Members of the local alopecia support group encourage those with alopecia to love themselves as they are. (Amy Maginnis-Honey/Daily Republic)
FAIRFIELD — Darlene Phillips chuckled Sunday as she shared the story of purchasing a wig, then sitting on the back floor in the car to put it on, so no one would see.
Phillips has launched a local support group for people with alopecia, an autoimmune disease where the body attacks its own hair follicles.
September is National Alopecia Awareness Month. Phillips wants people to know there is support and healing in Solano County.
Along with friends who have alopecia, Phillips has launched Bald Life United 2 Empower. She has designed T-shirts featuring a bald silhouette and matching masks.
She tried a variety of hair products and styles when she notice her hair was thinning. Phillips was also contemplating a $15,000 investment for a hair plant. She decided against it.
“I decided it wasn’t time for me to put hair back on my head,” she said.
She chose to view her hair loss as a way to share her story and hopefully encourage and empower others with alopecia.
From left, Darlene Phillips, Charlotte Robinson and Bahiya Spaulding. (Amy Maginnis-Honey/Daily Republic)
“We are committed to bringing awareness and support to those who may be in a challenging stage, but would love to move forward to a happy place and live a purposeful life,” Phillips shared in an email to the Daily Republic.
Phillips has shared her story with Bald Life Magazine, which just released its fourth issue with Rep. Ayanna Pressley on the cover. Pressley went public with her story at the beginning of 2020.
Charlotte Robinson, a paraeducator at Crescent Elementary School, noticed her hair was thinning about six years ago. She, too, covered it up with wigs until a woman at church offered to cut her hair.
“I felt a little uncomfortable at first,” she said.
As time went on, she began to get compliments.
She was in a store Saturday when the clerk, Robinson estimated to be in his 20s, said, “Look at you,” he told her. “You are beautiful. You are rockin’ that.”
It was a real confidence booster to match the support she gets from Phillips and Bahiya Spaulding, an artist who showcased her alopecia artwork in April at the Solano Town Center Gallery.
Robinson aims to educate youth about alopecia, letting some of them touch her bald head.
“They are very curious about anything that is different,” she said.
When a young boy wanted to know why she didn’t have hair, Robinson was able to explain, “It’s not my hair that makes me. It’s how I am inside.”
Her suggestion: “When you get a haircut, think of me.”
Spaulding retired from the Air Force earlier this year. She decided to cut of all of her hair about three years ago.
“I’m going to rock my crown the way it is,” Spaulding told the DR in April.
The three women gathered Sunday to share their stories and to enjoy brunch. After, they sat down to express their feelings on canvas. The idea was to show their personality on canvas, Spaulding said.
Wilamenia Allen was not able to attend but shared her comments via email.
“I was diagnosed with alopecia in 2012. It’s been a journey, however, I feel I am at the stage where, through my own experience, I can start supporting and helping others who are also experiencing any form of hair loss,” Allen wrote. “I used to always focus on the negatives of alopecia but over time I’ve learned to slowly accept it and try and focus on the positives – for one, it makes you a way stronger person.
“Not only is it important to encourage women with hair loss to embrace and accept, but it is also important to share knowledge,” Allen wrote. “Hair loss can affect anyone, so the more information women have, the better prepared they will be and the better they can cope. You are beautiful with or without hair.”
Connect with the local alopecia support group at www.facebook.com/AlopeciaSH, by calling 322-7375 or sending an email to [email protected].
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The immensely talented Molly Tuttle is another that has come out of the closet and advocates…. https://www.mollytuttlemusic.com/alopeciaareata