Danielle is an advocate and mentor for those with alopecia, a condition in which hair is lost from some or all areas of the body. She’s also a camp counselor with the National Alopecia Areata Foundation and one of the stars of our latest #AerieREAL bra photoshoot. Read on to see how the NAAF has impacted Danielle’s life and what makes her #AerieREAL!
How has alopecia impacted your life?
I’ve had Alopecia since I was 2 and a half and I’m now 19 years old. Growing up with it was extremely difficult for me because kids made fun of me for years. I didn’t know anyone who had Alopecia so that caused me to feel isolated.When I was about 14, I attended an Alopecia conference hosted by the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF) and it changed my life. I met amazing people who were just like me and the conference helped me get the courage to wear my wig less. I’ve gone to the conference every year since, so about six years and I have completely transformed. I made alopecia become something positive that could benefit me. I’ve met the most amazing people through alopecia and I have been given the opportunity to inspire other alopecians to embrace/accept themselves which is incredibly rewarding.
What would you like to share with those who are not familiar with alopecia?
For those who are not familiar with alopecia, we are not sick. Most people assume that we are very sick and feel the need to treat us differently. Alopecia is not life threatening but is life altering. Alopecia is an auto-immune disease that causes the immune system to attack our hair follicles thus causing hair loss. There are different types of alopecia, I have alopecia areata which means my hair grows/falls out in patches. If you see someone who you think might have Alopecia, try not to stare too much, it makes some of us a bit uncomfortable. Everyone deals with their alopecia differently. Some are very open about it and like to talk about it like myself but some are still shy about it and feel embarrassed when asked questions. My tip for when meeting someone new who has alopecia would be to wait to ask questions until they mention their aloepcia themselves!
What’s one of your proudest moments?
My proudest moment just happened in late June! I was working as a kid’s camp counselor for the NAAF Conference. My group started out with about 4 teenage girl campers but by the end of the conference, I ended up with 12 girls. I guess our table was the popular table! Throughout the conference, I talked to some of the girls and gave them advice, shared my experiences with alopecia, and even encouraged a few off them to take off their wig/hat! On the last day of the conference I was thanked by many of the girls’ parents because I helped their daughters come out of their shells and the girls were grateful that I was their camp counselor. Although I was there to make the conference a great experience for them, I believe they made my experience unforgettable and I thank them for that. So yeah, this past NAAF conference as a camp counselor was my proudest moment!
What makes you #AerieREAL?
I’m #AerieREAL because I’m not letting my alopecia or weight prevent me from doing the things I love!
The beauty about #AerieREAL is that it doesn’t mean we are “perfect” or love every inch of ourselves every day. To me, it means that it’s okay to have bad days because that’s what makes us human and real. As long as we remember to accept ourselves the way we are and treat our bodies with respect, then we can all be #AerieREAL.