Rock Hill resident Charlie Walker knew she had to make her grandfather proud. So she went to his funeral without her wig.
Walker, 17, was diagnosed at age seven with Alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system attacks hair follicles, leading to hair loss.
Walker has worn wigs since childhood, but recently embraced her baldness as a way to honor her “paw-paw,” who died last month and from whom Charlotte, aka Charlie, got her name.
“He gave me flowers when I went out bald once, so I went to his funeral without my hair,” Walker said. “Ever since then I got more confident with it. He would’ve been proud of me.”
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Walker’s mom Rachel Walker said her father loved seeing Charlie out without her wig.
“It’s a wonderful way to honor him, and it’s given her so much strength,” Rachel said.
Walker is sharing her new-found confidence with others. She started a Facebook page, Bella Bald, that celebrates self-love. Bella is a term related to the Spanish, Italian and Latin words for beautiful.
On her page, Walker shared photos of herself without a wig.
“I want to inspire people, that they don’t have to always cover up who they are like I was with my wigs,” Walker said. “I want them to be comfortable and know they are beautiful without their hair.”
Some of the quotes Walker has shared on her Facebook page reflect that message.
“There is no real beauty without some slight imperfection. Love yourself.”
“Self love is the greatest middle finger of all time.”
Walker said she has already received messages from people she has inspired, including young girls who are losing their hair.
“Wigs were a security blanket,” Walker said. “I feel a lot better now than I have in the past.”
Walker’s journey to self-love hasn’t been an easy one.
Walker noticed patchy hair loss in the second grade. By the third grade, Walker had lost all of her hair. It has never grown back.
“She wouldn’t be seen without her wig,” Rachel said.
Rachel said her daughter faced bullying and left public school. Walker attends school online from home.
“I’ve always told my girls don’t give (bullies) what they want, but it’s easier said than done when you’re young and you feel like you’re so completely different than everyone else,” Rachel said.
Walker’s parents have encouraged her to go in public as herself. It’s a message Walker is finally embracing. She wants to be a hairdresser and has received interest from brands for modeling.
“I feel free without wearing a wig. This is who I am; this is who I am all the time. With my wig, I feel like a different person. it’s not really who I am,” Walker said. “You don’t have to wear a wig to be beautiful. You are probably more beautiful without it actually.”