Many people who experience hair loss due to alopecia have the instinct to withdraw or hide. Finding the right support is key. Depending on your comfort level, this may involve sharing your diagnosis with others.
Support can look different for everyone. Your loved ones, mental health professionals, and communities of people who relate to your experiences are all potential resources to lean on as you navigate the ups and downs.
To learn more about what to expect when opening up about alopecia, Healthline spoke with Keya Trammell. She’s a Chicago-based recording artist and entertainer who received an alopecia areata diagnosis at 2 years old.
This interview has been edited for brevity, length, and clarity.
I remember my first moments as a young girl introducing myself on the first day of school or summer camp. I’d say, “Hi, my name is Keya, and I have alopecia!”
My enthusiastic introduction was my own clever way of creating awareness among peers about my uniqueness before teasing could even be an option.
I wore wigs from first grade until college. My mom and I felt wigs could be a type of protection for me. I would sometimes bring attention to myself by taking my wig off in class to bring laughter to others. I was, once again, trying to beat the tease.
That didn’t last long, especially once I realized teasing would come whether I invited it or not. Once, in my senior year of high school, my wig slipped off in class. This time, it wasn’t intentional. The class laughed, including my teacher, and I asked to be excused to go to the restroom. I was devastated, to say the least.
The next day, I shaved off my remaining hair to reclaim my dignity. I still went to school with a wig on, but I’d become my own superhero underneath. I took back my power at that moment.
Living my truth and loving it
I’m now an entertainer based in Chicago, Illinois, so I’m always in front of people.
About 8 years ago, I wrote a poem titled “Entitled Alopecian,” in which I’d speak about my journey with hair loss. I’d recite it with a wig on and snatch the wig off at the end of the poem. Whew! It would get an audience roused up, and I’d always be in tears once done.
As I became more and more comfortable with my look, I decided that I’d take on the everyday adventure of being a bald woman. It was the best decision I’d ever made. It helped me to feel free. Even my dating life is better, not necessarily because I’m bald, but because I’m so confident in my appearance.
I swim lighter. I have no hair in my face with the windows down. And my head is as smooth as a baby’s bottom after a fresh shave. I actually receive many compliments, and best of all, I get to meet so many people who also have alopecia. I find these interactions happen faster than they would if I were to wear a wig every day.
Don’t get me wrong. I have a 24-inch braided wig, an afro wig that touches the heavens, and a wig that Beyoncé would probably want to wear herself, but it’s my choice to wear them.
Over the years, I’ve had a lot of different ways of introducing myself as a Black woman who lives with alopecia. What seems to be the commonality of it all is that it’s genuine. Whether genuinely afraid, silly, or brave, it’s always been genuine.
I’ve experienced unsolicited opinions about this condition my entire life. Some ignorant, some ill-willed, and some helpful. I’ve heard:
- “Wakanda forever,” blurted out to me while taking a walk.
- “Can I stare at your head to see if I’ll be able to get a look into my future?”
- “Everyone cannot pull that look off.”
- “You’re beautiful, hair or no hair.”
I personally take it all with a grain of salt and always remember my worth. I know who I am, and no opinion can change that!
Accepting support from my community
I’ve found that community is what keeps me grounded even after I receive triggering unsolicited opinions. One example of this was after the very publicized mocking of alopecia areata during the 2022 Academy Awards.
What followed was a public whirlwind of unsolicited opinions about alopecia. I sat in my living room angry, not even for my personal experience but for friends who have alopecia and are not as comfortable with their condition.
Some have husbands who they sleep next to every night who have never seen them without a wig on. Some are mentees of mine in their adolescence managing depression and suicidal thoughts due to a lack of hair.
I was angry for my younger self because I remembered how even the slightest mention of this condition, if not spoken with care, could ruin my day.
After my anger settled, I grew to appreciate the fact that the alopecia areata community stood together and affirmed each other through social media, phone calls, letters, and beyond.
Not only did the community itself speak up — others did too. I got calls for months afterward asking if I was OK from people who don’t have alopecia. I was even asked to chime in on a radio podcast to speak about alopecia.
I’d never seen so much public awareness on the topic of alopecia. It made me want to personally be more involved.
Making new connections and getting involved with advocacy
I went to NAAF’s conference in June 2022 and was thrilled with my decision. I said to myself, “Wow, this is the first time I’m experiencing what it feels like to be human and not just the only person with alopecia in the room.”
All the attendees had dealt with unsolicited opinions at one time or another. For a moment, though, we were able to comfort each other with transparent conversation, acceptance, and an overall fun time.
I’d recommend to anyone to find an alopecia community near your location. No matter where you live, there’s someone to connect with. Attending a NAAF conference is another great way to connect with others. There’s nothing more comforting than finding a tribe that shares the same highs and lows as you.
You’re not alone — once you realize that, unsolicited opinions may sting you, but the sting won’t last!
Keya Trammell is a professional singer, makeup artist, actress, and alopecia advocate. She grew up singing in church and launched her musical career in 2016 after a video of her singing a cover song went viral, garnering over 1.3 million views in a week. The Chicago Music Award winner has a special love and respect for the performing arts. She has opened and performed background vocals for Grammy award-winning recording artists and uses her platform to evoke confidence through dedication of character embodiment, singing from the spirit and connecting to everyone in the audience.