Reclaiming the lens

Thursday, August 30, 2018 / 5:48 PM

The last time there was a photo of me with my natural hair on my head, I was 12.

I cried a lot before picture day that year. I wanted to stay at home or ask if the yearbook photographer could use my photo from last year instead. That was a battle I lost, but I did get to wear a dress I loved and, for the first time, got to wear lip gloss to school.

I've always loved makeup, but never felt like it was "for me." In all of the magazines where they taught you how to do your makeup, the tutorials always featured girls with light skins and large eyelids. For school plays, the moms who volunteered to do makeup never knew what to do with girls like me and I always came out too pale or with various eye products smeared down my cheeks.

And then my hair started to fall out and no one, including my family, knew what to do with me at all. I believed that makeup was for covering up flaws, and there weren't enough products in the world to fix what I felt everyone was implying was "wrong" with me.

But I wanted to wear makeup. I wanted to feel as confident and as beautiful as the girls in the magazines, and I wanted to be able to look in a mirror or at a photograph and not hate what I saw. If you saw my school photos between 1999 and 2001, you'd be shocked at how suddenly the smile disappeared: 5th grade was the last time I took a photo with a somewhat-full head of hair. By 2000, the wisps that remained were covered by headscarves, and when junior high came, I refused to leave the house without a wig.

Through all of that, and all through high school, I would still scan through Seventeen and Teen People, and I would wander up and down the makeup aisles at Target and wished I knew how to use the products that gave those other girls their smiles.

The moment, for me, where it started to change was 2006 during a cycle 6 episode of America's Next Top Model. The contestants had a challenge where they wore bald caps to model Swarovski crystals – and those photos were gorgeous. I suddenly felt seen in a very real and very visible way. I didn't have to just be "the bald girl." Maybe I could also be a CoverGirl?

In the early days of experimenting with products (both bought from drugstores and "borrowed" from my mom's Shiseido stash), I had plenty of missteps and I still cringe when I see those photos buried in albums and in boxes at my parents' house. Thank God for YouTube tutorials and blogs to guide me through college – those were the first times I ever saw someone who looked like me putting on makeup, teaching, talking about products that worked and didn't work. It was like a whole new world that I didn't think I could ever enjoy.

And that was something that took me awhile to fully understand: it is a world to be enjoyed. I started to see that makeup wasn't about hiding behind something. Just like putting on a good pair of shoes or a T-shirt you love, makeup is about expressing yourself. It can be fun. It should be fun.

I think that's partially why I started @alopeciamua: to experiment, to play, and to hopefully reach at least one person out there who's thought their whole life that they needed makeup to "fix" them. For my entire life, I've never fussed with fake eyebrows or fake eyelashes or eyelid tape, even though those would've helped me get on the path toward what I'm told is "normal" and "beautiful."

For the first time in nearly 20 years, I'm starting to feel good again. The photo set above represents that: these words were just some of the things I was called growing up, and I no longer want to let those things hold power over me anymore. It's been 17 years since I last let there be a photograph of me without a wig, and this account is just one small step toward reclaiming who I am.

A post shared by Trey (@alopeciamua) on

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