“What it meant to shave all of my hair off in lockdown”

“What it meant to shave all of my hair off in lockdown”

July 16, 2020

Alyssia White saw lockdown as the perfect opportunity to finally shave her head, an idea that had been on her mind for years. Though women around the country had been frustrated by months without hairdressers, White tells Stylist’s Megan Murray why this period of time presented a liberating opportunity to something incredibly important.

I’ve always toyed with the idea of shaving my head. It’s a seed that’s been planted in my mind for a long time, like a challenge I’d set myself knowing that I would one day complete it.

If you knew me, you probably wouldn’t be surprised. You see, I’m always challenging myself in one way or another.

I challenged myself not to have a conventional life. After finishing dance school in London, I flew around the world learning how to be a VOGA teacher, hosting classes at festivals and wellness retreats, meeting new people and going to new places every week.

I joined a girlband and lived in India, practising Bollywood-inspired moves in our music videos and performing at the houses of royalty. I’ve presented TV shows and live events, and I’m always looking for a new opportunity and experience to feel like I’m conquering something new.

But even though I’d like to consider myself somewhat “outside the box”, I can’t help but feel attached to my hair. I’ve had fun trying different lengths, styles and colours over the years but like many women do, I’ve based part of my attractiveness on it after years of absorbing societal messaging that hair is what we attach to feminity and beauty. 

My sister-in-law Kate and I are both 30 but in many ways, we couldn’t be more different. My packed schedule means no two days are ever the same (which is how I like it) and Kate is the rock of her family. She has two gorgeous children and is a wonderful mother. She’s got a strength and an energy that is awe-inspiring to watch and always puts her babies first. Our lives revolve around polar opposite priorities, but we’ve always had a great connection.

Last year, Kate found out she had Sarcoma, a type of cancer. Watching her go through this battle shook me to my core. Yes, it was painful to see, but what really knocked me off my feet was her powerhouse attitude.

One of the biggest moments of her journey was when she lost her hair. Despite how significant hair was to Kate who, like many women, felt it to be a big part of her identity, she acted like she didn’t notice, let alone care. It was beautiful and so endearing to see. Instead of feeling like a loss, it felt like empowerment was literally flowing out of her.

I found her ability to so easily let go of something that many people would hold onto at all costs, completely inspiring. It made me think about how much I hold vanity and possessions close to me and that stripping back my appearance by shaving my hair would be a way of reminding myself what’s most important.

I was planning to fundraise for a Sarcoma charity for a triathlon in August, an event I was praying and hoping Kate would be there to see. Unfortunately, we lost Kate in November 2019.

Throughout lockdown, it became increasingly unlikely that the race would go ahead. As quarantine continued, though, a seed that I had long carried in my head began to grow and bloom. 

I thought about how I wanted to mark my thirtieth year. I thought about everything that had happened over the last 12 months and the empowerment I witnessed when Kate lost her hair, and what she taught me about letting go of my vanity. I knew I’d found the perfect way to honour her and go forward into my 30s.

Before I shaved my head, just the thought of it would make me laugh nervously. I’d feel a wave of fizzy energy go through my body at the thought of lobbing off something I’ve placed so much worth on. I wondered what it would feel like, how would it look as it grew back and even imagined the sensation of water trickling onto it in the shower.

The experience itself was liberating. Sat in my living room with a couple of close friends, I gave myself over and planted into a chair. I live-streamed the whole thing through Instagram and my heart burst at the messages of love and support that came from loved ones all over the globe.

We didn’t do it delicately. Just like Kate, I tried to be fearless and not flinch or care as drove by drove, my hair fell away. When I looked in the mirror, studying the areas that were slightly patchy, the fuzziness around my hairline and the imperfectness of the entire thing, I felt weirdly free. In fact, I felt at complete ease with myself.

Since then I’ve had a few trims to get the shape a little neater and had so much fun experimenting with colours; so far I’ve tried blonde, pink, peach and orange but animal print is next on my list.

The last year made me realise that all we have is now, so why wait if there’s something you want to do?

It sounds deep, but I truly believe the only thing you know you have and that you can hold, grasp, keep and own is the moment we’re in. We had yesterday and we can reminisce about it. We long and hope for tomorrow, but if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that if there’s anything on your mind, always do it.

Lockdown has triggered me intothinking, “Fuck it, let’s just do it now”. So many people have experienced losses or time has run out for them. 

There are also those who are medically safe but are missing out on plans, experiences, and parts of life that would otherwise have happened. It made me realise how much we need to grab the time we do have and use it.

But lockdown isn’t the reason I did this. It wasn’t a reaction to simply needing a haircut or feeling frustrated stuck inside. It’s something I felt would be the right choice for me for a long time, lockdown just gave me enough time to stop and think and realise that this was the perfect moment to go for it.

If you’re able to, Alyssia would like to encourage donations to Sarcoma UK.

Images: Alyssia White

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