I’m Danielle Gilbert and I’m 19 years old. I’ve had alopecia since the age of 2 progressing from patchy alopecia to alopecia totalis. My mam first noticed my hair was falling out after taking a photo of me on holiday – a small penny size patch on the top of my head. Soon after she took me to the doctors in which she was dismissed diagnosing me with “baby alopecia”, claiming it would go away! 17 years later and I’m still waiting!! Going through school, sixth form and even university has been a challenge simply because of my self confidence! My mam has made me be strong throughout these difficult years always telling me I’m beautiful no matter what. The toughest thing for me was the staring. Where ever I went (without a wig) I would always get many people looking at me – small children making comments and many mistaking me for having cancer. This shows the lack of awareness of alopecia itself. I was a confident little girl (with the odd tough day or two) but when I grew up and was discovering myself, my confidence more often fluctuated although I’d never let it show. I was in my element when I started to experiment with makeup and wigs. I remember getting my first wig, walking into school and feeling so chuffed with myself! I’d love ‘new wig’ day – always trying something different. I’m advantageous and love experimenting with different styles and colours. Then, I started experimenting with makeup! After plenty of practice, I can transform myself and be creative with my image. I can be unrecognisable sometimes – but this isn’t because I’m trying to be something I’m not and this is often what many would criticise me for. Makeup and wigs is a way of expressing myself and being creative with how I look. I’m happy to step out of my comfort zone, be bold and stand out. Growing into the person I am now, I can see so many people like me who have low self esteem and confidence should be encouraged. With support and understanding for the condition, this can only become better and better.