This stunning grade-schooler proves you don’t need a lustrous mane to be the main attraction.
Niamh Lewis, 8, has been completely hairless since her alopecia set in when she was just 5, but she’s not letting her condition get in the way of her goals, recently joining several modeling agencies with hopes of bringing attention to the autoimmune disorder.
The South Wales resident has no eyebrows or eyelashes and lost her hair in clumps due to the disorder, which causes baldness due to a mistaken immune system.
“It gradually progressed, and by the time she was 5, it took only four months to go from having hair to no hair at all,” her mom, Amy, explained to Caters News, recalling her daughter’s full head of blond hair. “We tried different styles to cover the patches, but the hair was becoming very fine and tangly.”
What started as a few small hairless patches gradually became complete baldness, said Amy, 43, who worried about how her daughter would handle the new look, especially as a woman. But as Niamh always says, if her “body needs hair, it will grow it” and tells her mom to “go with the flow.”
“Niamh is confident in her own skin and is an inspiration to us all,” Amy said.
“We only speak positively about hair loss,” Amy, who is involved in Alopecia UK with her daughter, added. “The terms ‘suffering with’ or a ‘survivor of’ are not words we use.”
Embracing her natural beauty actually earned Niamh the gig of a lifetime: becoming a model.
The 8-year-old has now joined multiple modeling agencies, never losing her sparkle in front of the camera.
“Niamh really enjoyed modeling and never lost her confidence in front of the camera,” her mother said. “I’d like alopecia to be seen in mainstream modeling.” Autoimmune disorders in general are much more prevalent in women, at a rate of 2 to 1, according to a recent article published in the journal Cureus.
But the young girl’s experiences with alopecia haven’t always been positive. While Niamh exudes confidence, she endured bullying at school and stares from strangers because of her hair loss.
“Kids would call her ‘baldy,’ and some of the girls wouldn’t play with her,” said Amy, who home-schools Niamh. “Wherever we go, people stare. They assume she has cancer or a terminal illness.”
But now, Niamh is old enough to explain her condition, despite still receiving the occasional hug or candy out of sympathy.
“Niamh’s look is striking, and I am proud how she has dealt with comments from other children and strangers who stop her in the street,” Amy continued, adding that she was worried how her daughter would be affected by people’s reactions.
As her mom, Amy confessed she probably struggled more than Niamh, finding the hair loss “hard to deal with.” When Niamh was first diagnosed, Amy spent time researching and reading about the disorder, eventually receiving a wig donation from the Little Princess Trust.
“She doesn’t want it anymore,” she said of the wig. “It was too much for her tiny little features, and it was would get hot and itchy.”
Niamh, who loves to swim and hang upside down while playing outside, refused the wig, after it got in the way of her youthful behavior. While she tries headscarves or dons the occasional accessory for fun, typically she prefers to not wear anything.
She rocks her hair loss elegantly, with her single mom not opting to put her through any kind of treatment, despite options being available. It’s about weighing what’s best for individual people, Amy said.
“There are steroid injections available, but I felt it was a lot to put Niamh through,” she explained. “You can also buy steroid-based creams, but decided against that as it may irritate her eczema.”
As Niamh aged, she started to question what she would look like when she’s older, so her mom connected her to a community of other people living with alopecia through Instagram.
“We follow women and children all over the world with alopecia and it’s great to have that support,” Amy said, who hopes to set up the first alopecia support group in Wales.