With their bright white teeth, perfected smiles, toned figures and glamorous clothes, beauty queens can make the average woman feel insecure about her own appearance in comparison. But Miss Delaware Kayla Martell did the opposite for two sisters from Peekskill.
Lauren, 26, and Caitlin Brady, 21, were giddy with excitement as they watched Miss Delaware pull off a wig to reveal a nearly bald head shining in the bright studio lights of an early morning talk show. Like the Brady sisters, Martell has alopecia, and there she was exposing her baldness to the entire world, while in the running to become the next America’s next crowned beauty queen.
"We were jumping up and down like kids," said Lauren. "It was so uplifting to see."
Lauren had never taken her wig off in front of anyone but her family until last week when she released a YouTube video called, This Is Me, produced with her sister Caitlin, where she exposed a nearly bald head like Martell’s. This is Me is a 2 minute and 41 second video featuring 18 friends and family members with a simple but stirring message to "love yourself first." The video addresses each person’s insecurities and also focuses on alopecia, a common disease that results in the loss of hair on the scalp and elsewhere on the body.
"It is not an illness, but it alters your self image," said Lauren, explaining that alopecia produces no health complications; it just causes hair to stop growing. Inspired by Martell’s public acknowledgment of the disease, the Brady's quickly worked to create an awareness campaign that focused on the broader issue of self-image and self-confidence, and not just on alopecia. Their YouTube hits soared to nearly 3,000 since Feb. 13 when they posted it the video-sharing website.
"Everyone faces something hard every day that they are uncomfortable with, so we wanted to make the video bigger and show we go through the same thing as everyone else," said Lauren.
The video features people of various ages and races making affirmative statements about their weight, height, race, gender and other physical characteristics or medical characteristics that make them different. Participants are from the Peekskill and Cortlandt area, some are current Peekskill and Hen Hud students, and all have grown up with the Brady sisters.
"We hope people look and say wow, life's not so bad," said Lauren.
They do not provide the definition of alopecia in the video, which was an oversight during the editing process, but feel that its absence works in their favor.
“People are looking it up and sending us articles and information on it,” said Lauren, explaining that the omission of the definition drives viewers to spend more time learning about the disease, which is part of their goal.
In addition to the video being a hit, the Brady’s feel that it’s release is well timed because of the bullying problems in schools that are drawing increased public attention. The sisters hope the video gives victims of bullying hope and inspiration to be self confident and secure, and that it helps to convey the message to bullies that everyone is different, and it is not alright to attack others’ because of that.
“With all the bullying issues that have been going on, some people think its ok to be negative, but it is hurtful,” said Caitlin. “There are issues with people having to hide who they are, which can ruin your life basically.”
The Bradys both work in the music and entertainment industry but have been planning to do some kind of alopecia awareness campaign for years. They both started to lose their hair in their teens. While Lauren always struggled with the insecurities it caused, Caitlin, having seen her sister go through it before she was diagnosed herself, has been more comfortable and open about it with her friends.
Lauren always told people that her wigs were hair extensions, and made sure to stick to her natural hair color and style. But Caitlin likes experimenting with wigs. Even though her alopecia hasn’t reached a stage where it is necessary to use a wig to cover the increasing hair loss, Caitlin has plenty and switches her style regularly.
“Catilin has fun with it,” said Lauren. “She’s even got a bright red Rihanna wig.”
Lauren’s personal goal for the summer is to do something she has never done before- leave the wig at home and sport a blond faux hawk, similar to what she shows at the end of the video. Lauren explained that she wants to be confident and comfortable without her wig, (plus, the summer is just too hot to wear a thick wig on her head, she said).
The Brady’s goal for their alopecia awareness campaign is to start talking to students in the area schools about being different and confident. Corporations and individuals who want to get involved and help them move their campaign forward have approached the sisters, and they are still working to figure out the next step.
“We are very humbled by all the attention we have been getting,” said Lauren.
"We want to inspire anyone with a physical insecurity to be more confident in themselves," said Caitlin. "Now one of my favorite quotes is 'bald and beautiful.'"
For more information on how you can get involved with the Bradys’ work, email them at: promo@LNBentertainment.com
For more information about alopecia visit naaf.org.
Don’t forget to check out This is Me, which you can find at the top of this article.