a suiting campaign off my list, and what better brand to work for than a stylish boundary pushing brand like Mr. Fierze. I actually never thought I could pull suits off, but from very early on Joel told me that I was perfect for it. I am so happy with how this campaign turned out and I am forever grateful for Joel and the team for taking a chance on me.
Q: What does the future look like for Weah?
A: It’s looking hot! I have a few clients on my books, and will be an ambassador for Mr. Fierze now too after this shoot. I am in the works of moving to the US for more work – so watch this space!