I Am More Than My Hair: Bald and Beautiful Me
I Am More Than My Hair: Bald and Beautiful Me
A Social-Change Photography Book That Celebrates the Beauty of Bald Girls and Women.
A Social-Change Photography Book That Celebrates the Beauty of Bald Girls and Women. Read more
Beauty - Authenticity - Awareness - Humanity
Greetings! My name is Alyscia Cunningham and I am a photographer and author based in Silver Spring, MD (that's right outside of Washington, DC). Don’t forget to read my bio to know more about me.
For close to a year I have been working on a Social-Change Photography Book project titled I Am More Than My Hair: Bald and Beautiful Me. Through my project I am creating awareness and promoting the beauty of bald girls and women who have lost their hair due to medical conditions or autoimmune disorders. I also captured portraits of women who cut their hair in support of a loved one.
On October 24, 2013, I cut and donated my then sixteen years of locs, for a Big Chop to Stop Cancer event. To be honest, I've wanted to cut my hair for a few years prior to this day. Despite the constant headaches and head colds after going swimming (the thickness of my hair makes the drying time lengthy) I continued to hold onto to it. I had to remind myself… I AM NOT MY HAIR.
Before doing the Big Chop, I blogged about my forthcoming endeavor. Some of the feedback I received wasn't very encouraging. After all, people always knew me with long hair and thought the "look"might not be a good fit. I'll be honest and say I did question myself, going back and forth in the mirror, covering the front of my hair to visualize what I would look like.
For the first time, I experienced some serious fear and doubt about myself. Whispering quietly within, "I wonder how I'll look without my hair? " Very similar to the feelings of the women in my first book, Feminine Transitions, who had a difficult time being photographed without make-up. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is not as easy as I thought.
Although it's a different situation, the idea is similar and I connected with the emotions these women experienced. Regardless, I decided that no one else, including myself, was going to change my mind and I happily shaved anyway. Strangely enough (it must be Divine order) I kept bumping into women who lost their hair and couldn't imagine the feelings that come with involuntarily losing hair and the assumptions that people make before getting to know you.
In reflection, my experience with cutting my hair combined with my self-doubt about my "look" after cutting my hair as well as my personal struggle with beauty as a child, I Am More Than My Hair was born. My experiences helped me to discover this path. And my journey continues...
Why is this Project Important?
CNN calls Sheila Bridges "America’s #1 celebrity interior designer". Sheila was at the top of her game, hosting her own television show, when she was diagnosed with alopecia areata and began to lose her hair. Bridges spoke about how she defines beauty on OWN TV stating, "I've had to redefine beauty because if you look into the outside world or to the media to define what's beautiful, I'm certainly not that...Beauty to me should transcend hair. It should transcend hairlessness as well. Beauty is about feeling comfortable in your own skin. Beauty is about having strength and courage to be yourself."
What if a TV host/journalist such as Joan Lunden, or any other well-known person in the media, decided not to wear her wig during taping? Think of the hundreds of thousands of individual lives that would touch and the girls and women that will bravely step out into the world feeling relevant and free to wear a hair piece if she so chooses.
From this comes awareness. In most cases, children are bullied because of the ignorance of others. They really don’t know. As MK Asante said, “If you make an observation, you have an obligation.” Because of my own struggles with being "pretty" as a child I unconsciously focused my photography to represent raw and unaltered beauty. It is my hope that through my projects I can in some way or form create positive change from the misconception of the society in which we live. I truly feel obligated in contributing to making the world a better place to live.
What Has Been Done So Far
For the past several months, I've driven throughout the Washington, DC metro area photographing girls and women and documenting their stories.
With this book I decided to photograph all participants in a natural lighting environment. Women would nervously call me, after seeing the social media post on my call for participants, and ask questions about the photo shoot. The two most frequent questions being, "What should I wear?" and "Where do we meet?"
I would always assure her that she was in good hands and that the most important part of it all is her feeling most comfortable. My suggestion was to pick a place that she connected with most, indoor (as long as there was amble sun light) or outdoor and I would meet her there. A few ladies met me at a near by park if they couldn't come up with a specific location.
As you can see from the pictures they are well lit with no flash photography. So far I have photographed over 35 women and currently seeking to take photos of 35 more.
