Meet the woman redefining baldness and beauty
(Picture: Leyah Shanks)

Despite it being almost two years ago, the 19th of May 2015 feels like yesterday. It sticks in my mind because someone took a pair of scissors to my ponytail and then shaved my hair off.

55 bedrooms around the globePhoto series reveals what bedrooms look like around the world

And no, I didn’t have an illness that meant I may lose it anyway.

Although I get why to some this might be something they’d sooner try and erase from their memory rather than dredge up again, it was one of the most empowering days of my life.

It’s something I’m incredibly proud of doing, and I’ll be forever grateful for the experience.

lsb2
(Picture: Leyah Shanks)

For the last four years since creating The Body Confidence Revolution, I’ve shouted at the top of my lungs to try and bring about change within the mainstream media industry. I know first-hand just how much its profit driven agenda can and does – deliberately – impact on self-esteem in a negative way.

The basis of my campaign has always been diversity and representation for humans of absolutely all kinds. Although the intersectionality of the body positive movement does its best to empower everyone, something that I don’t think is talked about enough is hair loss and baldness.

When looking for imagery of bald women in the media, the only material I could find was related to cancer patients. It got me thinking: what is it about baldness that is so undesirable?

Freedom of self-expression is a fundamental part of self-love. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve dyed my hair and restyled it. For a couple of years prior to the shave, although I was still changing the colour, I had at least settled on a style. My thick mane of hair with a razor sharp short fringe had become my staple. And a big part of my aesthetic identity.

That fact was the main motivator for me to completely get rid of it.

As someone with privilege, I felt compelled to stand up for the fact that those with hair loss conditions don’t have the opportunity to express themselves in this way.

leyah-shank
Founder of the Body Confidence Revolution  (Picture: Leyah Shanks)

Post shave, I noticed people double taking me and avoiding eye contact. Very occasionally, they’d ask if I was OK. If I was ill. Because a woman being voluntarily bald is something we’re taught to associate either with illness or “weirdness”. Just think of how the bald girl is referenced in Friends.

This issue is by no means gender exclusive. But I do think it pertains itself as an affliction that women face more intensely. Hair is a huge part of stereotypical feminine beauty. And being conventionally beautiful is a woman’s only concern, obviously.

So many conditions can attribute to hair loss and baldness. But because – like fatness – we have such an affliction to bald people just existing happily in their own skin, it’s hideously under-represented.

lsb3
(Picture: Leyah Shanks)

I understand that a lot of us are not comfortable enough to shave our heads. All of this is so ingrained in our minds that it will take a long time to undo.

But what you can do, is stand with those who have conditions like alopecia, trichotillomania and cancer. Let them know that hair is not the be all and end all of the beauty.

The 19th of May 2015 will always be a day I remember vividly.

But it won’t be the last time I talk about how brilliantly badassly-bomb baldness is.

MORE: Going bald? You have your mum to thank for that

MORE: Model who lost her hair to Crohn’s disease explains how the condition has put her life on hold