I was inspired to write this post by Barbiecore reaching new, feverish heights this summer.
Mainly because all the images, from the movie’s press tour and the fashion craze it’s created, have caused me to check in on my own reaction around:
a) all that pink (!!)
b) whether the tight ‘n’ teeny outfits are a step back…or a step into our power
c) how we can spread positive messages about what constitutes as “beautiful” or “sexy”
From an alopecia context, this post will cover how we can normalize a condition that’s becoming more and more common these days: whether it’s through a Bald Barbie, or by sharing empowering stories of other people with hair loss.
Plus, how we can prepare our sons and daughters to treat themselves, and each other, with more kindness and how we can set an example by loving our own differences, too.
Ever since Mattel “borrowed” the idea from a German sex doll called Lilli in 1959, Barbie’s come a long way – to become, as Mattel now hopes, to be a statement on feminism and a blueprint of what it’s like to embrace our differences.
Admittedly, I haven’t exactly been encased in the world of Barbie for quite some time (pink isn’t really my thing, I’m more of a yellow gal…but certainly in favor of color therapy!!) So I was surprised to learn, while researching this post, how much she’s changed from my own days with dolls.
Sure, the sparkles, high heels and tight dresses are still very much a core part of her look. But the doll itself now comes in 9 different body types, 35 skin tones and 94 hairstyles.
In 2022, Mattel introduced a Barbie with a hearing aid and one with a prosthetic leg as part of its diverse Fashionistas line. And of course, Brave Barbie – the first alopecian Barbie – has been around since 2020, when it was distributed by the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF).
I was incredibly touched when my lovely husband, Mr Alopecia, arranged to have one of these special dolls sent to our house. What a wonderful surprise to raise my spirits during lockdown!
But I knew it was a gift I had to pass on, to someone who would get even more out of it than me.
So I sent it to 6-year-old Aria instead, whose father Steve had placed an order for a pink headscarf the previous week. Steve kindly filmed her reaction and when I watched it, with tears in my eyes, I was thrilled that I’d sent it to her! And so grateful that this Barbie existed: to help children see a) that we are all different and b) those differences make us special.
For me, that’s the core message of Barbiecore: that beauty is whatever you want it to be, so don’t be afraid to get creative and share your individual style!
Since having my daughter Sunny (who’s now approaching her 2nd birthday), I’ve been thinking a lot about how she might come to perceive beauty as she grows up, based on the role models in her life.
Hopefully, seeing her bald mama all the time will normalize alopecia for her, especially if one day, she starts losing her hair, too. (I’m already worried about her getting traction alopecia, as she insists on wearing several tight hairbands to bed!)
Of course, I hope that won’t happen, I hope she won’t have to experience the shock and the fear of seeing her hair fall out. But I also hope, if it comes to that, she won’t feel ashamed, or isolated like I once did.
She’ll only have to look to the person beside her (by which, I mean me, and not Mr Alopecia, who’s very hairy!), to see someone who’s gone through and is going through the same thing – so she’ll know that she’s not alone.
And of course, I’ll have a wonderful community of alopecians to introduce her to – not to mention the many famous bald people who are making bald so very, very beautiful! Check out these alopecian role models in the below posts.
Whether you’re a parent, an aunt or uncle, a teacher or anyone who has little people in their lives, you have an opportunity to create change. To widen the lens that we grew up with and to expand the ‘traditional’ aesthetic.
Whether that’s learning more about alopecia and how to explain it to young people who’ve started losing their hair or simply sharing photos and stories of people who are enjoying and embracing their differences, there’s plenty you can do.
No matter how small the action, the important thing is that you take it.
One action we took as parents – another idea from Mr Alopecia (isn’t he just great?!) – was to get Sunny an alopecian doll made, which looked just like her mama. With removable hair and a removable turban (a yellow headscarf, my usual choice!) Sunny’s favorite look for her doll is actually the bald one. Bless her.
I loved my bald yarn doll so much, I wanted to spread the alopecian joy – just like I did with bamboo headscarves, when I first discovered those. So I’m going to partner with Yarn on Finger, the lovely lady who makes these dolls in my adopted home of Hoi An, Vietnam, to send these dolls to alopecians around the world!
All you need to do is send me a couple of photos, of you or whoever the doll is for, in your favorite outfit (so the doll can be wearing something similar). If you’d like a removable hat, headscarf or wig, let me know!
Prices start at $50 – but get in touch at email@example.com or click below for a personalized quote.
Here’s Sunny snoozing away with her little Alopecia doll. Cute, right?!
But back to Barbie. I must say, seeing all those images of Margot Robbie as a beautiful blonde doll triggered some old negative thought patterns in me.
I know it’s not the intention of the movie, which is meant to be funny and ironic – but all those polished images we’re being bombarded with are simply reinforcing the “ideal” of slim, blonde and long-haired beauties wearing cute little outfits ruling the world. At least, that’s how it is for me.
(Also, I’m a big Nicki Minaj fan, but when I went to see her in concert many years ago, those same thought patterns arose: “Why couldn’t I be that confident / sexy / feminine? What was wrong with me?!”)
When I have these panicked thoughts, I try and check myself. I remind myself of the many lessons I’ve learned since setting up Lady Alopecia, and the other factors that have changed my perceptions of beauty, too:
And running Lady Alopecia for the past 5 years has confirmed just how different, special and yes, beautiful we all are: in our own way, doing our own thing.
Something to be aware of as Barbiecore continues to rise: if hot pink doesn’t speak to you, that’s ok, too! You do you.
Although, from hiding my bald spots with clips and headbands, to wearing a full wig and clip-in extensions, to shaving it all off, to living proudly as Lady Alopecia, then covering it up with headscarves again, it hasn’t exactly been the most linear of journeys!
There are days when I’m grateful for my alopecia, for the lessons it’s taught me – and days I wish I could just be like everyone else.
But when I’m feeling down about my hair loss, I remind myself of the poet Rumi’s words:
“If everything around you seems dark…Look again. You may be the light”.
It doesn’t have to mean going full Barbiecore and strutting down the street in your pinkest, kitchest and sparkliest outfit. Nor does it have to mean taking a leaf out of my book and dressing in bright colors to lift your mood.
It can be simple as telling a friend that you hear them, that maybe you don’t understand what they’re going through but that you’re there for them. Or telling yourself, that it’s ok to feel whatever is going on in that moment.
The more kindness and compassion we can share (starting with ourselves!) the more beautiful we can become, and the brighter our world will become, too.
Psst…I’d love to hear your take on beauty. Has it changed since losing your hair, since seeing a loved one lose their hair, as a result of trends like Barbiecore, or from a major life event? Get sharing in the comments below!
Love & hugs,
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Alopecian. Yoga Teacher. Copywriter. Here to share information, offer support and show people the adventures that can lie in hair loss. I’m proud to have alopecia and I want to help others embrace their baldness, too!
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