My close friend, Nichole, recently reinvented herself in a way that is phenomenal, inspiring and I daresay empowering!
When I was growing up, there was a saying that ‘your hair is your beauty.’ As a residual effect of slavery, many of us were conditioned to better appreciate a full head of hair, particularly long hair. I, for one, compliment people on their hair, because of course hair is beautiful, glorious even. For centuries, there have been wigs (and now weaves) to give the illusion of full hair, and many of us take advantage of these beauty-enhancing opportunities. Lots of people put in extra effort to groom their hair. These days, there are millions of products out there to strengthen and grow our hair so we can maintain that beauty, and remain confident in our looks.
But how does one cope with losing their hair, especially as a young woman? Cutting it off is one thing because we may think that it’s just hair and it will grow back. I’ve had this experience. But what about being choiceless in the matter? Can you imagine yourself waking up one day and seeing clumps of hair on your pillow, or excessive strands in your brush? What if your genes decide that they’re allowing bald patches to emerge among your beautiful tresses? Or shrink your hair and let it fall off, never to grow again? Or give you a face without eyebrows and less eye-lashes?
According to medicalnewstoday.com Alopecia Areata “is a common autoimmune disorder that often results in unpredictable hair loss.” I will not even try to imagine the world that living with Alopecia creates. Over time people living with Alopecia find ways to cope, however the initial stages may leave one stunned, embarrassed, angry and diffident. And we all have an idea about the negative effects of low self-confidence.
My friend, Nichole, has had Alopecia for over twenty years, and during these years, I’ve never known her to despair over it, but she accepts it as part of who she is. I’m not writing about her Alopecia journey per se, but I am writing because of her decision to remind us all that we have the power within us to step out of our comfort zones and walk in our own truth.
You see, Nichole has been wearing wigs for as long as I can remember. I’m not saying that wigs make us less beautiful; I like the transformations they have the ability to create because of their versatility. Nichole has so many options to enhance her look with straight hair, long hair, short hair, purple hair – without causing any kind of damage. That’s freedom, right?! But here’s the thing too. Wigs work as a shield to protect people with Alopecia by hiding the hair imperfections and by providing them with self-confidence that is necessary for social interactions. Let’s be honest – the more beautiful we perceive ourselves, the more confident our strides, right?
So, we all got used to seeing Nichole with a variety of wigs, and those of us closest to her have seen her without wigs. Some days I said to her “you know you can rock your bald head” and pointed out Ms. Gweneth Charles (another close friend of mine with Alopecia) who embraced her baldness years ago, and looks super amazing!
Of course, change and re-invention are multi-layered, and as life’s waves come at us with new experiences and challenges, our perspectives shift and our actions differ. Over the past two years, Nichole has been feeling a tug to live her truth; to freely enjoy a sea bath or river bath and immerse her entire body in the water without worrying about her wig; to be confident enough to walk the streets sans wig; to let go of the insecurity of the limiting belief that our hair is our beauty.
Y’all. She shed the hardened shell of self-doubt and took that courageous step!
I celebrate my friend because she is expressing this freedom and boldness that so many of us lack. I have no language for the emotions I am experiencing, but I feel a strong sense of admiration and pride and joy in seeing her lay the shield of the wig at her feet. I applaud Nichole for showing the world her beautiful, unveiled face!
Isn’t freedom absolutely powerful?