Darleyns Rosa’s first bald spot appeared when she was just 10 years old. “Every night, my mom would untangle my hair, which was super curly. And she found a quarter-size bald spot. We didn’t think much of it.” But the problem progressed quickly. First, Rosa’s mom would style her hair with a side part to disguise the absent hair. Then, it became too much to hide. “Going into fifth grade, it got to the point where you could see the streaks of baldness coming through,” she recalls.
Dermatologists blamed everything from a skin infection to a bad diet. Eventually, one doctor landed on the diagnosis of alopecia areata. With little research on the condition available at the time, the treatment plan consisted of cortisone shots, and when that didn’t work, the professionals prescribed steroid shots. But at such a young age, the side effects seemed too risky. So, a bandana became Rosa’s only barrier, her only shield at a time when puberty and pre-teen bullies were hitting their stride.
“I cried almost every day after school. During lunch, a lot of the kids would start saying, ‘It’s not fair if she gets to wear a bandana. We can’t wear bandanas.’ It just felt like everyone was against me.” she says. “I definitely remember praying, ‘God, please help my hair grow,’ and thinking that overnight it would grow in. I definitely had nights where I would cry myself to sleep saying, ‘I hate myself. Why do I look like this?'”
Years later, Rosa began wearing a full lace wig anchored with tape, but even then she was limited. Windy days, roller coasters, beaches, swimming pools were all red flags. It was around the time that she was looking for a new hairpiece — a $5000 investment that required a credit card — that Rosa came to a realization. “I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. What am I doing? Why am I trying to get myself into debt just to get another wig? You are not a wig. You are unique. You are beautiful and amazing as you are. These things don’t define you.'”