A Few of the Rewards
Much Thanks to the Organizations That Made This Possible
For the assistance of the organizations that helped with spreading the word about this project and call for participants, I wish to thank African Women's Cancer Awareness Association, American Childhood Cancer Organization, Henna Heals, Look Good Feel Better, National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF),Nueva Vida (support network for Latinas with cancer), Sisters with Alopecia Group (SWAG), Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, Stupid Cancer, Susan G. Komen (San Diego, CA), and Young Survival Coalition. The majority of participants so far have connected with me through one of these organizations.
Through this journey from beginning (before any pictures were taken) to where I am now Jameelah Fernanders, founder of SWAG, has been the mid-wife. She has connected me with women, many she knew personally and others who were complete strangers. If I ever needed more participants Jameelah always had names and number for me. I thank you truly for helping me to give birth, literally, to I Am More Than My Hair.
Also, JC Holdings Project Management company has been a HUGE aide in my campaign. From my story, to the layout and the production of the video you see here. I could not have done it with your help and words alone cannot express my gratitude.
I give thanks to all of you!
Your contribution will go directly to producing 1,000 hardcover four-color printed copies of I Am More Than My Hair, all cost associated the creation of it, marketing and simple travel cost to and from the photo shoots. The persons that I will hire for professional and creative services has already been selected. Although my campaign goal is $15,000 the total budget is $28,372.98. The closer I get to reaching my budget, the more funds I will have to spend on my project. All cost are explained below:
- Printing 1,000 copies = $10,520
- Fee for the book designer = $1,500
- Fee for the designer to create the layout = $800
- Editor ($60/hr x 6.4 hours) = $400
- Travel to and from photo shoots (from now until April 2015) = $850
- Professional publicist = $5,000 (includes 4 months of assistance with a book tour, speaking engagements and marketing materials)
- Marketing for two months prior to the release and four months after = $4,000
- Kickstarter fees (5%) = $1,285.14 Read more at https://www.kickstarter.com/help/fees
- Amazon fee (3% - 5%) = $825.08 - $1,285.14
- Cost for rewards = $2,732.70
Some of My Other Work
Personal work. See more on my Flickr page.
Become A ‘I Am More Than My Hair’ Ambassador
The I Am More Than My Hair Team is currently looking for Ambassadors that can assist with important tasks, including 2015 fundraising efforts; social media outreach; general outreach to local and national women’s health organizations; educational lecture series outreach; and media outreach. We are also seeking additional Interns for 2015. If you are interested in volunteering, or in applying to our intern program, please email: info@Alyscia.com.
Alyscia is humbly seeking your guidance, input, and involvement in this very important and timely project. She would like to photograph females of all ages who have experienced complete hair loss as well as those who have cut their hair in support of a loved one. If you would like to recommend someone to be photographed in your community, please email: bookings@Alyscia.com.
Sharing is Caring
Not able to make a monetary contribution towards I Am More Than My Hair? Not a problem. Here are other ways you can help:
- Share my campaign link on your social media page. Explain to your friends why you believe my project is important. Don't forget to use the share tools above (below my video).
- Email my campaign link to friends and family https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/918246738/1159590251?token=7c777584.
- Connect with me on my social media campaigns. Links are below.
- Wish me well and send positive vibes my way! I'm a firm believer in reciprocity. With that in mind, know that I send positive energy right back at you.
Post for Twitter -
@AlysciaCPhoto continues her efforts to challenge negative social forces through capturing the essence of female beauty and baldness. #MoreThanMyHair. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/alyscia/295725104?token=8c2eff3f
Risks and challenges
I’ve witnessed an undeniable radiance in bald headed females. They don’t attract attention due to a lack of hair. Instead, their features become more captivating.
My goal to contribute to the way we see beauty through my social change photography book.
Exceeding my financial goals of $15,000.00 will help me to complete the book and provide funding to create a documentary with the footage I have already acquired.
I will make it available with or shortly after the release of Bald, Beautiful, Me.
Making sure my Kickstarter campaign receives the attention from the media and social media platforms will help me to deal with the financial challenges of producing my work.
Thank you for helping me contribute to the way we view beauty.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (33 days)