More than her hair: Mom launches campaign to support women with alopecia

Seven year-old Kate Rice likes to colour and math is her favourite school subject. She also happens to be bald, but that's not what her mother wants people to focus on. 

Nicole Rice is launching a campaign to bring awareness to alopecia areata, the autoimmune disease that caused her daughter to lose her hair.

"There's a lot of people who stare, because they just don't know what to do," explained the Edmonton mother. "A lot of people just assume that she has cancer, so we're trying to bridge that gap."

Kate, who is now in Grade 2, is learning to deal with the judgment of others.

"They say mean things," said Kate. "They don't know that I have alopecia, they don't know what it is."

Her mother explained that the questions and stares can be overwhelming for the young girl. 

"She'll just completely shut down and be very quiet," said Rice. "So it's also about helping her find coping mechanisms."

Rice's #MoreThanHerHair campaign seeks to break down the stigma associated with hair loss and remind others that a woman's hair does not define her. 

The campaign is being launched at Rice's shop, Sweet Jolie, on Sept. 13, during alopecia awareness month.

The event, which will raise funds for alopecia research, includes a fashion show with models that represent diverse bodies and looks.

Sweet Jolie

Alopecia advocate Anna Steen, who was diagnosed with the disease as a child and started losing her hair in adulthood, is one of the models for the campaign.

Steen decided to embrace her hair loss and shaved her head four years ago.

"It was pretty scary, to be honest, at first," said Steen, who didn't know anyone else with alopecia at the time.

"That's why I love being involved with stuff like this, it let's other people know that they are not alone."

Steen said she is proud of children like Kate, who are learning to accept their alopecia at a young age.

"I lost my hair when I was a little bit older, and I could stand up for myself a little bit more," she explained. "Being so young, I couldn't even imagine."

Rice hopes her campaign will empower not only her daughter but all women to realize their worth regardless of their look. 

"This is the way God made her, and I want her to be really proud of that," she said. "This who she is, and she's owning it."