Since age 17, Beth Finlay has suffered from Alopecia Areata, a condition that causes extreme hair loss, often without explanation. Here, she tells her sister Titi Finlay why she chose to shave off the little hair she had left and ‘come out’ to the world as the person she’d been hiding under a wig for 7 years…
Let’s talk then and now, how does your life without hair compare to your life with hair?
I never would have imagined that shaving my head would change my life, but it did. It’s been a year since I ‘came out’ as bald, and I am literally KILLING IT. I graduated with a first class honours, got myself a job that I love, bought a flat and the best thing is that being bald literally means all my fashion looks SLAY. People regularly stop me on the street to compliment me, tell me I am beautiful and even take photos of me, which is pretty crazy. Last weekend at their gig, The Sugarhill Gang serenaded me from stage and the whole crowd seemed to think I was someone famous! What can I say? You are 100% more likely to get noticed when you are the only bald girl in the room, and I kind of love it.
How did your identity change, if at all, when you lost your hair?
I think when I first lost my hair, I tried to keep my identity the same as it has always been. I did everything I could to hide what was happening and pretend nothing had changed. It was horrible having to hide it, and I didn’t realise until I shaved off what hair I had left that there was a whole other person I was hiding along with my alopecia. When I finally found the strength to tell people about it, I discovered a completely new identity – my true identity – and became the person I was meant to be.
How do you deal with haters?
Of course there’s always going to be ignorant and small-minded people who look at me funny, ask if I have some kind of illness or assume I lost my mind and went full Britney circa 2007. But I’ve gotten to a point where I literally don’t care what people think because I am completely confident in myself (and my bald head!) Call it vanity, call it conceited or self obsessed – I call it SELF LOVE and it’s f**king fabulous. Everyone should try it! As the great Ru Paul says, ‘If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?’ Can I get an Amen?
What are your go to accessories?
Earrings are my number one accessory. I recently discovered this jewellery brand based in Toronto called Jenny Bird and I am so in love with the pieces! Their pieces are super edgy and chic, and I’m lucky enough that they send me pieces everytime they launch a new collection. I also love wearing glasses and sunglasses – it feels like I am decorating my face with them. I love strutting around like a total diva so a combination of all these accessories forms the basis of my outfits every day.
Do you ever feel insecure anymore?
Honestly never. I have learned to completely let go of all my insecurities. I know it seems so hard to do but actually it’s simple and it is so freeing. All it takes is the confidence to be yourself and the rest just comes naturally.
Do you feel like girls with alopecia are represented in the media/online enough?
In the past year I have noticed more bald girls popping up in the media. A recent Rimmel campaign used a bald model, and of course there’s the it girls like Adwoa Aboah, Slick Woods and Sharaya J killing it with shaved heads. I also saw a trailer for a film on Netflix called ‘Nappily Ever After’ about a gorgeous black woman who finds her identity through shaving her head (YES LADIES LET’S DO THIS!) As a group, we are still under-represented but I think that with the whole conversation about self-acceptance and diversity that’s happening on social media, in the future you’ll start seeing a lot more women without hair who are proud of it, which I think is amazing.
How do you plan on changing people’s perceptions of alopecia?
Just going out bald and proud changes people’s views, I think. It doesn’t even phase me now, but I think when people see me for the first time they are always a bit shocked because it’s just not the norm for a woman to be bald. I use my Instagram as a platform for showing off my bald head and how I use it to my advantage when it comes to my style and fashion. I love wearing loud and colourful outfits and I think they draw attention to the fact I’m proud to have no hair, rather than ashamed. I don’t try and hide away from it and I think that’s the message I am trying to get across. I want people to see that being bald is a lot of fun! It would be so great to get to a stage where losing your hair isn’t out of the ordinary, so that people suffering no longer have to feel ashamed or insecure about it. I don’t think it will happen overnight but I think we are definitely moving in the right direction.
If you had a choice, would you prefer not to have ever had alopecia?
Never. Although it was a long and emotionally draining journey, losing my hair changed my life and I can honestly say it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I love being bald but I also love that I have the option to wear my wig and have hair whenever I feel like it – especially now that winter is in sight and you lose a lot of heat when you’re bald. So expect a lot more hair pics from me in the coming months! At the end of the day, I am who I am, and losing my hair has been a big part of that but I wouldn’t change a thing.
Interview: Titi Finlay