by Nell Coleman
The Hair Doesn't Define My Photo Series is a shoot designed to bring forth women and grant them the platform to share why hair doesn't define who they are while empowering our BALDIE readers to embrace their baldness more.
Everyone has a story and for the longest time I truly hid from mine. A little background on myself; I have Alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes my body to attack my own hair follicles at any random time. It has been an ongoing process since I was six years of age. I lost all my hair in first grade. It was devastating as I was the only child that did not have hair, and there could be no explanation to be given. I remember thinking why doesn't any of the other kids look like me at school, at the mall, or on tv? By the next school year, my hair grew back, but to only fall out again for the following school year. By the time I was ten it started to grow back again, however, my eyebrows and eyelashes were always sparse. The constant process of losing and growing was difficult to understand, let alone trying to explain why I looked this way to kids and adults. In all honesty, adults were crueler than the kids. So I just never, and I mean never, talked about it! If the topic of hair came up, I quickly changed the subject. You see, I grew up in a house where the motto was, ' if you don't talk about it, it doesn't exist.' Well let's face the facts, that's no way to address any issue in life.
Growing up, I only saw woman with long hair. My mother has long beautiful thick hair, and she has never gotten a hair cut that changed her appearance, even to this day. She is attached to the idea of hair making her feel beautiful. (Which we need to all know she really does have beautiful hair. ) At a very young age, all I knew was hair defined a girls beauty, it was one of the major characteristics that made her an attractive female. Plus, how do we describe someone? By their weight and hair! In my family and societies defense, in the past we did not embrace or educate on the difference of what is beautiful, like we are in today's times with access to information. We were only taught to see beauty as a Barbie figure, from head to toe.
After a decade of having a head of hair (my Alopecia stayed dormant), during my second year of college I lost my hair completely again. But this time I was facing Alopecia as an adult. When I started losing my hair I didn't dare talk about it with anyone. I didn't want people to know I was scared how I endured Alopecia as a weakness. I felt my only absolute option was to go to a short haired wig. A look that was not known in my world. At the time, it felt like the only choice I had. Feeling alone with no one to relate to, I had to tuck away what felt like impossible emotions, and try to continue concentrating on my studies. I didn't speak about my Alopecia at school or to my friends. I simply said, "I cut my hair short. " For almost ten years I didn't admit or talk about it with my in laws, peers, and majority of my friends. If the door bell rang I had to quickly run to put my hair on. I lived in constant fear someone would discover what I felt like was a flaw.
Let's speed up to today's views! Finally, after almost a lifetime for me, I now will NOT let hair define me.
A few years ago I connected with others who have Alopecia and I suddenly didn't feel so alone. I saw how happy, beautiful, proud, and outspoken they are as individuals. I learned what self love ultimately was by surrounding myself around positive people. It was like a light bulb clicked, and I realized I have allowed myself to stay hidden from who I truly am.
Today, I am happy to wear hair when I want, and go out bald. I can actually talk about being bald without being nervous and crying. One of the most important tools to finding happiness is being true to yourself. If cutting/shaving or even just embracing lack of hair makes you feel more like you, than the world will only see beauty. When you compare yourself to others you're robbing your own beauty and happiness. Nothing is more freeing then being true to yourself. Push the bar for others to see you, not just the lens of pure judgment that we are taught by the standards of society. Change can be scary for anyone. Embracing change gives you strength. A female who has a shaved/or bald head, helps the human race to realize that beauty isn't defined in only traditional female looks!
"How am I going to live like this?" these were the word that were uttered from my lips when I realized my hair wasn't cooperating the way I prayed it would. At the age of 16 I was combing my hair and realized something wasn't right. My hair was falling out and getting super thin so I cut it all off and started growing my natural hair. Having the same problem for about 3 years my natural hair was growing but the middle of my head started getting thinner and thinner so I decided to start slicking my hair with gel and wearing a natural puff so no one could see.
By the time I was 20 years old I was bald, bald as in hair everywhere on my head except the middle . By that time whatever hair I had started breaking from the gel I was using to slick and cover this bald area. I was so self-conscious and embarrassed that even at home I would wear a head band from my family who knew about this problem.
Four years later I had to make a decision to get a Caesar's cut and spray the middle with a black hair spray, oh boy, after seeing different doctors and turning down the last two who wanted to take pieces of my skin from my head to test and figure out the problem, after about a 7 months of sweating black from my head, getting black stains all over my clothes, I got really frustrated and shaved my head and that was the day my life changed!
It has been over 6 years since I became a "baldie" and I'm confident again. I like to say I'm fearless and free. People approach me everywhere I go only to compliment me about how beautiful I am. Some of them would even share with me "my hair is thinning or I'm going bald and there are times I wanna shave what's left but I'm scared of how I might look". My music and modeling career got so much better because I feel much better in my own natural skin. I stopped wearing wigs all the time especially to churches, something I would always do because I was scared or worried about what people would say or think of me.
