Dani, a Shapermint model who has been featured in our Spring and Evergreen campaigns, bounces into the studio brimming with confidence.
Recently she shared with us that, in August, she’ll be celebrating her 2-year BALDIEversary, as she calls it. “That marks two years of no longer hiding under wigs,” Dani shared.
Dani has Alopecia Areata, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss. We caught up with Dani to chat about the challenges of living with Alopecia as a model and as a woman in our modern society.
Beautiful Beginnings & the Love of a Family
“I’ve had it since I was two years old and struggled growing up with it,” Dani shared with us. “Kids didn’t understand what alopecia was and bullied me because of it. It caused me to feel isolated and I hid under wigs for many years.”
Alopecia affects roughly 2% of the population in both men and women. The condition can appear as patchy bald areas on the scalp, complete baldness (Alopecia Totalis), or even full-body hair loss (Alopecia Universalis).
“It’s an unpredictable disease and we’re still learning new information about it,” Dani says. “It surprises people that we are not sick. People assume that because we don’t have hair it means we are going through chemotherapy.”
We asked Dani how she found the courage to ditch the wigs and learn to love and accept herself.
Growing up, Dani felt constant pressure from the media and from society to conform to a standard of beauty that, quite frankly, is impossible for most women to achieve. What made it worse for Dani was the feeling that she was the only girl in the world without hair.
“Growing up with alopecia and being naturally curvy, I didn’t see myself represented in the media,” she said sadly. “All I saw were thin women with long, beautiful hair. Don’t get me wrong, they are beautiful but only seeing those images affected my self-esteem. Being so young, I couldn’t help but feel like I needed to look like them to be beautiful.”
Thankfully, Dani’s family was determined to help her see her own beauty. “My family and friends from school were always supportive,” she said. “Although my family couldn’t relate to how I was feeling, they constantly reassured me that I didn’t need hair to be beautiful.”
As she grew into the beautiful woman she is today, her mother, in particular, guided her on the journey of self-acceptance.
“My mom shaped me to be a leader and taught me to always pursue my dreams… She always encouraged me to be my own boss and to try new hobbies,” she laughed. “She truly believes that I can do anything.”
A Growing Community
In time, Dani eventually discovered an online community that completely changed her perception of herself and allowed her to see that she wasn’t the only young girl struggling with hair loss.
“When I was a teen, I was introduced to the online alopecia community and it changed me,” Dani said thoughtfully. “I saw so many beautiful baldies! It helped me accept myself and make new friends. I’ve grown to completely accept and love my alopecia.”
Knowing she wasn’t alone in her struggle gave her a new burst of confidence. When Dani saw a post about an open call for swimsuit models while scrolling through Instagram, she shared the news with her mother and decided to give it a shot.
“I was not comfortable being in a swimsuit, let alone modeling… but one of my New Year’s resolutions was to accept my body for what it was.”
She ended up landing the job, which quickly led to other modeling opportunities. She was soon signed to Natural Models L.A., an agency that embraces diversity.
Changing Minds on a Professional Platform
“I’m so glad that advertising has shifted,” Dani said, smiling. “Everyone’s looks are different and unique, so why not showcase them?”
Thanks to all the “badass’ women” in Dani’s life – including her mother, grandmother, best friend, Pam, and her agency – she never lacked support and inspiration.
Now, Dani’s on a mission to do the same for other women.
She encourages women to embrace their differences and live their lives without shame or apology.
“I wish to inspire anyone who’s ever felt isolated because, to others, they were seen as different,” she said. “And I love knowing that I’m spreading awareness of alopecia and inspiring other Alopecians.”
As one of the many diverse, beautiful models who represent the Shapermint brand, we couldn’t help but ask Dani how she feels about shapewear.
“I love shapewear! Some pieces [of clothing] I’ve worn needed that extra oomph and shapewear always comes through. I know I don’t need shapewear to feel good about my body,” Dani said, “but I love that it can make my clothing look smoother and put together. It’s the cherry on top of any outfit and a staple piece for my wardrobe.”
Dani’s story is one of growth, acceptance, and spreading awareness with courage and the loving support of the female role models in her life.
This Mother’s Day, we’re inspired by Dani and all of her fierce, female heroes. It’s time to #MakeTheCall.
Pick up the phone and call your mother, your grandmother, your aunt, your sister, or your best girlfriend and tell her what she means to you. Share how she’s inspired you to be the woman you are today.
Because the more we lift each other up and show our gratitude for the supportive women in our lives, the more good we can do.
To find out more about Dani, follow her on Instagram @alopeachia