Emely Martinez spent years hiding her condition, called alopeica, with strangers, friends, and even family. Then she came to realize that she is beautiful because of who she is on the inside, not because of her external appearance. With this realization, she stopped wearing the wigs and hats that were covering up her bald head. In her own words, “I have the freedom to be my full bald self no matter who I’m with.”
So inspiring! Emely, you are gorgeous inside and out. Thank you for speaking with me about your experience, and it was great to meet you!
Skin Tome (ST): Can you please tell me a little bit about yourself? And a little bit about alopecia?
Emely Martinez (EM): Well my name is Emely. I’m 18 years old, and I have Alopecia. I love all things fashion; whether it be styling, designing, or constructing garments.
Alopecia is an auto-immune disease that causes you’re cells to attack your hair follicles, resulting in them falling out. Most of the condition is unknown, such as the causes and treatments.
(ST): When and how did you realize you have it?
(EM): It all started on the day of my 15th birthday in July 2010. My hair stylist was blow drying my hair when she found a small bald patch in my head. It was not really a big deal at the time but as the summer went by, I started getting more and bigger bald patches throughout my head. During the end of that summer is when my countless doctor appointments began and I was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata. By February that year, my condition turned into Alopecia Totalis, which means I had lost all of the hair on my head. Almost a year later during October of 2011, I lost all of the hair on my body including my eyelashes and eyebrows, turning my condition into Alopecia Universalis.
(ST): Do you hide the fact that you have alopecia or do most people know you have it?
(EM): I hid the fact that I have Alopecia for a very long time. When all of the hair fell out of my head, I immediately got a natural wig that I wore everyday. Some people in my family knew about the condition, some were suspicious (my best friends), and others had no idea. Either way, the whole topic was just very uncomfortable for me. Even in my house, I wore a hat because I didn’t want my little sisters seeing me completely bald.
(ST): What is it like to be in the world with this condition?
(EM): For me at first, it was awful living as a teenager suddenly losing all of my hair after having long, beautiful, thick locks. It was like I had lost my identity and my world came tumbling down. I was embarrassed about it, felt alone, and even gained a bit of depression. It stopped me from doing so many things I enjoy doing like swimming in pools or beaches, going on intense roller coaster rides without worrying about my hair. I basically used it as an excuse to justify all the things I could have been doing, but was not.
It was not only till this past year that I started loving myself for who I was. Looking at myself in the mirror, I started seeing myself as a normal beautiful human being. I wanted to share my condition with the world but I needed to build up the courage to do it. This quote really stuck to me: “The very secret you’re trying to conceal, is the same one you’re dying to reveal.” Just last month, I finally tossed out the wig to the side, and basically “came out of the closet” with my Alopecia on all of my social networks; which was a big deal considering I have my huge family from both sides on there, everyone from my high school, some of my fellow college student friends, co-workers, etc.
It took me a little more than 3 years to completely understand that hair is literally just hair and that beauty really comes from within, although it may sound cheesy. Looking back at it, it seems silly to me that something so small as hair was controlling my entire life. I am now able to wear a wig when I feel like it, without feeling like I’m hiding under it (even though I prefer being without it). Once I started loving myself completely for who I was, I have the freedom to be my full bald self no matter who I’m with.
(ST): That is so amazing! Has it inspired you to make art, write about it, or share it in a particular way? Or just plain inspired you in general?
(EM): I’ve had to draw my eyebrows since I was sixteen so it definitely led me into playing around with makeup, which I have gotten really good at. My love of fashion has grown tremendously as well since my diagnosis.
Alopecia has definitely inspired me in so many different ways. I see the world as having so much beauty, which was different than how I saw it before. I am currently in the process of starting a non-profit foundation for kids, teens, and adults with Alopecia that are currently going through what I felt, or have gone through it in the past.
(ST): Beautiful Emely. Thanks for sharing! I will update this post with information about your foundation as it becomes available. Good luck! It will be so helpful for people with alopecia.
Images courtesy of Emely Martinez