Lara and Mara Bawar of Sao Paulo, Brazil, have surprised and captivated many in the fashion industry as well as fashion enthusiasts online. Lara and Mara are 11-year-old albino twins. They were born with albinism, a condition in which a person is born completely or partially lacking melanin, the pigment that gives color to eyes, hair, and skin.
Albinism causes vision problems because the pigment in the iris of the eye helps block sunlight. Since people born with albinism have no pigment in their eyes, they are extremely sensitive to bright light and cannot see well. Their skin is also sensitive to sunlight and sunburns easily, so they must cover up when outside on sunny days and use sunscreen.
The twins and their 13-year-old sister, Sheila, who does not have albinism, were originally discovered by Vinicius Terranova, a Swiss photographer who saw the girls in a video. Terranova later hired the Bawar sisters to model for his Flores Raras (Rare Flowers) book. The book is “a portraits set I’m gathering of people whose beauty is often marginalized. A beauty that is not that uncommon but rather rarely perceived while out there everyday, ready to be noticed and given their deserved spotlight,” Terranova said.
While not that uncommon, albinism only occurs in about one in 20,000 births worldwide. Interestingly, it is less common in the United States and Europe than elsewhere in the world.
The twins’ parents moved to Sao Paolo from Guinea Bissau in West Africa. It may well be a good thing they did, because of the myths and superstitions attached to albinism in some African communities, where albinism is sometimes associated with or is explained as being the result of witchcraft. In some African countries, the hair of a person with albinism is valuable. Despite that, albinos in Africa can be ostracized and find it difficult to obtain an education or to marry. Even the climate in Africa makes living with albinism difficult.
The three Bawar sisters, however, are finding success in the opportunities that Terranova’s photographs have opened to them. They have already obtained modeling work with companies such as Nike, Insanis, and Bazaar Child. They want to continue in this career and seem self-confident enough to succeed in the modeling business.
“We feel albinism is pretty, we love our hair, eye colour and skin tone. Our hair and skin tone are pretty and we feel very special wearing the make-up, hair and light that are worked to fit us,” Lara Bawar said in an interview with the Daily Mail.
Mara added, “Growing up like this was amazing, we love being different and are happy with our unique beauty.”
“We are very expressive and creative. It feels wonderful to put this out there, to communicate with people who identify with our work. We like to see our beauty being valued by its unique aspects,” Sheila said.