Shaving my head and eliminating its unruly curls is something I have considered since I was a child. I have grown to embrace, even love, my curly hair and wear it in its natural wash-and-go state, but my early school photos were the butt of many classmates' jokes. I did not grow up in a beauty parlor. I was a tomboy while growing up, riding horses and playing soccer. I was 16 when I went to my first salon appointment, a gift from my mum as an attempt to calm my curly frizz. So when I entered the beauty industry professionally at the age of 17, my family and friends were surprised. The last 10 years I have been a licensed cosmetologist and have spent a lot of time feeding the vanity of others. I have had clients who would literally sacrifice grocery money in order to pay for their roots to be touched up. I quickly realized how much hair and outer appearance means to so many of us.
About four years ago, I stepped away from working behind the chair and now proudly work with one of the largest and most successful alternative hair manufacturers in the world. As Education Coordinator, I provide studio owners with instruction and training on alternative hair. I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to help our clients help their clients feel better about themselves. I meet many people every day who are dealing with hair loss in some way and it is disheartening to see them struggle. I often leave a mastectomy boutique or hair replacement center with mixed emotions: great feelings about what I do, tinged with sadness over the fact that these people are wounded by their hair loss. Many of our clients are undergoing medical treatments and have experienced a disease or life trauma that causes their hair loss. Looking and feeling like themselves again is a powerful tonic for their overall health and well-being. Research has shown that patients who believe their outsides look good tend to also feel better inside.
In May of 2013, I got to know Regina Villemure, the founder of Children With Hair Loss (CWHL). This non-profit organization supplies human hair wigs and care kits to children experiencing medical hair loss. They receive one set annually at no cost. During the 2013 American Hair Loss Council conference, I had the opportunity to meet with Regina and her team and learn about their selfless acts of good will. They truly are angels to many children and their families. I can remember being teased in school for my "fuzzy, crazy" hair, I couldn't imagine being the only one in the room without any hair. I left the conference knowing that I wanted to help in some way. I spent many months thinking about how I could raise funds for CWHL and create awareness about what they do. I finally decided to offer my hair as a donation and to keep my head shaved until I reach a fundraising goal of $5000. I initially felt really bold about my decision but as the days went by I started to worry that shaving my hair off would be a disaster! I started to worry about my family, my boyfriend, friends, and the public would think. I worried that my boyfriend wouldn't find me attractive anymore. Maybe people will think I'm ill? I kept thinking about how my hair had become my identity, as it is for so many others, and what I would do without it?
In October 2013, I was honored and privileged to attend the Children With Hair Loss Annual Charity Ball in Michigan. CWHL hosted over 350 supporters and recipients. There were many children who were recipients of wigs along with their families, multiple Miss America contestants and supporters, even a group from a yacht club in Toledo, OH whose male members have all shaved their heads and donated. I was surrounded by so many gracious, giving people and hearing all their stories really put my mind at ease and made me excited about my journey. I realized that it wasn't about how I was going to feel after shaving my head, but about how a little girl or boy would feel after putting on a wig and feeling normal for the first time. The perspective I gained from this event will stay with me forever and the strength and courage I found is immeasurable. I also learned how difficult it is to get support for your bald child, and how CWHL is the only organization who truly gives without expectation.
The big day finally arrived. On December 11, 2013, surrounded by my coworkers and friends, I donated my hair to Children With Hair Loss and started my fundraiser through Crowdrise.com called "Grow My Fro." As each curl fell to the floor, I felt I was turning a page. There's something that changes within you when you give in an act of selflessness. It did take some time to adjust; the first shock was stepping outside and feeling the air on my head. Seeing my shadow for the first time sans fro was hilarious! But i was really shocked by the fact that I love being bald! I enjoy being able to change my look every day if I choose. Some days I go bald, some days I sport a brunette bob or long flowing layers...all the hair styles I wished I could have had back in school. This something I've learned to be a little "silver lining" for many women experiencing unintentional hair loss. I've also started to meet people who have donated their hair as well. They may have a friend, sister, aunt, or mother who is bald and hearing their stories has given me a sense of pride in what I've done. Being able to embrace this journey and experience what many people deal with every day helps me better identify with the people I serve.
As I continue my fundraising I'm asked, "Will you ever grow your fro back?" At this point, I can't really say for sure. I feel so blessed to have the option at all, however supporting my fellow "baldies" is so fulfilling. I consider the possibility of having to lose my hair against my will, like so many face every day. I know it's a totally different experience for them. I'm thankful to have done this at a time in my life when I am confident in myself, in-turn while helping others feel the same. I am proud to have made the choice to help support others who do not have the choice. I am enjoying learning about myself and life in regards to self-acceptance, which is crucial for happiness and growth. I am grateful to help shine some light on a situation that can be devastating. I am learning that even though my career is in the beauty industry, thane beauty really comes from a place of acceptance and gratitude. If we have to wear certain clothes, makeup, even wigs to help us feel better about ourselves, that's great! But no matter what we do to our outsides, it truly is what's on the inside that counts. No matter how you look, be thankful, love it, and ROCK IT!
Featured in The Link Issue 9, Spring, 2014, Pages 9-10
Help donate to Diana's cause, Grow my Fro here
Learn more about Children with Hair Loss here