KING WILLIAMS TOWN’S Emihle Klaas, 17, has vitiligo, a condition that causes the skin to lose pigmentation, but has her sights set on conquering the world.
The Bhisho High School Grade 12 pupils from Zwelitsha said she was born without the skin condition, but it was while she was at creche one day that blotches appeared on her neck.
“Then my mother would make me wear a poloneck each and every day because she feared I would be teased at school and that would lower my confidence.
“It would come and go but it was only in Grade 2 that the condition became permanent and I have had it ever since,” said Klaas.
The aspiring model said she had not always had confidence in herself.
“When I was doing Grade 4 my classmates would tease me, saying I had used bleach to make my skin white, and other kids would ask if I had fallen because I have bruises. Those comments would hurt me.” she said.
But over the years Klaas has brushed aside negative comments about her skin condition and is focused on educating others to love their skin.
“So what? What I have is not contagious.
“I would tell anyone who has a skin condition to walk tall and embrace the image God created them in. I look at my condition as art and I embrace its beauty,” she said.
Her mother, Gcobisa Klaas, said she was amazed by her daughter’s confidence and this was what gave her hope as a mother.
“After visiting many doctors while she was young, we found a dermatologist in East London who told us that the skin condition was normal.
“That doctor helped calm us down. It was not easy as a mother because I had no knowledge about vitiligo and none of my family members have it.
“But she is very confident which makes things easier as a mother,” Gcobisa said.
“As mothers it is our role to tell our children they are beautiful. We should be supportive and constantly ensure that they know they are loved,” said Gcobisa
Emihle’s aspirations include travelling the world, entering Miss South Africa and making her mark in the media industry as a media practitioner.
“I have always dreamt of being a model – a Miss SA to be specific. In the future.
“I would also love to pursue a modelling career and travel the world and of course, inspire other people and I would also like to study further and become a media practitioner,” she said.
Her maths literacy class teacher, Cikizwa Matyila, praised Klaas for being the image of self-acceptance.
She said the girl had showed everyone that even if they were different to others, they should stand proud.
“She is very confident, respectful and she always does her work. She has not shied away from being part of our activities because of her skin condition. She has the ability and is a role model to many,” she said.
Matyila said Emihle was part of this year’s Learner Representative Council in the school.