By Uche Amunike
I was in the office of the MD/CEO of Anambra Broadcasting Service, Nze Uche Nworah a couple of days ago when an adorable young girl walked in. She was as fair as fair can be and had this very beautiful sing-song voice. And then, she began to speak and I looked up, surprised, impressed and bowled over. Her diction was flawless. Her personality was strong. Her confidence was remarkable. On a closer look, I realized she was an Albino and I knew I had a guest for Frank Talk in my hands, this week which was just as well because the International Albinism Day was celebrated during the week and I knew that fate arranged that meeting so that Albinos out there will learn a lot from this damsel. Her name is Sandra Akpa of the Anambra Broadcasting Service, popularly known as Blondie. In this interview with her, she said so much about her life as an Albino, her passion, her job, the need for people living with Albinism to be proud of who they are and tips for them to stay healthy, happy and fulfilled. Please enjoy…
So, let our readers meet you. Who are you?
My name is Sandra Akpa. A broadcaster. I work with Anambra Broadcasting Service. That's who I am.
Okay, tell us more about you. Let's go personal.
Sandra is that young lady who has a blonded skin, who loves herself so much and loves to talk about things generally.
You know, when I met you today at your MD's office, you caught my attention when you began to speak. It took me a while to note that you were an albino. Tell me, how does it feel being one?
Okay, there's nothing bad about being an albino. I am proud of myself. Right from the onset, I said I am that girl who is proud to have the kind of colour that I have. Basically, there is nothing wrong with me and I don't see anything wrong with me. So, I feel normal because I am a normal being.
So, tell me, what is Albinism?
It's a global phenomenon that occurs in all genders and in all races, meaning you can actually see persons living with Albinism in every part of the world. It's a biological thing. It's hereditary. So, it's not some sort of curse like a lot of people think, or some sort of condemnation or you know, the negative attachment given to it. So, it's just to let you know that it's something biological.
As an Albino, what was it like for you growing up?
It was fun growing up, because, I'm sorry I'm sounding positive whenever you ask questions because, let me put it this way., the success of an Albino child begins with the family. So, I will say that it was amazing growing up because my family loved me so much and they still love me. They made me understand that I was unique and special. Forget about what people would say about you. It's the kind of society we're in. But then, I need you to know that you are some sort of special being. Whoever looks at you and says something crazy, just know that the person is seeking for attention. So, it's left for you to either give the person the attention or forget it. So, I must say it was fun growing up. Thanks to my family.
So, in order words, it was like that from when you were little till now.
Yeah. Reason being that I have that confidence in myself. So, no matter what someone says, I don't care. Like I said, I'm a journalist. I'm a broadcaster, so let's just say I always have something to say whenever I'm in the mood to talk to someone like if you say something bad to me, I always have something to say. That is if I'm in the mood to talk to you. If I'm not in the mood, just know it's because I don't feel like talking. So, at this point in my life, I do not let what people say bug me because I feel like those are unnecessary things.
I'm happy about the way you turned out because I know a couple of Albino young girls who are not like you and who I wish would be the way you are. I want you to talk to them.
Okay, I think that's the reason for this interview. I want to tell them to be confident in themselves. If it's about people talking, people will always talk. Even people who have dark skins have people talking about them. Just see yourself as that kind of person who is unique. You can do it. The truth is, you don't have to look like you've already been condemned for the rest of your life like you've got a disease. Albinism is not a disease. It's not some sort of low self-esteem. No! Just know that you're like every normal human being. You just have to believe in yourself. You just have to know that whatever you set your mind to do, you'll definitely do it. All you need do is, to believe in yourself, forget about the negative things people say or think about you. You already know who you are. Work towards being the best of you. That is what I can say. Forget about self-pity. We are in a world where people want to know what you have to offer and not about being piteous about yourself. Nobody wants that. You need to look deep into yourself, discover who you are and what you can offer to society. Trust me, fall in love with yourself. Accept that you're an albino and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. Your life will be as smooth as you can ever think of.
Okay, that's a good one. You said something about Albinism being hereditary. In your family, who did you take after? Was it your mum or your dad?
That I cannot answer. Maybe when I get home, I have to ask them that question because I've never really bothered because in both families, you can actually see people who are fairer than I am. I'm talking about both my maternal home and my paternal home. It's hard to say where exactly I got it from. It could be from the two families or from either of them.
Are you the only child of your parents that is Albino?
If this is what Albinism is, then it won't be too bad to be one.
Yes. This is what it is. I however want to say something to my fellow albinos. You need to stay away from the sun as much as possible. The sun is just our enemy. That is the truth. Now, the reason why you see a lot of people with burns all over them is not because they take too much of crayfish, salt, pepper, etc, like most people think. It's not true. It's because of the sun exposure. The sun is not our friend and if you're reading me right now, you need to stay away from the sun. If you must go out, you must protect yourself. You need to have your umbrella. You need to have your dark goggles. If you can't afford a sunscreen lotion, please, ensure you dress properly. I'm not talking about being morally right or something. I'm talking about covering yourself, covering your skin. You can be all covered up and still look smart. Look at me. I try as much as possible to cover myself up and I feel comfortable. You can cover yourself up and still look smart. So, you just need to stay away from the sun. It's important. Again, black colour is not our friend because it attracts heat and sun. So, if you're going out and you're a person living with Albinism, avoid wearing black. Avoid it as your top. Avoid it as your gown. You can wear it beneath as a skirt or trouser or something, but never make it your top. Never make it your shirt, because it's not good.
Okay, what is this thing about Albinism and Cancer?
Yeah. It still boils down to the sun. Like I said before, being an Albino doesn't mean you have a disease already. Yes. After all, people who are not albinos suffer from cancer. The truth is that you can actually find it in persons living with Albinism because the sun is not our friend. The sun is actually the number one cause of that. When you expose yourself so much to the sun, you begin to have something that looks like a sore, like a wound. When you don't protect yourself and stay protected, then you'll have the sun to fight. And from the sun, it moves down to cancer. So, being albino doesn't mean that you must suffer skin cancer.
Any other things Albinos should watch out for, or be careful about?
Okay. Nothing else. Except that they need to have their dark goggles all the time during the day so as to see properly. This is the reason why people erroneously think that albinos don't see at night. The sun prevents them from seeing clearly during the day which is why they walk funny when it's sunny. I can actually walk confidently without feeling like I want to fall because my dark goggles protect the UV Rays from getting in my eyes. Again, always meet a dermatologist first for whatever you want to use for your skin. You might not have the money, but that is why you have so many organizations fighting for persons living with Albinism. Let me say this clearly. Albinism is not a disability. I don't see it that way. We have lots of organizations and you just need to associate yourself with one. Now, when you do that, you get to know how to take care of yourself properly and from there, a lot of people talk to you. Specialists will talk to you about your eyes, your skin, how to take care of yourself and then you get the opportunity to ask questions whenever you're confused. Okay? So, the reason why I'm like this is that I have a group that I belong to. We talk about things affecting us sometimes and share ideas. So, always see an ophthalmologist for the eyes and a dermatologist for your skin. It's really important. To be continued…