In many ways, Kayla Martell is just like the other contestants currently in the running for Miss America. The beautiful blonde is passionate about a cause, confident and a role model for others. She lacks something that her competitors take for granted – a full head of hair. The 21-year-old, however, doesn’t let baldness get in her way.
Martell started losing her hair when she was ten years old due to alopecia areata. This autoimmune skin disease results in the loss of hair on the scalp and elsewhere on the body. It usually starts with one or more small, round, smooth patches on the scalp and can progress to total scalp hair loss (alopecia totalis) or complete body hair loss (alopecia universalis).
In June, Martell was crowned Miss Delaware after five tries. She had previously entered four times, twice without a wig. She says people find her more approachable when she wears a wig, but she’s perfectly comfortable without it. In an interview with the CBS Morning News she said she thought she’d be a more effective beauty queen by being natural. "I think I can be a better Miss Delaware and a better Miss America by taking the wig off," she said.
She chose the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF) as her platform for the January 2011 Miss America Pageant. According to NAAF, this disease affects about two percent of the population, including more than 4.7 million people in the United States alone. Alopecia is highly unpredictable and cyclical. Hair can grow back in or fall out again at any time, and the disease course is different for each person.
In a news release, NAAF representatives said, “NAAF is very grateful for Kayla’s decision to use her time in the spotlight to educate the general public about the disease, and to prove that, with or without hair, we can all reach our dreams.” The nonprofit will be tracking Martell’s news coverage and public appearances on their website at the following link:
During the period leading up to the pageant, Martell plans to use her title to create awareness about alopecia and the people who live with this condition. Asked by CBS News whether she felt she won her crown because she competed with a wig, Martell replied, “"Not at all. I hope the judges picked me because I knew I could fulfill the jobs of Miss Delaware."
Alopecia causes, treatments, symptoms:
Living with alopecia: http://www.naaf.org/site/PageServer?pagename=living_with_alopecia_intro
National Alopecia Areata Foundation: