30 Days of Gorgeous: Caroline

Best Photographer in Chicago | Toma Houston Photography

 

What does beauty mean to you?

Beauty to me starts from within, it’s what lies in your heart.  Beauty is the inner strength and character of who you are.  Beauty is in how you live your life.  Beauty is the life that beats in everyone. Inner beauty is so much more important than outer  beauty. Eventually outer beauty fades…

 

When do you feel most beautiful?

I feel the most beautiful when my husband and my children tell me that I’m beautiful. Because they know the real me and love me unconditionally.

 

What does being a woman mean to you?

Being a woman means having strength and courage.  Being a woman is empowering others to believe in themselves. Being a woman is ALWAYS seeing hope at the darkest times…

 

What do you love about yourself?

My positive outlook in life.  At a very young  age I learned to appreciate the things I had instead of the things I didn’t have. I always viewed my cup as half full, instead of half empty.

 

Tell me your story.

At the age of 4, I lost all my hair to Alopecia Universalis (AU). For those unaware of this condition, AU is an advanced form of alopecia areata. Although the exact cause of AU is unknown, it is thought to be an autoimmune condition in which an affected person’s immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles.

Growing up bald was not easy. Although I had parents that tried to show me how to be courageous and tried to show me just how beautiful and blessed I was, I still had to endure the everyday pressure of life. There was the pressure of seeing little girls with beautiful hair and wishing every day that I had that. There was pressure of kids being mean and pulling off my bandana and laughing at me because I was bald. There was pressure of name calling and bullying.

My parents finally convinced me to start wearing a wig. It didn’t make things that much easier. I remember walking home from school one day with my brother and a girl decided it would be fun to pull it off and throw it on the ground. At that moment, all I could do was cry and run home. Every day I feared leaving the house, the emotional scar is unimaginable.

I learned how to hide my AU. I felt as if people wouldn’t accept me for me so it became my secret and only my family and those I truly trusted, which were not many, knew the real me. In High School only a few knew about my AU. This made it so easy to try to blend in; I never wanted to stand out, never! The ironic part about it was I would always be the one to be called by teachers to lead a project, to sing solos, participate in plays, fashion shows, and they even nominated me to join homecoming queen and enter a beauty pageant. One thing I realized, my fear never really went away by keeping my AU a secret and the emotional scar was also still a part of my life.

When I started my family, my AU was not only my secret but it had become my husband and my children’s secret. I held my family bound to my alopecia. When they were infants, I wouldn’t carry them in public for fear that they would pull my hair (wig). They were taught never to touch mommy’s hair ever! They could never have friends sleep over because it would be very uncomfortable for me to be me in my own house.

I am now 49 years old; married with 3 beautiful daughters. I joined an International Alopecia Group in July 2015 and that’s when I realized my journey with AU has prepared me to be able to help others like me. But my baldness was still a secret. How do I encourage others to accept themselves if I myself could not let people know about my condition. So I started telling my husband’s family and friends. I only wanted to tell people, not show people. But of course, God had other plans for me. The oddest thing was I started becoming uncomfortable wearing my wigs. This was strange because I have been wearing them for 40 years. It took a lot for me to take a look at myself bald. How can I tell my children and others that beauty really lies deep within if I myself can’t see passed my lack of hair.

My husband helped me with my small steps into seeing myself for who I was, a beautiful woman living with AU. Slowly I found myself no longer wearing my wigs. We would go on drives, take walks on the beach and even take a selfie. I felt free, my secret slowly fading; including the emotional scar.

It started getting cold and I didn’t like my hats since it looked terrible without any hair. I was pretty sad, because I really did not want to start wearing my wig again. I just prayed and asked God to lead me in what I am supposed to do. On Sunday October 4, 2015, a lady stopped me and said. “Excuse me, can I ask you a question?” I said “sure.” “Do you have alopecia?” I said “yes!” She said “so do I.” Then she asked. “How do you do it?” I knew she meant how am I walking around without my wig? I told her “I don’t know?” I said “This is all new to me.” I told her “God is giving me the strength to do this. I couldn’t have done this on my own.” So that day, I officially retired all my wigs. Yes I put them all away for that special occasion.

I was so fortunate enough to meet others just walking around bald. They said “I would have never seen you had you worn your wig.” How can I reach others if I am not true to myself? It took a lot to accept myself, with lots of guidance from God. I am finally in a place where I no longer need to wear a wig to feel complete!

Now, I no longer hide behind my wig. I am living with AU and you could say that I’m proud that I can say that and show people that I am still beautiful without hair. Now when I tell my daughters it is just hair, it is not just talk, I actually walk the walk. I used to think my lack of hair was an imperfection; I know now that it is my strength.

 

 

Feel beautiful with alopecia Chicago | Toma Houston Photography

 

What do you think was the biggest turning point in your life?

I have three big turning points in my life:

First one was becoming  a mother.
2nd was fulfilling my role as a  daughter by helping my mom with her rehabilitation after her car accident.
3rd: when I decided to finally tell and show the world my baldness.

 

Please finish the statement- I am a person who…

leads by example.

 

Tell me about a goal you are working on.

I want to bring more awareness about alopecia.  I want to help others like me to find what I found, self love and  self acceptance.  I have started my own alopecia  group here in Chicago. My Instagram is also public so I can reach other alopecians.

 

Alopecia Photographer Chicago | Toma Houston Photography

“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” -Marianne Williamson

 

Toma Houston Photography is a member of Professional Photographers of America (PPA). Specializing in children’s and portrait photography, serving the Greater Chicagoland area. You can view more of Toma Houston Photography’s portfolio here.

20 comments

  1. Kathy says:

    You are a TRUE inspiration and you are beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story. I have had AU for about three years. I am 60 years old and very white ( I envy your beautiful color). I HATE wigs they are very uncomfortable. I am now wearing hats when I go out which is a little progress. But I have to say I still feel very ugly and not femine at all. It really has stopped me from being who I was. Confidence about zero.

    • Caroline Alanis says:

      Thanks so much Kathy. I think one of the hardest things that AU does is rob you of a sense of self. You no longer look like what you did before. I suggest to do daily affirmations. I did that at such a young age. It has truly helped me. There is an Alopecia Group on Facebook that has over 10,000 members. That group has been such a blessing to me. Do you live in Chicago?

  2. Joan Gundersrn says:

    You are so beautiful. I think I wear my wigs out of convenience so as to navigate more easily in the world, without the hassle of having to explain that I am not ill. It’s become a way of navigating. Do you have to do a lot of explaining? Just wondering.

    • Caroline Alanis says:

      Thanks so much Joan. This is how I feel… People will always feel some type of emotion when they see me. It’s expected. Sometimes it’s not about seeing me as being sick but seeing my strength and courage, that’s what moves people. The good thing about it is it is just alopecia and nothing serious. I love when people approach me. It shows their hearts and that is love and kindness. I have been asked if I have cancer and I just say I don’t and tell them it is alopecia. Walking bald is not eas you. Sometimes I will get stares that make me feel uncomfortable. But I just smile.
      I am touched by how kind people are to me. It gives me more faith in humanity, it makes me more humble.

  3. Barbara Hicks says:

    I had AU. I lost all my hair about 2 years ago. Now it has all come back except for my head and I am totally bald. You are so beautiful and I admire your strength. I don’t even go out in the yard without something on my head. May-be one day I will find the courage.

    • Caroline says:

      Thank you so much Barbara. I totally understand about hiding. I hid my condition for 40 years. I truly believe people with alopecia were meant to stand out. You were meant to stand out!

  4. Kath says:

    This was such a nice story and I can totally relate to what you went through as a child with AU. I was diagnosed with AU when I was 16, which was an awful age to lose all my hair because I was just starting to date. Guys wanted nothing to do with me after they found out I was bald and wore a wig. Thankfully, I met my husband my freshman year in college and he made me feel beautiful again. I still don’t really like what I see in the mirror. I’d give anything to have a full head of hair because, unlike you, I don’t think I could ever leave the house without a wig. I’d feel like a freak. Isn’t that pathetic. Kudos to you for doing just that!

    • Caroline says:

      Thank you Kath, I hid for so long that I forgot that I was hiding. I lived in fear all my life. Thank God freed me. Hugs!

  5. Wanda kWright says:

    You are beautiful and your story is beautiful!! My daughter has Alopecia and lost the majority of her hair about ten years ago and it has killed her spirit. She sees know hope in ever being in a relationship or being truly happy. She is beautiful,smart , funny and has a beautiful heart I pray that one day she can accept the Alopecia and live the life that God wants her to have. Thank you and God bless

    • Caroline says:

      Thank you so much Wanda. Alopecia parents are so special. You are special. Thank you for all that you do for your daughter. I will keep her in my prayers. Hugs!

  6. Cathy McCarthy says:

    Hi.
    You are absolutely so beautiful, so so beautiful. I lost my hair through chemo, so I have some idea of what hair loss is like. Why would you hide your beauty. Kahil Gibran says “Beauty is not in the face, Beauty is a light in the heart”. Yes I truly believe this. We live in a world of such fake beauty that it is so refreshing to see someone as authentically beautiful as you. Sending you light. Cathy

  7. Maria Padilla says:

    Caroline I am so proud of you. You have always been a beautiful person inside and out. You are a truly a beautiful soul. God Bless you. Love you my dear friend.

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