Mohana: Hair lost. Confidence Gained.

Mohana is a social worker for urban youth from Kansas City. She has had alopecia since she was 8 years old.

“I have a hair loss disorder. You’re born with alopecia genetically, but it can be triggered at any point in your life. When I was 8 years old, I started losing my hair. No one knows what triggered it, but I just lost all of my hair by the time I was 10. I remember my parents’ pain a lot more than my own.”

“When I was younger in middle and high school, I felt the need to distract people from my hair loss. I was a very loud and animated person with very strong opinions. It became helpful to be known as the loud girl or the angry girl rather than the bald girl because alopecia has a very psychological component to it. Anytime someone compliments you, you’re wondering if they’re lying to you. There’s always this nagging voice in the back of your head saying - they’re lying to you, they don’t mean it, and they’re just saying that to make you feel better. It’s always there, and it’s very difficult to ignore yourself.”

Mohana wears an orange blouse. There is love in her eyes, and she has an expression on her face as if she is amazed.

Mohana describes how everyday-life fed into these thoughts. “I was unable to see people who looked like me, and that was enough to make me feel like I needed to show some other side of me big enough to cover up the fact that I was bald. I was trying so hard to be someone else other than the bald girl. Only up until now have I realized that there is no reason to distract someone from that. Yes, I’m still opinionated and vocal, but I’m that way for no reason other than “that’s who I am.” I don’t need to put on a facade for anyone. If they don’t like me or if societal standards aren’t letting them get past the fact that I’m bald… that’s on them. That’s not on me. I don’t have to take responsibility for that, and I think I felt that I needed to when I was younger. I needed to make sure that other people weren’t thinking about it. Now, I want them to think about it, I want them to see me as I am.”

Mohana is wearing a wine colored lipstick, and she is beaming. She wears a floral shirt with pastels complimented with deep purples.

Mohana explains how the expansion of social media during her youth also influenced her outlook. “I was in high school from 2009 - 2013, and social media was just blowing up. I do feel like social media exposed me to the rest of the world, but that online exposure didn’t really do anything for me. All it did was show me how happy everyone else was and how everyone had hair. It seemed to suggest that I needed that. Anyways, I think the pressure from seeing how older people look on social media makes kids grow up so quickly. It makes us automatically assume that we need to look a certain way even if only a kid.”

Mohana explains how this experience has given her motivation. “In the last few months, I’ve actually partnered up with some other individuals around the nation, and we’ve created a campaign called The Naked Confidence Campaign that provides support to people with alopecia and empowers them to tell their story. We’re just trying to give ourselves more of a presence in the world in general. Our mission is to empower people with alopecia to feel comfortable with themselves. We need to change the narrative on what beauty is and what confidence is. The Naked Confidence Campaign is a support group on Discord with over 350 people of all ages who have alopecia. We do group therapy sessions, support each other, and start conversations around our individual experiences with alopecia. We have a form you can fill out to be admitted to the group on Discord. I’m a coach or leader within the group, and it’s really helped me build my confidence too. However, at the same time, it’s true that you don’t have to be working towards something to love yourself or to be worthy of confidence. We don’t have to be chasing some dream or climbing some sort of ladder to love ourselves. We are always worthy as people, and we are always worthy of kindness from people.”