LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Swimsuit model, fitness instructor and dancer Christie Valdiserri said she’s had to overcome many challenges in life but none were anything like her battle with alopecia.
“For my whole life, for 23 years, I knew myself as a blonde. I was a blonde sorority girl,” she said.
Alopecia areata, the autoimmune condition that develops when the immune system attacks hair follicles, caused Valdiserri to lose all her hair a few years ago.
Now, she switches between different wigs and her natural bald look.
“Some people that I meet now comment on my confidence and it’s refreshing to hear because I wasn’t always this confident,” Valdiserri said. “When I would get my wigs done, I would turn my chair away from the mirror so I wouldn’t have to meet my own eyes in the mirror. So, it was extremely hard. Now, I’m at this place where I want to normalize bald women.”
Valdiserri said it’s her goal to make other women who have dealt with hair loss feel represented and beautiful.
This year, she will appear on the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, but admits it wasn’t the smoothest journey.
“I was so nervous, anxious and scared of exposing my bald head to everyone,” Valdiserri said. “I knew this was going to pay off if I could just get myself through it so I could try to put my message out there.”
Valdiserri will be Sports Illustrated’s first-ever bald model.
September is Alopecia Areata Awareness Month to help increase awareness of the condition across the country and the need for FDA-approved treatment.
Learn more about how to recognize the day at the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.