Turning Alopecia Areata from stigma to strength

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ST. LOUIS, MO - Kalika Blake 37, was diagnosed with alopecia areata when she was nine. The disease causes the body's autoimmune system to attack the hair follicles, making hair fall out on the scalp and other parts of the body. Because of her condition, Blake says she was targeted by bullies in school.

"There was a lot of pointing and laughing," said Kalika Blake.

With support from friends and family, Blake managed to survive.

"What I had to do every day was hold my head up high and walk through those moments and I can't say it wasn't hard," said Kalika Blake.

Research shows more than five million people across the country have the condition; most of them children. Blake knows what they are going through and probably exactly how they feel. She struggled for years and doubted her beauty because of her baldness.

"I hid it. I hid it for so many years under wigs and under scarfs," Blake said.

The Mizzou grad and former corporate executive for global fashion brands worked intentionally and diligently to find her place in a world that defines beauty based on looks, style and hair.

"Who I am is not connected to what I look like aesthetically, but who I am inside," Blake said.

Blake stopped wearing wigs and scarfs last September during Alopecia Areata Awareness Month. She also posed for the camera during a professional photo shoot taking pictures she is posting on social media. She hopes they will inspire women and girls to redefine beauty.

"You have the capacity to move your life forward by believing in yourself and owning who you are every day and showing up and being the best you," Blake said.