Anne Harkin is a local woman who has adopted a new nickname for a new project – MsAmazebald. She has been living with alopecia for more than 20 years, and this week she tells Donegal Woman how she is bringing female baldness into a new light.
Anne is a 41-year-old mum living in Gleneely, Donegal. She has one daughter who is 12 and loves to act as her personal stylist when trying on wigs.
Wigs have become a common part of Anne’s life since she first developed alopecia at the age of 17.
“I was having my hair done and the hairdresser informed me I’d a bald patch behind my right ear. This was a bit of a shock, it took a while to grow back and life went on then another patch was found in different place” Anne said.
Anne dealt with hair loss in patches for a number of years before a dermatologist determined she has alopecia Areata. This later developed to the most severe alopecia universalis – total hair loss. She got her first wig just 18 months before her wedding, which meant saying goodbye to her last remaining strands to get it fitted. Her eyelashes and eyebrows also fell out during this time.
“I’d been trying to grow my hair for my wedding so having to shave it off was devastating. I stopped swimming because I didn’t feel comfortable, I was more aware of people around me if I was out in case someone knocked my wig off and I used to have people stare at me trying to figure what it was about my face that didn’t look right. Eyebrows are really taken for granted, they really frame your face.”
Over the years Anne has become more comfortable with being bald and is happy to exercise and swim while wearing a bandana. She switches up her look with three different coloured wigs and has endured many experiences with them, which she describes as both ‘normal everyday’ and ‘laughable’.
“I’ve had wigs pop off in the middle of furniture stores and blow off in the wind, I walked into the local post office years ago after my wig nearly blew away and my sideburns was in the middle of my forehead, I quickly straightened it and carried on. That day I knew I could deal with it no matter what.”
Anne has become more courageous in social settings and more comfortable with expressing herself through the years. She is now single, which she said can sometimes lead to worries when meeting new people and not knowing how they will react to her alopecia. Anne’s friends and family are well used to her baldness, she says, and have been a great support for her.
Anne has also been dealing with depression and going to sessions with Sarah Barr at New Beginnings Counselling. She now brings her thoughts together in a blog form through an account called MsAmazebald – presenting a positive and honest account of life with alopecia and depression.
Since setting up MsAmazebald she has been inspired to take on a new project to celebrate women with hair loss.
“Recently with so much social media I’ve noticed so many people demonstrating make up and I think someone really needs to use an alopecia model, a truly blank canvas.
“I’d love to see a bald woman used as a model for a make over just to show people bald is beautiful and it builds self confidence.
“I’ve been reaching out looking for other alopecians who might be interested in doing a photo shoot or make over. Obviously it won’t happen that fast because I’d need to find the ladies and then see how well my gift of the gab works finding photographer, make up artists, venue and or sponsors.
“But I’d certainly give it a shot, all the beautiful bald women (BBW has new meaning) deserve to show off their beauty.”
Anne has years of knowledge and experience with alopecia to share with others. Alopecia is an auto-immune disease, where the body mistakes hair for a foreign object. Anne has picked up tricks like getting semi permanent make up for the appearance of eyelashes and eyebrows, but she firmly believes baldness should be celebrated.
For women who are facing the first signs of alopecia, Anne advises them to keep calm: “Do get it checked, it can be caused by stress. DO NOT panic because it won’t help, I know that’s easy for me to say now.
“Talk to family and friends about it, alopecia for some reason tends to be hidden and kept as a secret. There is no shame in being bald and yes it takes some getting used to but you are still you and still beautiful.”
Follow Anne’s blog here: msamazebald.wordpress.com