Sometimes we have our own perception of how life should be in order to work. Pressure our bodies about the way it should look and we put up this fight and sit behind certain barriers just stifling ourselves and not being open or accepting of what life really should be. Sometimes life gets all crazy so things can fall into place. My mom looks at me all the time and says "God knew what he was doing when he gave you that beautifully sculpted head" and I know its not by coincidence it's destiny. So how am I going to live like this? by being unapologetically bald. And if anyone ever ask me again why I shave my head I will no longer lie and say " for style or because I wanted to" I will simply say because this head was made for the world to see, hair will never define me. Trust your battles!
When I was 19 years old, a small bald patch took residence on my head. Of course initially I freaked out but I thought this won't last. As more patches came and more doctors' visits filled my calendar I started to become very depressed. I stopped dancing and swimming which were two things I loved to do. I stopped looking in the mirror without a wig or scarf, essentially I stopped recognizing who my reflection was. She wasn't beautiful, in fact, she lost the thing that made her so. But after three years, God said enough, change your prayer to match my will and life will be yours again. Essentially that's what happened. I can't say everyday with Alopecia is easy, because it certainly isn't. But I can say that everyday I accept myself as perfectly made by The Creator, my confidence grows, and more and more I know, that Hair Does Not Define Me!
I was diagnosed with Androgenic Alopecia when I was 18 years old. The moment I was diagnosed was the moment I decided that being a baldie was something that I was going to take part in, in my life journey. It was super challenging because as a Hispanic women, culturally, hair holds a huge part of identity, femininity and sexuality. My family weren't too pleased with the idea and my friends were constantly reminding me that I was beautiful with the hair I had. I, however, did not feel beautiful. I was constantly holding my hair down with bobby pins, always worried if the wind was going to blow to hard and expose my shining spot, and found that where ever I went, I was comparing myself to other women who had the thickness of hair I would never have. I was at my lowest as far as my insecurity goes and never really felt my true beauty.
Last year, [Dec 28th is actually my one year anniversary :)] I woke up one day and decided that I was going to take charge of my life. I was not going to live life according to other people's standards of beauty and asked my boyfriend to shave my head for me. To my surprise, my boyfriend fully supported my decision and razor shaved my head completely bald. The moment my hair was gone was the moment I really saw 'me.' Since going bald, I find that I am always confident and happy in my skin. I wish I would've shaved bald when I was first diagnosed! Living with hair, I felt like I was living a lie. I wasn't my true self.
I am blessed to have been able to share my experience and story with Alopecia through my Blog & YouTube channel - the amount of love and support from girls all around the world who deal with this, too, is beautifully overwhelming. When I was first diagnosed, I felt so alone. Now that I've shared my story, I find that I am in a community where we all support each other to the utmost. It's been an honor being able to take part in this campaign for the same reason and I hope to continue to use my platform as a place for women who deal with any kind of hair loss to come and feel less alone, and for them to have faith and hope in being able to find their beauty and confidence.
Be the change you wish to see in the world. - Gandhi
This is the quote I forever find my motivation to be that positive change we need in this world.
Founder Nell Coleman
In a world where hair is everything, we put so much value in our hair that we forget that our true value has nothing to do with our hair and everything to do with who we are as beings. I am Bald by Choice and this is by far the best decision I ever made for myself.
Growing up, I was bullied to the point of suicidal thoughts. I hated everything about me because people always made fun of how I looked including my hair. Therefore, I felt as though I always had to change my hair in order to be accepted by my peers. That didn't work so my next step was to stop with the perms, hair dyes, straight hair weaves and go natural.
During my natural journey, I was told that my hair was too "africanish" as they called it, forced to perm my hair or get kicked off the dance team at University of Arkansas Pine Bluff and lose my scholarship, and told that I needed to put a texturizer in my hair which makes the texture more fine and curly and less rough. I felt like there was no way out until one day, I decided that I had had enough of being tormented about my hair. I wanted to remove the stress that hair brought especially within the black community.
January 2010, I declared that hair would no longer define who I am and I shaved it off. Though I chose this look it was very hard to embrace at first because in the back of my mind I still worried what others thought of me, especially men. I wore a bang cut long wig the year I went bald because I didn't want to scare men away and I wanted them to accept me. I didn't realize at the time that self acceptance was far greater than the acceptance of others. The experience of meeting men with my wig, revealing to them that I was bald underneath, and hearing, "I don't date women with no hair' was the final straw of me wearing wigs and wasting my time with those who wouldn't accept me for me. But I didn't accept me either so the best way to begin was to remove that wigs, embrace this new look, and allow the world to see me as I am.
I still face challenges as a baldie today but the best thing about this bald head of mine is, I don't wake up feeling attached or dependent upon hair to feel or look my best. I wake up with dignity and pride saying to myself, I am Bald and Free and Hair will never define me.
Thanks for reading,
If you are a photographer, videographer, make up artist, bald model and interesting in collaborating with me for The next Hair Doesn't Define Me Project, please
email info@TheBaldieMovement.com of your portfolio for consideration.
Nell Coleman @imabaldie
Max & Will Darius @maxwillphotography
Alicia Smith @kahlia99
Danielle Henry @danieandthebloom
Chanique Rodgers @iamchanique
Glendaly Corona @lamamahada
Ashlee Crump @stoneywho1
Eso Shanie @eso_shani