Beauty pageants may have a reputation for not being the most inclusive events, but there are some helping to change our perceptions of beauty for the better. The first ever albinism beauty pageant was held in Kenya to help combat the stigma and abuse that those living with albinism face.
Albinism is an inherited genetic condition that causes a reduction in the amount of melanin pigment formed in the skin, hair, and/or eyes. People with albinism often face abuse, stigmas, and sometimes violence. In certain areas, those with albinism are not accepted as it is assumed their mother must have cheated on their father.
The situation is even worse for those in certain African countries where some believe those with albinism have magical powers. Their body parts are coveted on the black market where they are sold for thousands of dollars for potions. Amnesty International reports that attacks in Malawi have increased in the last two years with four people with albinism, including a baby, being murdered in April 2016 alone.
The Mr and Miss Albinism 2016 beauty pageant seeks to put an end to this.
The pageant celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Kenya Albinism Society, and was organized by Member of Parliament Isaac Mwaura, the first and only MP with albinism. He told CNN that he hoped the event would change people's perceptions about those who have albinism, saying, "We aren't pesa (money). We are human beings."
The Mr and Miss Albinism pageant celebrated 20 men and women with albinism by having them strut their stuff on the catwalk, dance, and sing. The event also crowned its first Mr and Miss Albinism Kenya, Jairus Ong'etta and Loise Lihanda.
Ong'etta won after his spoken word performance about what it was like living with albinism. He later took to Facebook thanking everyone for their support in voting for him. "I want to say THANK YOU to all who believed in me, thanks for the support. I'm honored to have won. God bless you all."
There is a long history of complicated skin color politics throughout the world, and it's not just those living with albinism that have to deal with dangerous stigmas. On the other end of the spectrum, for example, is a woman named Khoudia Diop, who was bullied for of her very dark complexion.Thankfully, we are moving toward a world of greater acceptance and now this woman has become a model.
After all, it is our differences that make us unique and that is something to be celebrated.