Quantcast

My Struggle With Alopecia: How I Learned To Find the Beauty In My Baldness

Her Voice

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.


I am a 23-year-old African-American woman, and for the past ten years, I have been dealing with alopecia. My condition is one that is not uncommon, but given societal expectations of beauty, it is one that is rarely, or never talked about--and when it is talked about, it is demonized to the fullest. I mean really, who wants to be bald, right?

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.

By 16, I was officially self-conscious and went into what I thought would be a life-long, permanent hiding. I wore wigs and weaves RELIGIOUSLY. You would not catch me DEAD without a weave, a wig, or a scarf. People started questioning why I never showed my real hair. Of course, I lied, and gave the generic "it's too hard to do my natural hair" excuse. I always wondered if they believed me or not.

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.

Since I was too scared to go to the salon I was comfortable at, and I was too scared to see a new stylist and show her my secret, I decided to wear wigs. That was probably the worst decision I could have made because all it did was make my hair fall out even more. But, I didn't care, because I was covered, which means my secret was safe with me. When people would ask me why I would always wear wigs, I would say, "I love how they let me change my look every day! They are so fun!"

Another lie.

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.

I wanted to care about my hair, but my bald spots made me angry, and not even want to deal with it at all, or see it. Sometimes to please the people around me, I would wear my natural hair out. (Family and friends kept pestering me about why I never showed it, and I was afraid my lie was starting to not work) BUT, please believe I always wore a head scarf to cover where the hair was gone. My natural afro was long enough to cover the other spots. So I would do that for a day, then the next day, back to the wig, like clockwork.

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."

Those were my thoughts every single day. I started to miss going to the salon to get my hair done. I don't remember the last time I felt someone else wash and style my hair. It used to feel so good getting my hair washed, even if I only had about 50% of my hair.

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.

This was the first time in TEN YEARS that I went to a salon to get my hair done. TEN YEARS. My barber was perfect. He gave me advice on how to take care of my hair properly. He cut off all of my dead hair, leaving me with a dope hair cut, baldness fully exposed. Surprisingly, I did not care. I was just happy to finally be free.

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.

#MyBaldisBeautiful

#BaldheadedBeauty

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.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissons@xonecole.com

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.

This is Maya's story, written by Charmin Michelle.

I know this may come to a surprise so many, but here we are. Yes, I got a BBL. If you aren't aware, a BBL is a Brazilian Butt Lift, a cosmetic surgery process where the doctor uses a combination of liposuction and fat-grafting, transfers the fat into the butt, resulting in added volume, defined curves, and a lift. It is technically lipo and a fat transfer. But yeah girl, this has been on my to-do list for a while. And now that I am able to afford it, I went for it.

Keep reading... Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

The season I look forward to the most every year is Resort. Even if you haven't had an opportunity to enjoy a proper getaway this season, now is the time to get your last-minute plans in order as the final moments of summer quickly come to an end. While you can always find a sunny destination to travel any time of the year, this is the perfect time to take advantage of the final warm weather looks before fall inventory completely takes over.

Keep reading... Show less

It's still the early stages of this so-called post-pandemic life, and with graduates finally entering the workforce or taking their next steps toward true adulting, many might be wondering, "Where do I start?" True, life's been a roller coaster ride, but we're here to help with a list of best cities for millennials to work.

Keep reading... Show less

Black love deserves celebration. And it deserves celebration for multiple reasons. Because of our history, love for each other has been a necessity to survive. By choosing each other, we literally do it for the culture by continuing folklore and manifestations of our human intellectual achievements. Our genetic makeup has always been grounded in resilience — the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties and toughness. Black love creates balance, space, growth, and change making for a fundamental part of our identities.

Keep reading... Show less

Adulting is hard but packing up and moving from one living space to the next is even harder. As a young adult, leaving home to attend college 300 miles away, I was yearning for a change of scenery so much so I couldn't wait to pack my belongings and head to sunny southern California. With each transition, it wasn't an easy task, however, nine years and 10 roommates later, I finally have a place to call my own. As liberating as it is to be in a space that's all mine, this move is unlike any other. As a single woman, the responsibility of uprooting myself has been more challenging than I ever imagined. More than just saving dreamy home decor inspiration via Pinterest, making "my house a home" has been a process that's easier said than done.

Keep reading... Show less
Exclusive Interviews

Exclusive: Find Confidence With This Summer Workout Created By A Black Woman For Black Women

Tone & Sculpt trainer Danyele Wilson makes fitness goals attainable.

Latest Posts