“There is life without hair.” That statement may seem obvious to most, but it’s not the easiest concept for everyone to comprehend. Especially those with a common autoimmune skin disease like alopecia areata. Singer and makeup artist Keya “Gifted Keys” Trammell is one of the approximately 6.8 million people in the U.S. affected by this disease. And that’s the message she wants to send to people everywhere — “There is beauty without hair, standard without hair, knowledge without hair, character without hair, love without hair, passion without hair, success without hair, confidence without hair!” Her message reached one young girl with alopecia in August, and its impact was as meaningful to Trammell as it was to the little girl. Trammell shared the experience on Instagram.
Trammell was performing in Kankakee, Ill., when she noticed a little girl in the crowd. “I’d seen Zion before the band and I had even begun our set. I thought to myself, ‘I wonder if she has alopecia, or cancer?’” Trammell tells Yahoo Style. “About 10 minutes into the show, I saw Zion and her family walk up. She initially had a hat on and was just vibing out. Then I began to sing a song I wrote about two and a half years ago, ‘Next to Blow.’ I [also spoke] to the crowd about my life; about how I was bullied when I younger, how I dealt with self-esteem issues and lacked confidence because of my alopecia.” It was then that Trammell noticed Zion’s mother crying. “I knew right then and there that Zion also had alopecia,” she said. “When I glanced back at Zion, I saw her without her hat. She was so beautiful to me! I just waved at her and smiled. She waved backed, stared wide-eyed at me and smiled. Afterward, Zion’s grandmother came to me and asked if her granddaughter and I could meet because she had alopecia. I’m like, YESSSSSSSSSSS!”
The photo shows both ladies without hats, wigs, or hair. Trammell is crying, and Zion is beaming. “Zion’s mother thanked me for not wearing wigs,” Trammell wrote in the photo’s caption. “I was a role model for her baby girl and the way that felt.. Reaffirmed me of my destiny.”
“When she walked up to me, I just began to cry. Like ugly cry,” Trammell says of Zion. “I told her over and over that she was beautiful. I also just hugged her mother so tight, and we cried. I also asked for a picture with Zion. Me being 25 and her being 4, I figured I would get on my knees so we could be level-headed and I just cried even more. She told me not to cry. I could not help myself and told her that I was happy. My tears were happy tears. Her mother said that Zion could not stop staring at me. That did something to me. Like I understood even more why I existed on this earth.”
Trammell lost all her hair at the age of 2 due to alopecia universalis. “My hair grew back fully at around 6 but has always grown in patches,” she said. So she’s been wearing weaves and wigs since she was in the first grade. “I now just shave off the hair that does grow on my head. Sometimes I let it grow so my spots can truly be seen, but it’s easier to just shave.” She now has alopecia areata, which causes hair loss on the scalp, face, and sometimes on other areas of the body, and has a lifetime risk of 2.1 percent. The hair follicles remain alive, and hair can regrow at any time, which is why it sometimes grows back in patches.
Because of this, Trammell has spent much of her life dealing with bullying and self-esteem issues. “I truly used to struggle to even look in the mirror and tell myself I was beautiful. My mother would force me to do it even when I didn’t want to.” One day as a senior in high school, things changed. “I was in class, and a classmate made a joke. I laughed [moving my head up and down], and my wig fell off. Everyone laughed. My teacher even laughed. I went to the restroom and just cried,” she recalls. “A classmate ran into the bathroom after me to see if I was OK and asked to actually see my hair. I let her see, and she just hugged me. She helped make me feel comfortable.”
It was after that Trammell found the courage to shave off her hair. “I remember waking up one morning and shaving all of the hair that I did have off. I still ended up putting a wig on to go to school, but that day when I went to school I felt like I had a secret — that I’d finally accepted myself. I wasn’t ready to share that with world; I’d shared it with myself,” she said. “I was 18 when that happened. I am now 25. Just now able to fully go day by day with my crown exposed to the world.”
“I’d been battling myself for some time on if I would continue to wear wigs off and on or just go bald on an everyday basis,” Trammell tells Yahoo Style. “I truly wanted to make a concerted effort to see how I would feel just being myself every day.” So she did. And she says it’s been “the most liberating experience” of her life. “I noticed that going bald every day helped me like myself more. I wouldn’t get headaches from tight wigs or burn marks from glue adhesive. I noticed people treat me different when I am bald. I notice people love me more for being confident and just being myself,” she says.
“That feeling began to be something that I needed. The feeling of beginning to feel more beautiful without wigs when I looked in the mirror began to help me want to help others feel good about themselves. To be beautiful on the inside and out. To be beautiful with a PURPOSE. I learned that having alopecia was a gift.”
Sure, she might put a wig on sometime in the future, but “a wig is just another option for me,” she tells us. “Depending on if I want to go in formation like Beyoncé, J.Lo, or Jill Scott for the day. I know I have that option. But the most important option is being able to wake up in the morning and just be me.”
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