I have been hiding and lying for the past ten years, and now I am finally deciding to OWN MY BEAUTY, even if I am bald.
My childhood hair story was like millions of other black girls in America--perms and braids. I remember my hair follicles thinning back then, but nothing that made me self-conscious. Perhaps it was because I was too young to even care.
By the time I was 13, it was obvious that I was going bald, but I still had faith because I was constantly convincing myself that it wasn't "that bad".
When I turned 14, my mom put me on birth control, and that is when my hair really started falling out. The hair on the perimeter of my scalp was completely gone. There were bald patches in random areas all over my head, and day by day, it got worse and worse.
Do people know I'm bald-headed? was the question that ran through my mind, every single day. When people made jokes about people not having edges, or not having hair, I always laughed along, but inside, I was crumbling, knowing that the joke was on me.
By 17, I was too embarrassed to go to the beauty salon, even though I have been going to the same one since I was eight years old. The hair salon was in my hometown, and I remember the three times I saw people from my high school come in. The first time my hair was braided up (I was getting a weave). My edges, or lack thereof, were showing, but she did not respond like I thought she would. She acted like nothing was wrong. I prayed to God when she walked away that she would not call anyone or tweet something.
The second time, it was an ex-friend of mine. Thank God I was under the dryer when she came. I know she would have told the whole school.
The third time is what made me never go back. It was one of the most popular boys in school, and I was in the styling chair, with no weave. I DIED INSIDE when he walked in. He stayed for a good 20 minutes too. I just KNEW the town would now find out my secret. I left the salon with a new weave, and never went back.
I can remember several scary moments like this, some of which left me in tears.
But at this point, I was comfortable with lying to people about my hair. Anything to keep people from knowing I was bald-headed.
Throughout college, my hair was at its absolute worse, all five years. I was still wearing wigs on the daily, hiding, even from my own self. Since my hair was always covered, I was neglecting taking care of my real hair, so it became extremely dry, damaged, and defeated. It was pretty pathetic how horrible of a condition my hair was in. I think it was an out of sight, out of mind kind of thing. And for a while it worked, at least I thought it was working. I was starting to accept the fact that I will probably be wearing wigs until I die.
These past few months, I found myself getting really fed up with my hair situation. REALLY FED UP. I stopped getting angry at my hair, and started getting angry at myself for putting myself in that position.
"Aren't you tired of hiding Kaila?!"
"You know those wigs are not comfortable. Don't you want to just be free of them?!"
"Throw out the wigs, Kaila. Be proud of what God gave you."
I reached out to a DJ I know that has alopecia. She is always talking about alopecia awareness and rocks a baldie all day every day. She was the first person I came out to, besides of course, my mom. After our conversation, I was a little more convinced to come out to everyone. I called another friend who I am close with and told her. She told me to jump off the cliff and embrace my natural beauty. After confiding in a few more people, I decided to make the move. I called my friend Chris back, she took me to her barber, and from there I literally felt reborn.
The first day was weird. People staring. My guy friends reacting in a way that wasn't the most encouraging. (You know how guys are). But honestly after day one, I was like "F**K it!!!!!!"
Yes, I am bald. But you know what? I AM BLESSED! Because God has given me everything I need in life and more. I REFUSE to cry anymore over hair follicles.
I REFUSE to believe that I am not beautiful because I am bald. I AM BALD. I AM BOLD. I AM BEAUTIFUL. That is my new mantra. That is what I hope my story will show the world.
I am ready to go on front street now with my story, because it is long overdue. Women, especially Black women, need to know that your hair does not define your beauty. Women with alopecia need to know that they do not have to hide. You can be BALD and CONFIDENT. There are young girls around the world who are dealing with this, many at a rate more severe than mine. I would love to be an example for those girls, just as that DJ was an example to me.
Alopecia runs in my family, so there is a chance my daughter will be bald as well. She needs to know that her mother is strong, confident, and beautiful. She needs to know that she can be the same. She WILL be the same.
Photography c/o: @Raymond.Cheley
@KailaBoulware is a media producer and manager from New Jersey. Graduating from Rutgers University, Kaila uses her skills and talents to empower women by showcasing unconventional forms of beauty in the fashion and entertainment industry.
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