Photo: Instagram/Gail Mabalane
- Your crown, your sense of comfort, your identity. Hair can mean so much to women. But what happens when you lose it?
- Although very common, hair loss in women is a subject that many tend to avoid.
- Actress Gail Mabalane has always been very open about her hair loss journey and in this interview talks to W24 about the emotional side of hair loss.
Your crown, your sense of comfort, your identity. Hair can mean so much to women.
But when we place great importance on what’s on our head, what if we lose it?
Although very common, hair loss in women is a topic that many, including women, tend to avoid. And when we approach it, it is with fear and shame.
So how can we get around this? How to let go of our hair without letting go of our identity?
When Gail Mabalane started losing her hair three years ago, she faced this challenge.
“I remember coming into the industry and having this pixie cut, which became almost my signature look,” she told W24 during an interview.
“People wanted to know where I’m doing it, and that was Gail’s look. And what I had to go through inside myself to suddenly get rid of [this] – because I had to relax my hair for this look and now I can’t use any chemicals – and all of a sudden now I have to readjust myself and be like, “Okay, I can’t do this hairstyle anymore “, and I feel like I’m losing my identity by changing my hairstyle.”
Gail made a decision to be open about her struggles with alopecia, starting a YouTube channel where she unpacked her journey and becoming a safe space for other women going through similar experiences.
“I think there’s definitely an emotional journey that we go through and have to go through. And I think that’s part of the reason why I shared because personally I know so many women who are suffering of hair loss. They don’t say I see it because I can see the roots of the hair, and I can see it covering it. But we don’t talk about it.
This fear of tackling hair loss has a lot to do with not just how society views the problem, but also “how we view ourselves when it comes to hair loss,” Gail says.
Sharing her journey meant she no longer had to hide. “I think it’s better for people to know, so that when they see it they don’t have to say ‘Did you see it?’
“And not even for them, for me, I don’t have to be like, ‘Oh, they’re looking and what do they see?’ For me, it was really about opening that conversation.”
READ ALSO | Hair myths busted and the truth you need to know about hair loss revealed by an expert
Gail’s inbox is constantly flooded with women who are losing their hair and looking for a shoulder to lean on. She recounts an interaction she had.
“I had a woman who sent me an inbox when I first dated [about my hair loss] about three years ago and said she is getting married in a month and her future husband does not know that she has no hair because she wakes up early in the morning and goes to bed after he fell asleep. And it broke my heart because it means we can’t be fully ourselves because of how much we value our hair.
“And, of course, we’re told things like, ‘Your hair is your crown.’ So what if you have no hair? Do you lose your crown then?”
Gail says she had to learn to overcome those doubts and “become very sure of who I am as an individual, whatever hairstyles I have”.
“I have spots on my hair where alopecia has formed scars where my hair will never grow back, and I’m working really hard to try and protect what’s left and slow the effects down. no things that aggravate my scalp.
“But it’s also about me finding peace and comfort in knowing that losing my hair doesn’t change who I am as a woman, and I think that’s an important conversation to have because if someone one walks up to me tomorrow and says, ‘Oh, your hairline is receding’, instead of straightening me, this is an opportunity to educate.”
READ ALSO | Here’s what happens to your hair as you age
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