Photo Credit: AP
When the newly crowned Miss Delaware, Kayla Martell, bent down to have her crown pinned to hair, it was a significant moment in more ways than one.
That’s because the stunning beauty queen suffers from an autoimmune condition that causes baldness - alopecia areata.
Martell began losing her hair when she was just 10 years old and noticed strands of her dirty-blonde hair coming out in clumps. Soon, she lost her eyelashes and eyebrows, and at age 13, she chose to shave her head. But the traumatic experience didn’t dash her dreams of becoming Miss America. Martell competed in local pageants without a wig, and last year, after she nearly lost the Miss Delaware title, she decided to try competing with a wig – a choice she did not make lightly.
“It was a hard decision,” she told People magazine. “I was afraid I was going to lose part of myself. But when I made the decision to wear the wig, I promised I would make alopecia my platform.” Now, the 22-year-old Marymount University student is dedicated to spreading awareness of the disease, and she takes her wig off with ease, as she recently did on CBS’ The Early Show. "I hope to show people that beauty comes in all different kinds of packages," she told FOX 411. "No beauty queen should fit into a box and look like a Barbie every time they wake up and none of us do, as you know. So I hope to show people that you are beautiful and whatever makes you different, you should embrace it." And on her blog, she wrote that she wants to become Miss America "because I know in my heart that every girl is a beauty queen, whether she has hair or not!"
I’m sure some people will find fault with Martell’s decision to wear a wig in the Miss Delaware pageant, perhaps suggesting it’s a cop-out or means she’s not truly comfortable with herself. I disagree. This woman has walked around – and competed in beauty pageants – as a proud bald woman for years, a feat not many of us could likely achieve. If wearing a wig gave her an edge of confidence in the competition, why should she deny that? I guarantee you her fellow competitors were doing everything they could, from spray tans to high heels with bathing suits to heavy makeup and extensions to alter their appearance and heighten their chances of winning. And she’s extraordinarily open about her condition – alopecia is her platform, for crying out loud! She’s posing in People magazine sans wig…this woman is not ashamed of her baldness.
I saw a woman on the street yesterday rocking a totally bald head and a strapless, peach sundress. Her lack of eyebrows suggested she had lost her hair from a condition similar to Martell’s. A big part of me wanted to approach her and tell her she looked great, and I was in awe of her bravery, but I feared that would come off sounding condescending or patronizing, so I simply admired from afar.
What do you think of Kayla's decision to wear a wig? Chime in below.