I lost all of my hair at age 2 due to the autoimmune condition Alopecia. It was an emotional roller coaster from the beginning: the bullying, stares, negative remarks, and isolated feelings. It took me 20 years to learn to love, accept, and embrace my bald head, but recently I've noticed an increase in well-known YouTubers pulling bald pranks online that seem to bring me back to square one.
Most of these videos involve someone wearing a bald cap for a few minutes and taping people's shocked or disgusted reactions for laughs. In every instance, they get to take off the bald cap at the end and go on unaffected by what it actually means to be bald. For me, hair loss was never a choice but rather something that happened. One of my biggest fears with my Alopecia was that someone wouldn't recognize me without my wig — or worse, think I was ugly — so it is a gut punch to watch a video of a mother fainting when she sees her daughter pretending to be bald. It stirs up so many negative emotions for me.
It hurts to see others' reactions to a bald head when this is what I look like every single day. I don't get to just put on and take off a bald cap. I had to learn how to deal with losing my hair in an already beauty focused world, where a bald head isn't common, so what may seem like a harmless prank impacts not just me, but so many people in the hair loss community.
It takes a tremendous amount of courage and strength to rock a bald head, to have such a vulnerable part of you exposed for the world to see. I have been told countless times "you looked prettier when you wore a wig." I get asked if I'm a woman when I'm wearing workout clothes. It can be extremely uncomfortable and it never gets easier, but I have learned to adapt and find the positive of it all.
That's why, when situations like this arise, it is tough to navigate. There are so many inspiring, beautiful individuals in the hair loss community who work so hard to bring awareness and normalize hair loss. However, when something like these bald pranks videos come out, it feels like taking 10 steps backward.
Today I grateful for the opportunity to be a mentor in the Alopecia and hair loss community. It is truly the greatest gift, to get to be that person I needed when I was younger for someone else. That is why I am standing up against these pranks today. It is never OK to bully or make fun of someone else for any reason. If you put yourself in that person's shoes you wouldn't find it funny, either. Alopecia has made me empathetic, strong, brave, and shown me the true meaning of beauty, which has absolutely nothing to do with what is on your head, but what's in your heart. Bald is the norm for some — and it is beautiful.