Beautifully Bald

"Hi, my name is Mercedes Brownlee. I have an autoimmune disease called Alopecia Areata that is caused by my immune system mistakenly attacking my hair follicles, making my hair fall out. In other words, I'm just like you, just with less hair."

Alopecia, as stated, is a common but rarely discussed disease that affects the hair follicles. Diagnosed at only eight years old, Mercedes had to quickly adjust to a new lifestyle that would affect her for the rest of her life. Learning and understanding the disease was hard to cope with alone; adding the constant treatments, hospitalizations, and needles was both painful and draining for such a young child. Hiding her condition from the public until high school, Mercedes found herself in a dark place, not appreciating herself, her beauty, and ultimately left feeling weak and having a breakdown. Dealing with constant stares, whispers, and ignorant comments was difficult at the time, but has “made me [Mercedes] into who I am today.”

 

Having been diagnosed with Alopecia Areata, Mercedes has had to mature quickly, which motivated her to use her condition not as a setback but as a platform. This inspired her to start her own organization for alopecia awareness called Deeper Than the Roots. Its purpose is not only to spread awareness, but to inspire and build relationships with others that have Alopecia Areata. When asked what compelled her to start Deeper Than the Root, she stated, “Growing up, it felt like I was the only person in the world with the condition, no one around me completely understood exactly what I was going through and that was tough. I wanted to create this organization to be that big sister or that role model to people of all ages that are battling with Alopecia. To let them know that it is okay to be bald, it is okay to not have hair, and to help them explore other options…”

 

Mercedes is currently a full-time student at Greenville Technical College with hopes of transferring to another university next year and is a full-time waitress at O’Charley’s. Mercedes still makes time to dance, as she’s been doing for eighteen years, and teaches some classes as well. She is also in the process of becoming the official support system in the Greenville area for National Alopecia Areata Foundation. Still unsure of what she wants to pursue. Mercedes is enjoying her life with her friends and family while she figures it out. Having Alopecia has helped Mercedes understand that beauty is more than what we, as females, do, say, like, wear, how we fix our hair, etc… And she wants to remind everyone, especially females, to “Love yourself. Every part of it, flaws and all, and that is when you will truly see how beautiful you are.”

 

I have had the pleasure of getting to know Mercedes through our time together on our high school dance team. When I first met her, I never noticed her condition, just the exuberating and kind person that she was. When I heard about her new organization, I wanted to not only help her, but to shed light onto a disease that oftentimes gets overlooked. Alopecia Areata affects 6.8 million people in the United States alone, and it affects people of all ages, sexes, and ethnic groups (NAAF). It affects too many people to not be thoroughly educated about it.

 

If you would like to learn more about Alopecia Awareness click here

If you would like to learn more about Mercedes’s organization click here

Also, if you would like to donate to Deeper Than the Roots to help fund wigs, treatments, medications, doctor’s visits, etc. for Alopecia patients click here  

"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see"- by Henry David Thoreau