I love Instagram. I love it not just because I like to post beautiful pictures but because I love to look at the explore page and actually find beautiful pictures! I came across this beautiful woman with such a natural beauty that it radiated through my phone and I just had to check her out! Her name is Caroline, and she has the most perfect skin. Her lashes were on point and her brows were certainly “fleeky” in the most perfectly natural way (and if you know anything about me, I love a good yet natural brow, honey!) In her bio there was a link to www.ClickForHope.net and it was at that moment that I was pulled in on her amazing story!
Yes, Caroline does not have hair. Once I read her story on Click For Hope, I learned that she has a hair loss condition called Alopecia. I immediately wanted to learn more about her. I reached out to her and Jazi (the AMAZING photographer that took the AMAZING pictures and captured her AMAZING story!) Caroline was so flattered that I wanted to interview her and learn more about her story and what beauty means to her, and was more than willing so that her words may touch someone in a positive way. I know it will because the words that she shared have touched me as well!
Ryan: Let me 1st say, you are BEAUTIFUL! Your story on www.clickforhope.net was so inspiring and a flawless example of hope!
Caroline: Thanks you so much for wanting to share my story, it is very humbling. I hope this brings more awareness about alopecia, and more awareness that beauty comes in many forms!
R: How did you initially cope at 4 years old with your hair loss from Alopecia?
C: My parents played a big role in how I coped with my baldness. My parents would always tell me how blessed I was every day. They made me focus on what I had instead of what I did not have. My father would make me look in the mirror, so close that I could see my breath. I would have to say words of affirmation. I said, I am perfect, I am beautiful, I am blessed, I have beautiful eyes, beautiful skin.” He made me do this daily. That’s when I learned the power of words, and to only use words to lift me up. I was never allowed to wallow in self-pity.
R: How did your parents explain what alopecia was at 4 years old when you were first diagnosed?
C: My parents told me that I had a skin condition that made me lose my hair, but they never showed their heartbreak from having an alopecian child. They never looked at me differently. They always reinforced that I was blessed and special. I am so grateful for my parents, because of them I am the person that I am.
R: When I was younger I would hear older people say “Your hair is your crown and glory!” How do you feel when you hear comments of that nature?
C: I think one of the reasons I learned to hide is because of this belief. But I must make something clear, I have never felt ugly, just incomplete. I always wanted to blend in, be like everyone else. I never wanted to stand out. Today, I no longer feel that way. I walk bald, proud and humble. I no longer care of what others think. I am so much more than my hair!
R: How do you encourage others with alopecia to embrace their beauty beyond their hair?
C: I think by walking around bald and being open makes everyone more aware of alopecia. I hope to encourage others to find what I have found; self-love and self-acceptance. I feel this is crucial in conquering alopecia. For 40 years I kept my baldness a secret. Secrets restrict you and that is no way to live. Alopecia prevented me from enjoying life. It’s okay to wear a wig, hat or a scarf if you need to. But do not keep your condition a secret. Do not let alopecia weaken you, instead let it empower you with the greatest strength you have ever known.
I encourage my fellow alopecians to join support groups because it is important to not feel alone. There is the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF), a group on Facebook, or Alopecia World. There are lots of support system now, unlike when I was growing up. I have also started my own Alopecia Group (Chicago Alopecian’s). We meet once a month. It is an amazing feeling to connect with others just like me. We share the same struggles but different journeys. My Instagram @Sweetcee1967 is public so I can reach out to other alopecians.
R: In your story you mentioned you have 3 daughters. How do you express the importance of both inner and outer beauty to them?
My daughters are all grown up. They are 25, 21 and 20 years old. For years I have always told them that everyone is beautiful in their own way; that beauty starts from within. People will be drawn to who you are. But it is of the utmost importance to have self-love and self-acceptance. I didn’t truly demonstrate what I have always taught them until I came out about my alopecia and showed the world my baldness. Sometimes seeing is believing.
There was no better reassurance than when my daughter acknowledged that I have made a difference in her life, giving her confidence to tackle her own struggles. This is what she said.
“Your strength, bravery, and beauty inspires me every day. You are an inspiration to everyone around you. You've unshackled yourself from the demons that have haunted you since you can remember. You have shown/taught me to accept my flaws and whatever else dismantles me and to be empowered by them. You have shown me the liberation of speaking my mind. You have also shown me how to do this with both power and grace. You continue to show me how my self-worth is not based on my physical appearance or the challenges I have faced but on the amount of love I have in my heart. You have shown me the importance of fighting for my growth. You have helped me realize that all the love I seek from others can be created by myself. Sure, some days are easier than others, but because of you, I now know the only validation I need is my own. You embody the beauty of liberation from society's conventionalism. Thank you for doing what scares you because it moves me to do the same. You kick ass. Seriously.
Caroline shared with me this beautiful quote:
“Beauty shouldn’t be about changing yourself to achieve an ideal or be more socially acceptable. Real beauty, the interesting, truly pleasing kind, is about honoring the beauty within you and without you. It’s about knowing that someone else’s definition of pretty has no hold over you.”
On the Click For Hope website, there are so many beautiful stories about people who can touch the world through hope, and I was certainly moved by Caroline's story. The images that photographer, Jazi, captures are stunning and certainly tell a hopeful story! For more about Caroline and Click For Hope, Visit the website at www.Clickforhope.net.