Felicia Flores noticed bald spots on her head in her 20s while raising her 1-year-old daughter. When she went to the dermatologist, she was diagnosed with alopecia areata, a disease that develops when the body attacks the hair follicles, causing hair loss, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA).
Flores, now 45, underwent many treatment procedures to grow back her hair. She also hid her bald spot with many hairstyles. Sometime before her 30th birthday, Flores made the decision to shave her head, frustrated with the painful treatments.
She told GMA, “I was kind of tired of that false hope and just said, ‘Forget about it.'” She added that she had never even heard of alopecia before her diagnosis.
Flores worked as both a cosmetologist and a flight attendant, and apart from hiding the condition with wigs, she also kept it from her closest family and friends. To keep up appearances, she even had to forgo some of her favorite activities like swimming and riding roller coasters, living in fear that her secret would be exposed.
“I was definitely embarrassed by it and ashamed, per se, of it at the time, so I just hid it. Your hair is your crown; that’s what you’ve been told, so with the popularity of hair extensions and weaves and all this stuff, where was that place for the ‘baldie?’ It wasn’t really out there.”
Soon, Flores found a role model in Amber Rose, a model who dated Kanye West for several years and took the spotlight. Seeing a woman like herself with a bald head wearing it proudly in public helped her find the confidence she needed.
“I’d never seen a woman where she’s feminine and she’s rocking a bald head. I was like, ‘Oh, it can be done. That was what gave me that inspiration—like, no, I can still be myself. I can still be feminine. I can still show up as my authentic me and embrace myself because she’s doing it.”
“I wasn’t even paying attention to Kanye. I saw her and she was absolutely gorgeous and fabulous, so she inspired me to say, ‘No, you can be bald and beautiful,'” she added.
So, a decade ago, Flores decided to do away with the wigs. She began dating more and became more self-conscious about wearing wigs, saying she “didn’t want to lie anymore.”
She wanted whoever she was dating to see her true self. “I felt like if I’m going to be out in this dating world, I want to meet somebody who sees me for me, and I don’t have to go through the theatrics of coming out and trying to explain to them that I’m bald. I just wanted them to see me. You like me? This is it. What you see is what you get.”
However, suddenly embracing her baldness came with some unwanted attention. Flores recalled everyone staring at her. She also had to explain several times that her baldness didn’t mean she was sick with cancer or another type of life-threatening disease.
Flores began to use the social media community to help her come to peace with her new identity, a feeling she described as feeling completely “embraced.” Motivated by her newfound confidence and community, Flores decided to invest her savings into her “passion project,” Baldie Con, a two-day gathering for women who have hair loss issues, whether from alopecia or any other condition.
“That’s what makes Baldie Con so special, is that we’re inclusive. I just want them to be recognized for being special and beautiful and to know that they’re loved and know that there’s a community out there for them to embrace and to have any kind of information that’s out there, whether it’s about hair loss, different remedies, treatments,” the entrepreneur expressed.
A 38-year-old mom of three, Shadina Blunt, who was a speaker for this year’s event, lost her hair to chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer, with which she was diagnosed in January. Too hard to accept, she covered the mirrors in her home and wore wraps on her head initially when she was left bald. She also began wearing wigs, but they still made her feel down.
It took several hard months to accept her baldness. When she finally did, she disclosed, “It is very liberating.”
She advised others in her condition, “Know that hair is just hair. It does not define you. If you lose your hair, try to embrace it. Try to love it, and ultimately love yourself, and give yourself grace on the days that you don’t.”