We are thrilled to share our latest feature: South African actress and motivational speaker, Regina May Ndlovu. We chat with her about her work, the #ClimbForAlbinism campaign and the challenges of having albinism.
Who is ReginaMary? Tell us a bit about yourself and the people that have influenced you growing up.
I am a fun, kind, sweet, emotional, fairy-tale dreamer. I am an actress, activist, motivational speaker and I’ve been able to realize all of this because of God. I have been influenced by sound and images; for a young woman who was not been able to read and write for a very long time due to albinism and the discrimination as a child, I started seeking answers from life and God, I asked how is there a God but I’m going through all of this? I one day lost it and said to Him; how dare you create me, how will I be able to get to know you if I can’t read the Bible? You took away my ability to read. You are the reason I am all this. A day after this my cousin gave me a gift; an audio Bible, so I was able to listen – and this felt like a sign that life isn’t always one way, I cannot read or write, but I can hear. I started using movies and subtitles to teach myself, I used sound and music videos, I listened to motivational speakers and to people like Maya Angelou who was my greatest influence because I used to be ashamed to stand and tell people I was raped, molested and kidnapped, but listening to her story gave me the courage to share mine.
I was also influenced by the movie ‘Long Walk to Freedom’. My inability to read and write meant I couldn’t participate in class discussions around our country’s history because a lot had to be read – but watching the movie gave me a new perspective. Looking at my past; being discriminated, being raped, being kidnapped, being molested, being locked up in a mental institution attempting 11 suicides – I thought, “Oh my God, I need people to care for me, I need them to love me because…because…”, but I realized that our history shows us that we are a product of teaching what love is about.
I was also influenced by the media; I’ve always wanted to be an actress but I was told to my face that there are no albinos in the industry, they didn’t even know the correct word to use. But seeing other young women with albinism in the media industry doing amazing things inspired me a lot.
What inspired you to do the work you do, as a motivational speaker, actress and activist, and what has this journey taught you?
What has motivated me are all the things I’ve been through. I was raped when I was 8 years old, then molested by my teacher at age 12, then I couldn’t read and write because my primary school teacher said I didn’t belong in a classroom. I had low self-esteem and I was constantly told to my face that I am a waste of time. This journey became all-consuming. I focused so much on what I wasn’t until I realized it’s all about how I decide my story should end.
Tell us a bit about the #ClimbForAlbinism initiative you’re a part of, what is the message you’re trying to send out?
#ClimbForAlbinism is 6 women with albinism from 6 different countries taking this journey (summit Mount Kilimanjaro) to express how we have overcome the struggles we’ve gone through and amplify our voices using this platform. When I saw the poster for the campaign, I saw a vision of persons with albinism being unified, being independent, to know they are capable. Albinism – for a long time – has not been reflected in a positive light, this campaign allows us to do that.
What are you hoping young people with albinism take away from your story?
I hope they go out there and use their imaginations. I hope they look at what other people who inspire them are doing and take from that. In what ways are you hoping to change the world? Be confident in who you are, ask for any assistance you need (especially accommodation related to your visual impairment). Know that you are capable. Be grateful for the life you have, and know how important it is that you are here.