In January, seven-year-old Gianessa Wride of Salem, Utah, started to develop bald spots on her head. Three weeks later, she had completely lost her long and lustrous brown hair. The reason was alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes hair from the entire body to fall out.
But that wasn’t about to stop her or her mother, Daniella, from getting in on the fun at her school’s annual “Crazy Hair Day.”
“I know she just wants to be like other kids and just fit in and have fun,” Daniella said to Daily Mail Online. “She loves this kinda thing.”
Gianessa finds wigs itchy, so Daniella started brainstorming ideas on what to do for her daughter. After ruling out body paint, temporary tattoos and body glitter, she had the idea to decorate her head with colourful scrapbook jewel stickers. Some of the designs were pre-made — an owl and a flower — and Daniella filled them in with jewels.
“She looked in the mirror and said, ‘Mom, this is awesome!'” Wride told Yahoo! Beauty. “Her friends loved it too.”
At the end of the day, Gianessa returned home to tell her mother that her hair was a hit with the other kids at school, and her teacher declared her best “crazy hair” of the class.
“This girl is fierce and brave, way more so than I could have ever imagined,” Daniella said. “There are times that I think I take it harder than she does. I remember just sobbing one night after she went to bed.”
The cause of alopecia is unknown, although it is linked to hereditary factors — a family history of autoimmune disorders like Type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, for instance — and stress. Daniella said the family underwent a number of changes over the past year that could have triggered stress in Gianessa: both she and her husband lost their jobs, they moved from Tennessee to Utah to live with her in-laws, and shortly after moving in, her mother-in-law passed away.
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Although there are treatment options for alopecia, like corticosteroid injections and topical creams, they decided the side effects were too risky. And while some alopecia sufferers will experience hair regrowth, Daniella says it’s unlikely this will be the case for Gianessa. She has already lost her eyebrows and lower lashes.
“She’ll probably be bald for the rest of her life, and since wigs make her head itch, we use beanies, hats, and scarves,” she said.
For her part, Gianessa has been taking her hair loss in stride, opting for colourful scarves in lieu of wigs, and telling people simply and unapologetically: “My body doesn’t like my hair.”