Here I am, Exactly how I am
It began in 4th grade. I remember being in class and noticing my eye lashes in my left eye were gone. At this time I had severe allergies. My mother took me to the doctor and they said it was probably caused by rubbing my eyes and I had rubbed my eye lashes right out. I received my 4th grade picture in the mail, and I remember being so upset and self conscious that one of my eyes looked bare. But shortly after, they randomly decided to grow back. This was my first experience with Alopecia.
Cut to 6th grade when I was walking home from school and felt the back of my head. I noticed a small bald patch about the size of a quarter. My mother took me to a dermatologist who then sent me to a specialist who diagnosed me with Alopecia Areata. This one spot grew bigger and then more spots multiplied over time. I had about 50% of my hair left. I was a teen going through puberty in junior high school, if that isn't already rough and also dealing with this disease. I quit dance at this time to play sports, which made things easier since I didn't have to look at myself in a mirror. I was teased and called names like "baldy" and often cried to my mother at night. I felt different, alone, and didn't have anyone who understood. There are treatments, but no cure. So for a few years I tried just about every treatment. I went to the doctors every month and received about 30 or more injections from Corticosteroids shot injections into my scalp. I tried a topical cream on my scalp that would irritate my skin and turn red and itchy. All this for the hope that my hair would grow back. It didn't. I later decided to stop all treatment and let Alopecia run its course because, as you can guess, I got tired of feeling hopeful and then disappointed. The good thing is I was healthy, and I had supportive parents that taught me strength and to fight, but I also wish they taught me to accept instead of to fix. Sometimes we just want to be accepted and not have a solution. Most of my hair randomly grew back starting in 8th grade and I got back into dance (yay).
In high school, my alopecia was unpredictable but manageable most of the time. My senior year of HS, I got hair extensions. This was before they became super popular. The hair extensions ended up pulling on my hair and causing more of it to fall out. Let's just say I was pretty ignorant about them. I started wearing a top piece because of this and could literally pull off only one hair style. Entering college, My alopecia felt like a never ending cycle. I resorted to a different kind of top piece my mother and I found at some random Michigan wig store( mind you, social media was not around then besides FB and I lived in Michigan which is a bubble) which would be camouflaged with any existing hair I had.
Immediately after college I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my dance career. I was not going to let this disease stop me from achieving my dreams. Even though I knew I was getting myself into an industry focused on image, I was going to remain positive and do what ever it took because thats where my heart was and what ultimately made me happy. I still wore the top piece for the first 2 years I was in LA. Then the summer of 2014 rolled around and I remember seeing clumps of hair on my pillow as I woke up, hair all over the shoulders of my shirt, hair all over my apartment bathroom. My hair was falling out and shedding uncontrollably and I didn't know what to do. I remember these moments like it was yesterday. I tried to think of everything I had maybe changed in my lifestyle, if I was stressed, any factors...but I couldn't think of anything. I have always been healthy and active. I cried more days than none, stopped taking dance classes and questioned my career path knowing a normal job would make this easier; suffered losing weight due to anxiety, and I became lost. So lost, yet I told no one all because the fear of judgement. I was losing so much hair that it looked as if my Alopecia Areata was turning into the totalis stage (complete hairloss). I started doing my research on wigs and came across a support group called "Alopecia World." This group allowed me not to feel so alone, and to get more information. This site was my first source of community, It introduced me to freedom wigs. A custom made wig that would allow me to feel like I had hair and to allow me to do my normal activities.
In order to wear this wig, I would have to shave the rest of my hair that was left, which wasn't much. I can't even describe how I felt as the wig consultant ran the razor across the top of my head slowly, over and over, and seeing my remaining hair fall into the sink. I knew this experience would be hard, but it was also liberating. I had hope for the first time in a while, that maybe this is what would make me feel like myself. For the first week, I walked around bald, went to yoga bald, but I knew where and when to go, hoping to avoid anyone I would know. People stared, treated me differently and I immediately resorted back to my comfort zone. Even though that week felt like a bit of hope, nothing really changed afterwards, and I still felt like I was hiding. A year later my brows, eye lashes and body hair all fell out, turning my alopecia totalis into alopecia universals.
There are many reasons why I haven't felt like sharing all of this earlier Anytime someone mentions hair, I get awkward and sensitive. The first thing I notice about people is their hair. My life revolves around hair, I love hair yet I hate it so much. I've spent hours mastering my wig and makeup techniques in hoping to fit in. I have a lot of PTSD from experiences that has made it hard to feel open: judgement from society and relationships, being bullied, rejected, alone or the numerous times casting directors thought it was too a difficult situation so it was easier to hire someone else who didn't have a wig. I can go on and on and I will share my specific experiences hopefully in a book. We live in a beauty obsessed world where we are constantly comparing ourselves with social media and making our lives seem untouchable.
I've felt like I've been hiding behind my wig. I date men for months and never tell them about my alopecia. I go to modeling, acting and dance castings and don't say a word in fear I won't be able to book a job. or I will be stared at. I photograph with amazing photographers who have no idea I am wearing a wig. I felt ashamed and not good enough without my hair. I don't know why this is the moment I am choosing to share, I think it's a series of events, obstacles and people I've recently had deep conversations with. I think it's realizing what real beauty is and who I am at my core.. I think it is realizing I am so much more than my hair and my physical beauty. I think it's learning that people who are judgmental and who may have something to say are ignorant or do not know better, I am continuing to learn to love myself and surround myself with the right people who love me for me. The universe has given me so much to help me through this process and I feel like it has guided me through this journey. I don't know if I'll feel free or if this will change anything, but I do hope that it changes someone else and hits close to home with them.
This is just bits and pieces but I hope this story helps you understand me better. But most importantly, I hope this story inspires anyone who feels different to share your story, embrace your uniqueness and follow your dreams. I hope you see beauty in different ways and are kind to everyone because you don't know what they may be going through. I hope to bring others who have alopecia together, educate the world and inspire others to be themselves.
My mission is to change how society views beauty standards especially in the entertainment industry and to normalize baldness. I hope to bring awareness to alopecia so that other's can feel they can embrace who they are. It took me over 20 years to open up and show this part of me, and I wish I had the support and community to do it sooner. I hope I can connect with others and form a community of support. I'd love to see people like me represented on Tv, in movies and in print campaigns, playing sports, dancing in shows and living their lives unapologetically. Maybe I will be able to carve that path myself.