Sandey Greene showed up as a bit of a paradox at Wald Park in Vestavia Hills on September 17. She wore earrings that looked like hair combs, which contrasted sharply with her hairless head.
“It was intentional, because I had hair,” said Greene, who suffers from alopecia, a lack or loss of hair in areas of the body where hair is usually found. “I am bald because it was my choice. I shaved my hair because my hair was almost gone. I will always represent those (with alopecia) who have hair.
On Saturday, Greene, founder of Don’t Stare! Just Ask, organized what is believed to be the first Alopecia Awareness Walk on the Birmingham Underground. More than 100 people were present for the event.
Some were bald. Some had hair. Some wore scarves while others wore wigs. All have experienced the embarrassment of losing their hair.
Some walked to support loved ones living with the disease.
Beyond raising awareness of alopecia, Saturday’s march brought support to people living with it.
“It’s so important for people to support (people with) any kind of illness or whatever is going on,” Greene said. “The support is awesome, knowing you’re not the only one, people are with you.”
Greene, 54, says her journey with alopecia began 22 years ago. After growing her hair long and thick, the Forestdale resident experienced tenderness at the top of her head and thinning hair.
In the end, she made the difficult decision to shave her head.
“I was always told, ‘Don’t cut your hair. A woman’s hair is her glory,’ she said. “When I started losing my hair, I got depressed. I was afraid of how people would perceive me if they saw my face. For him to start dating was just heartbreaking.
Now Greene lives life differently.
“I am free,” she said. “I’m free from the wigs, weaves, scarves, braids, hideouts…I got so depressed with it all and now that I’ve shaved my head, I’m so free. I don’t have to worry about weaves and going to the hair salon. I go out as I am and it’s bald.
Alopecia knows no age limit. West End’s Ivan Carter attended the walk with his daughter, Khoda Ivy Carter, 5, who is dealing with the disease.
She wore a shirt that read “Bald Is Beautiful.”
“We had onset signs (alopecia) I believe about 18 out of 2 months and then we had complete hair loss,” the dad said. “We dealt with her both ways. She hasn’t had (hair) for about 3, 4 years.
“She’s doing really well,” Carter continued. “We don’t stress hair in our house. Beauty is bigger than what you look at. It’s how you behave and act every day.
Not everyone who suffers from alopecia is bald, as Enetra Smith of Atlanta told the assembled crowd.
“I’m part of your community, even though I’ve chosen not to shave my head yet,” she said. “I’m still diagnosed with Cicatricial Alopecia.”
Greene acknowledged that many people had heard of alopecia during the Oscars broadcast when host Chris Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald head having it.
Pinkett Smith’s husband, Will Smith, responded by slapping Rock.
“For me, (the incident) helped because some people are experiencing alopecia because of the Jada Pinkett-Will Smith case,” the march organizer said. “Some people are very educated about it and some people aren’t. That’s why we raise awareness about it.”
The founder of Don’t Stare! Just Ask boldly brings this awareness, as evidenced by the word “Fearless” she has tattooed on the upper center of her back.
“I chose not to be afraid of myself because I’m not afraid anymore,” she said. “I am no longer ashamed. I wanted it to have something on me that I could look at every day, so I chose to get the tattoo that said fearless.