Growing up as a kid in the Bronx, I wanted “good hair” like my Latina friends. You know the wavy kind with soft baby hair edges and long ponytails that swung and bounced playfully like the white girls. "Good hair" was the kind that was easy to manage and better than the kinky coils that made me miserable every time my mama would comb through my afro puffs, oil my scalp and make me sit still for hours to get my hair braided. I wanted pretty hair that was pain free and flowed down my back so I could wear it out with ease. Instead, I had to suffer through the neck and ear burns I received during Sunday morning hot comb sessions by the stove. I learned that beauty costs and I had to pay the price just so I would look extra nice for church that morning. I wanted everything except what I had. If I knew then what I know now, I would have challenged every thought that led me to believe that I needed to change or be anything more than what I already was.
Today I know that my hair was never my enemy, my perception of myself was. I woke up to that realization at 25-years-old when I was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease, alopecia areata. It affects men, women and children of all nationalities. Nearly 5 million people in the United States alone are challenged with this incurable form of unpredictable hair loss. Many patients only develop smooth, round bald patches throughout the scalp the size of a coin which is how it started for me. The hair can grow back with treatment or on its own through remission. Within three years I developed alopecia universalis which causes complete hair loss on the scalp, face and body. I have lived this way for the past 10 years. I was also diagnosed with central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (CCCA) commonly known as scarring alopecia. This form of permanent hair loss falls out at the crown of the head and is prevalent mostly among African-American women. According to the Hampton University Skin of Color Research Institute, the cause is not conclusive but unhealthy hair care practices are likely to be a contributing factor.
It would be a gross understatement to say that my hair loss experience was devastating and caused me to experience low self-esteem. In order to survive the blows to my self-image, I had to look deeper than the follicles on my scalp and tap into the truth that was in my heart. Refusing to hide from the world and stay stuck in a rut over the things I could not change, I redefined beauty and named it “Bald.” I developed authentic self-esteem which is not derived from physical attributes such as hair, weight, breasts, buttocks, or complexion. Authentic self-esteem is an outward expression of the character and virtue we possess inside which can never be taken away. Launching my website helped me share my story of strength and taught me that we have to appreciate our differences, celebrate our heritage and accept ourselves just as we are, perfectly made in the image and likeness of the Creator.
This road has taken me down a path that led me to become 2011 Mrs. Black North Carolina. I made history when I was crowned the first Bald Beauty Queen of North Carolina, creating a legacy of entrepreneurship and social activism for my family. Today I help other women move from fear to personal freedom by healing their emotional wounds and developing healthy self-esteem. Despite my medical condition, I am an inspirational speaker, performing artist and emerging author of My Crown and Glory, It’s NOT About the Hair. I travel throughout the U.S. living my dream by advocating for alopecia awareness, promoting healthy hair care practices and awakening the consciousness of sleeping beauties all over the world.
Sandra Dubose-Gibson, the Bald Beauty Queen of Self Esteem, is the author of My Crown and Glory, It’s NOT About the Hair. She chronicles her experiences with alopecia on her personal blog and Twitter @SandraDubose.