They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But the reality beneath what we behold, might not be what we expect. Sometimes the delicate lines of a pretty face mask a fragile existence, spent facing tough challenges and a road less traveled.
Quite frequently what we see with our eyes only touches the surface of someone’s soul, because everyone has a story.
I am Mark Brodinsky and this is The Sunday Series.
The Sunday Series 75: More Than Skin Deep
She is the reigning Ms. Maryland Exquisite for 2015. Meet Jamella White.
Beautiful on the outside, Jamella is proving to be as equally as lovely on the inside. After all, to attract others you must live as an attractive person, and you do that from the inside out.
Jamella has launched a company called Beautiful and Living Daily, an appropriate name, since Jamella hasn’t always felt as beautiful as she looks.
“I was about six years old when it started”, says Jamella. “I was diagnosed with alopecia areata. What it meant was I would lose my hair in small patches. First it was random bald spots popping up in different areas, about the size of a quarter. They got bigger and bigger as time went on. Eventually my mom took me to see a dermatologist and I was getting steroid injections, but it wasn’t working. We looked into natural healing methods but nothing was taking. My mom would try to style my hair over the bald areas, but I eventually lost my hair completely and started wearing wigs.”
Alopecia areata is a prevalent autoimmune skin disease resulting in the loss of hair on the scalp and elsewhere on the body. Hair can grow back in or fall out again at any time, and the disease course is different for each person. Jamella says different creams have been created, steroid injections and even holistic treatments that help with growing back the hair follicle, but sometimes it is completely damaged because all of it is internal.
For Jamella, the complete loss of her hair was tough, especially at such a tender age, but wearing the wigs was tougher. “At the time my hair completely fell out in the second grade I started wearing the wigs…and wigs back in the 80’s were not as nice as the ones they have now. I had a tough time in school, swimming or playing certain sports. I was active but would refrain from interacting with other kids, worried about them pulling my hair and my wig falling off.
“Some people did make fun, because the wigs were an old-fashioned design. The hair was short and I had a few kids who would try to pull on it, or touch it to see if it was real or not and then attempt to pull it off. I had to wear a swim cap if I went swimming, the kind with the strap underneath to keep my hair secure. It was hot and I would sweat from the wig and the cap and I realized the chlorine sometimes damaged my wig because I had to keep it on while I swam. Even in other sports I would play for only a short period of time, as soon as I started to sweat I didn’t want my wig to fall off.”
Eventually by age 12 Jamella’s hair was back. “It was fine”, she says. “I didn’t have any baldness or any hair falling out…until I turned 25 and found a quarter-size bald spot. At first I thought it was just stress. I was in college taking a lot of courses, and working three jobs as well. A few weeks later I saw another spot. I knew there was a possibility the alopecia was returning so I went to a doctor and got steroid treatments to my scalp. In every area he would give me an injection the hair would grow back, but then fall out in a different area. The doctor said no more treatments, lets see if the hair will completely fall out again.”
“I still have alopecia”, says Jamella, now age 31. “But it didn’t affect me at age 25 as it did when I was six. I’ve learned to cope with it, still build my self-confidence and engage in all activities. Currently some hair does grow back, but I still have bald patches as well. Despite that I have done some modeling and promotional work.”
And just this past May Jamella was crowned Ms. Exquisite Maryland. But for Jamella, it is of the utmost importance for her inner beauty to match her outer appearance.
That’s why she has started Beautiful and Living Daily, (https://www.facebook.com/beautifulandlivingdaily). Jamella says she launched the organization because she started coming across a lot of people who had the same diagnosis as she has and have had trouble coping. She says, “in the 80’s it was a rare disease, and not much research on it. But now there’s a lot more information and awareness and a lot of people being diagnosed with it and I wanted to start this organization to help other people cope.”
Beautiful and Living Daily, LLC provides services for people who suffer from hair loss for any reason, alopecia, cancer, diabetes, even stress. There is fitness and nutrition education, beauty makeovers, and hair pieces donated to people who cannot afford them.
“So basically my mission is to build confidence and self-esteem for any individual who suffers hair loss and build it as a family support system”, says Jamella. “You have your doctors and your family, but you don’t always have other people going through it to talk to. We also offer support group therapy as well.”
Jamella, beautiful and living with hair loss daily – knows what its like first-hand from the time she exits her home each day: “I know I need to choose to really focus, once I leave my house, when I am wearing my wig. Do others know it is a wig? Is my wig crooked? Do they think I have cancer? Many people do, because they don’t realize there are other illnesses which can cause hair loss. People ask if I’m sick or dying. I have alopecia, I’m not dying. I just lose hair in patches, sometimes it grows back, sometimes it doesn’t.”
“The struggle is wondering how other people see or view you. Do they think you are contagious, or have some type of disease that is going to kill you? Doesn’t matter to me anymore, it used to. I accept who I am and if my hair falls out its OK. Learn to accept it, it’s part of me.”
Jamella continues, “but I also know another struggle I had when I had my daughter. I was in fear she might have alopecia at some point in her life. It can skip generations, but it all really depends.” So far Jamella’s daughter, now 4 years of age, shows no signs of the illness.
Jamella’s ultimate goal is to take Beautiful and Living Daily and make it a nationwide organization to bring awareness about alopecia and hair loss for whatever reason, and make other people feel better about their situation. “I want people to embrace their beauty and feel comfortable with themselves”, she says.
“What I’ve learned from all of this is to love yourself. Always love yourself. Embrace everything you are going through and don’t worry so much and consume yourself in what other people think of you because it will hold you back with what you could be doing in life. Even with my condition, the things I could accomplish should serve as an example: getting into modeling pageants and owning my own business. You should embrace the opportunity to do different things and let people know you can do it too and never think that it’s not possible.”
Possibility thinking – seeing beyond convention or conditioning and focusing on what you want in life. Jamella White is taking this to heart. Faced with a life-long challenge, an ever-present obstacle, she has found a way to use her journey to help other people. She is teaching others to overcome and show them that beauty is more than skin deep.
Until next time, thanks for taking the time
Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Speaker, Speech Writer, Emmy Winner, USHEALTH Advisors
Author: The #1 Amazon Best-Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
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