Mandisi Maboee (27) has alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease which fights hair growth cells in the body, resulting in people having very little or no hair at all. Below, he tells Buhle Lindwa how he went from being teased as a child, to getting used to the stares as an adult, and embracing being different.
At birth, I had close to no hair, and slowly it kept shedding. My mother kept it in a money bag, trying to preserve it, and hoping it would grow back. But this was not going to happen because I was born with alopecia areata.
Growing up bald is definitely not trendy in hairstyles, and other kids teased me continuously for being visibly different. But the encouragement I received from home restored my confidence, and gave me a zest for life. In high school, I was distinctively lighter in complexion, with a contrast in lip colour, and bold brown eyes with a slight outline. And as the years went by, I continued to embrace my individuality and capitalised on the fact that no-one else could look like me. I carry myself as a logo, with my bald head being one of my unique elements.
I got it from my parents
My parents both have alopecia, and as individuals we carry our bald heads with pride. For me, the condition never had a name. All I knew was that I was different.
Things changed when I was dating a makeup artist in varsity, who kept asking questions about my appearance. I dismissed it because I didn’t want it to contrast with all the great things I knew about myself. But I eventually grew curious and did some research. As soon as I knew more about it, that it wasn’t fatal, I decided I didn’t want to be classified. Up until today, when people ask, I don’t like discussing it. I have embraced it and I genuinely like that I’m one in a few who look the way I do.
I liked the attention
People are always curious. My peers always wanted to take a closer look or feel my skin. Girls always complimented my flawless skin, and I didn’t mind at all. In fact, I liked the attention. At some stage, a man told me I had good skin, and as a joke he said he could make amazing leather wallets from it. Guys always ask what I shave with, and always tell me I have the perfect haircut. I usually just laugh it off and tell them I don’t shave. I don’t go into detail because most people don’t know of this condition.
I never listen to negative comments, and I just let people stare. One day at the mall, a girl asked me what brand foundation I was using, and when I told her I don’t use make-up she was shocked. I’m so accustomed to the stares I get, that if I’m not looked at, it doesn’t feel like a normal day for me. I have embraced what others may see as a challenge, and I’m living proof that I am not my hair, or lack of thereof.