Elevate Magazine / Autumn 2004 / Portrait
By Pam Fulford
Cynthia Brandt is bald. And she couldn’t be happier – She never had a bad hair day.
Tell us about your condition – alopecia – and what triggered it?
There are three main types of alopecia: alopecia areata (patches of hair missing on the scalp and body), alopecia totalis (baldness on the scalp only) and alopecia universalis (baldness on the scalp and the body). I go back and forth between totalis and universalis. Actually, it’s all rather ironic – I can’t grow a single hair on my head, but I still have to wax my lip. How is that fair? My husband jokes I should grow it out and do a comb-over! Alopecia is believed to be an autoimmune disorder – a disease caused by the body producing an immune response against its own tissues. When I was 16, I was in a car accident. A week later, my hair fell out; I could pull it out by the fistful. Obviously, I must have had a genetic predisposition to it. Fourteen years later, I’m still bald.
Why did you decide to start wearing wigs?
At the beginning, I wore nothing but wigs, because I didn’t want anyone to know I was bald. Playing sports was hard. I was reluctant on the field because I was worried the wig would fall off. When I started dating, once guys found out I was bald, they lost interest. Over the years, I just got more and more comfortable in my own skin. Now, most of the time I don’t wear wigs, but I’ve had some fun, wild ones over the years. For me, it’s like playing dress-up. I’m a huge fan of Continental Hair, where I buy all my wigs, and Michael Suba, who styles all of them.
So when you buy a wig, you’re not trying to hide?
I embrace my baldness. I don’t understand why people are negative about alopecia. It’s just hair. There are so many other things in life that are worse. Maybe it’s my personality, or the fact that I come from a long line of strong women who’ve dealt with a lot worse, but I think true beauty in life comes through hardship. I’ve taken this opportunity to become a better woman, instead of being bitter. Besides, I rather enjoy all the attention I get when I’m wearing wigs!
How did your family react when you lost your hair and starting wearing a wig?
I think my mother had the toughest time. She cried when I bought my very first wig. My dad is old-fashioned and begged me to wear a wig on my wedding day. Instead, I walked down the aisle bald with a beautiful wreath of flowers. I felt so pretty. As for my husband, when I first met him, I was wearing a wig, so he didn’t know right away. He says that before he met me he could never imagine marrying a bald woman; now he can’t imagine being married to someone who isn’t bald.
What’s your advice to a woman buying her first wig?
Buy human hair – it’s worth it! Synthetic hair looks like Barbie hair to me. I have three human-hair wigs – and most people have no idea it’s not my real hair. I’ve got a blonde, a brunette and a redhead, and I’m planning to buy another soon. There’s a new form of technology that vacuums the hair to your head, sealing it like Tupperware. It will never fall off, and you can even swim with it on!
What’s your biggest frustration?
The most frustrating thing about alopecia is that it can come and go. A year after I lost my hair, it almost all grew back, but then it fell out again. It was more upsetting the second time around. I recently lost my eyebrows again and I miss them! It’s a real nuisance to have to paint them on every morning. It’s difficult to get them perfectly balanced. I’ve debated getting permanent makeup, but I’m nervous if they do grow back, will I have four eyebrows?!
What are your hobbies and interests?
My girlfriends. We play soccer together, which I love. I also like biking, reading and being outdoors. I love being a mom. I hate to shop, but I love to hang out wherever there’s good company. My friends and I often go to the Duke of Gloucester, the pub that sponsors our team in the Toronto Soccer League.
Wigs styled by Michael Suba, Continental Hair, 416-923-7747.