OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Long before she rose to fame in Burkina Faso, Line Banty became acutely aware of her albinism when as a young girl she was the only one in her family to get badly sunburned on a beach outing.
Now, as the presenter of a popular daytime entertainment show, in which she dominates the screen with her colourful wax dresses and wide smile, Banty, 27, is using her celebrity to inspire young albinos to fulfil their potential without fear or shame. In her words, to “rule the world”.
In 2015 she organised an albino street fashion show in neighbouring Ivory Coast. On Facebook she has over 10,000 fans and her posts promoting albinism frequently receive hundreds of likes.
“I see myself heading a big foundation to help my albino brothers and sisters, and telling them: “Hey, we are like everybody else, it’s the skin that is different,” Banty said in her studio in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou after filming.
Like many with albinism, life has not been easy for Banty. People with the congenital condition, which causes a lack of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes, are often ostracised. In some countries in sub-Saharan Africa, they are attacked for their body parts which are prized in witchcraft.
Banty has escaped two attempts to kidnap her because of her condition, and shudders at the memory of a former boyfriend who took clippings of her hair while she slept, for luck.
“Just being a woman is a full time job...and then proving to everyone, especially to men...that we have more in our heads than under our clothes. It is very hard.”
Burkina Faso’s Albino Women’s Association shows recordings of Banty’s programmes to albino girls every weekend to help them overcome their complexes.
“A lot of girls have ended up telling themselves that if she is an albino who is fulfilled, who lives freely, I can try that too,” said Maimouna Deni, the association’s president.
(This story corrects paragraph 6 to show Banty escaped two kidnapping attempts, was never kidnapped.)
Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Mark Heinrich