Before her hair started falling out in clumps in January, 7-year-old Gianessa Wride loved dressing up.
The first grader from Salem, Utah used to don a Cinderella costume, complete with her hair in a bun, or dress up as a fish for performances with a crown of sparkly sequins atop her head. Her long brown locks were a fixture — in kindergarten last year, she had her hair spray-painted different colors for ‘Crazy Hair Day’ at school, her mother told Fox 13.
But when Gianessa’s hair suddenly began to fall out in patches as it was brushed, her mother Daniella Wride worried about what might be wrong. She shared photos on Instagram of the bald patches on Gianessa’s scalp and began going to doctors to find an answer.
“You guys, the progression of her hair loss is staggering,” Wride wrote in one post. “We have an appointment with the dermatologist tomorrow... It’s just breaking my heart.”
The diagnosis, when it arrived, was disheartening. Gianessa had alopecia, which causes the immune system to attack the body’s hair follicles and does not have a cure.
“It's just that your antibodies attack your own system, and just coated her hair, so a lot of her hair fell out,” Wride told Fox 13. “I was nervous that kids would start to bully her and she wouldn't fit in or she wouldn't be as confident.”
Gianessa adjusted well, taking to hats or scarves to avoid itchy wigs, Wride told Fox 5 DC.
But when this year’s ‘Crazy Hair Day’ at school rolled around, Wride wanted to do a little more to help Gianessa fit in.
She purchased stick-on sequins that she then placed on Gianessa’s head in swirling jewel patterns: an explosion of flowers, a butterfly, an owl with wide, sparkling eyes.
When Gianessa arrived in class, her classmates were dazzled. She even won the prize for best look, she said.
“People were crowding me, saying, ‘You look cool, how did you do that?’” Gianessa told Fox 13. “They want to try it but they can't because they all have hair.”
It’s not the only time Gianessa’s learned to embrace her new appearance — Wride shared photos of Gianessa in an elaborate headpiece for a photoshoot with her father last month. But the classroom exercise in particular has helped, her mother told Fox 13.
“I think this just helps to make her know she's beautiful no matter what she looks like,” Wride told the station.