As it happens, Alopecia is much harder to write about than I’d thought.
Don’t let my ultra-personal blogs deceive you: I hate opening up. It’s not that I prefer secrecy – if that were the case, I’d be writing exclusively about my love for pop culture under an ignominious pseudonym. No, my problem is that, though I’m doing everything within my power to portray the positive side of Alopecia Areata, I’m hurting. I’m hurting, because for the twelfth year in a row, I am trapped in this cycle of hair-loss and mockery. I’m hurting because, 12 years in, I’m still yet to meet a fellow Alopecian with whom I can maintain a strong friendship with. I’m hurting, physically and mentally, and it doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon.
My hair was growing back! Atop my skull, a patch of peach fuzz was sprouting – uneven as Hell, but definitely there. Where is it now? Besides a few single, stubby hairs here and there, my bald patch has returned to its smooth, repulsive self. I can just about cover the thing up with what remains of my fringe, but to do so results in insufferable pain that lingers long after the final bobby pin has been taken out. Better still, a new patch has emerged above my right ear. Baldness The Sequel: Baby Bald Spot. The codeine I was prescribed, completely separately, for my Golfer’s Elbow is just about able to take the edge off the stabbing sensation in my scalp, but it also amplifies my looming self-consciousness and lack of self-worth. I need help.
It’s times like these which make me so grateful for the #AlopeciaAwareness community, and for the many individuals who have made me feel a little less alone through the years since my diagnosis. I’ve known very few Alopecians in person, so celebrities and social media influencers have become my anchor. Now seems as good a time as ever to recognise the people who have become role models to me, the people who do so much to “normalise” baldness and give people like me a renewed sense of worth.
My Alopecia Role Models
Joanna Rowsell Shand
When Joanna Rowsell Shand helped Great Britain win gold in the 2012 Olympic Cycling Team Pursuit, I was a 12-year-old girl battling a new bought of hair loss. When you’re that young, to see somebody who looks like you achieve something incredible… it’s life-changing. Joanna was that person for me. Her courage, beauty, and spirit did more than just inspire me: it transformed my entire mindset. From then on, I have been determined to achieve something too. I may not be Olympic material, but if I can find success in my own field and inspire young people with Alopecia to do the same, that would be a dream come true.
As an Alopecia UK Ambassador, Joanna has dedicated so much to raising awareness for the cause, something that I can’t thank her enough for. Her openness and bravery has stimulated a passion for campaigning in me that has shaped who I am as a person; without her influence, I certainly wouldn’t have found the confidence that I have today.
Joanna Rowsell Shand recently took on Celebrity Mastermind, donating her appearance fee to Alopecia UK. Well done, Joanna!
When I first found out that Jesy Nelson had Alopecia Areata, I couldn’t quite believe what I was reading. I had loved her since her first X Factor appearance, and I have always adored her hair. Hearing that it had actually fallen out and grown back once upon a time was a MASSIVE confidence boost; her candidness about her experience made me realise that I wasn’t alone after all. Just like Jesy, my hair loss (at the time) was partially triggered by bullies who hated me because I was different. But as Jesy once said: “the world would be boring if everyone looked the same”. Alopecia doesn’t define me, but it is a part of who I am. Jesy taught me to be true to myself, and inspired me to carry on doing what I love without the weight of expectation on my shoulders.
Malia and the Hayes Family
This list wouldn’t be complete without the Hayes family. My little sister Tamsin introduced me to the Ashley, Zach, and Malia’s YouTube channel about a year ago, probably in a bid to get me to take her to Disneyland. Straight away, I saw a young girl who radiated confidence, maturity, and compassion; what’s more, she was only 4 years old at the time. When I lost my hair for the first time I did everything within my power to conceal it, but Malia dances her way around Disneyland with her beautiful baldness so boldly on show. I can’t tell you how empowering that is. For somebody who, at the age of 17, still struggles with her image and self-esteem, I gain so much confidence and self-love from seeing such a beautiful child own her Alopecia. What this family are doing is perhaps the most magical thing of all; all of a sudden, I don’t feel abnormal. I don’t feel strange. Malia makes me feel valid, ordinary, and gorgeous, and I am going to do everything within my power to do the same for Alopecians all over the world.
The video below is one of my favourite Hayes Family vlogs so far; when Tamsin and I watched it for the first time, I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I had absolutely nothing to say.
I hope you find as much strength in these videos as I have; Alopecian or not, the Hayes family offer a message of compassion and courage that has rubbed off on everybody I have shared their channel with.
Though Sasha does not have Alopecia, the message she delivered to RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9 was so empowering to me that I was compelled to blog about it. This blog, an open letter to Sasha Velour, was one of the toughest to write; it discussed many personal issues which dedicated her life to raising awareness for, ranging from her empowering bald image to the struggle of growing up LGBT+. I wrote: “seeing a queen walk out onto that runway without hair brings me so much joy, so much pride, that it literally brought tears to my eyes. It reminded me to love myself, a reminder which I desperately needed that day; the crown on your head just topped that off. Bald queens like us deserve the attention your bold use of technicolour provided, and I will forever be indebted to that.” To me, Sasha Velour is a true idol to Alopecians: a bald queen, just like the rest of us. Thank you, Sasha, for showing the world that bald is beautiful.
With all of these people (and so many more) inspiring me day in, day out, it’s hard to imagine that life with Alopecia Areata could feel lonely. The truth is, it really can. A lot of the time, there’s no escaping the staring eyes which follow you around in public places, or the muttering of curious strangers. That is why, beyond all else, the people I am most grateful for are you. I know, that’s cheesy. The #AlopeciaAwareness community is something so special and empowering; I would like to thank each and every one of you for dedicating so much of your time to this wonderful cause. My confidence has taken a bit of a knock recently, but you guys have helped me right back up. So, to the Alopecian community online and beyond, thank you. You’re all true role models.
If you have been affected in any way by Alopecia Areata and need somebody to talk to, feel free to send me a message or hit me up on social media. You can find my social links below.
Stay woke, kids.
As always, thank you so much for reading!
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Want more? Read my previous instalment to the Alopecia Diaries: Top 5 comments about my alopecia | Alopecia Diaries #2