steroids, various kinds of
acupuncture, and even Minoxidil, a cream used to treat male pattern
baldness. I had such high hopes at the beginning of each treatment,
but nothing worked for me.
‘Then, when I was 29, my sister Jayne, who works in the fashion
industry, phoned to say she’d spoken to a lovely man called
John Clifton, a master wigmaker from Mandeville of London, who was
going to custom-make me a wig for a shoot. It was a joyful moment
– something nice was going to happen after four years floundering
in an abyss.
‘The wig was made to measure from the finest quality European
hair – which looks real and reacts naturally – and took
eight months to arrive. Afterwards, I remember seeing my reflection
in shop windows and it was a wonderful feeling: I looked like myself
again. The wig was constructed on a fine webbing specially designed
to fit my head, so I wasn’t frightened it would come off,
which makes a huge difference. It means you
can live a normal life. ‘On the
shoot, which lasted a couple of days, John and I got on really well
and he told me all about his business. We became friends, and a
little later he asked me to work with him at Mandeville, talking
to clients and managing the manufacturing side. Before that, I’d
had a job restoring antiques, but I was glad to leave because the
chemicals were irritating my skin.
‘Working with him has been fantastic – he’s so
positive and understanding. For the first time since I lost my hair,
I felt I could take my wig off with someone and it wouldn’t
matter. People never dream of touching your head when you’re
bald, but John did. It lifted me up, because
I’d felt so alone and desperate. It gave me a kind of acceptance
that pulled me out of the glue I was
in, and made me feel safer.
I now have four Mandeville wigs, all of which
are completely different lengths. Although I was happy to wear a
blonde or red wig when I was younger,
now I play it a bit safer and stick to the same
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colour. But I couldn’t function
without them. A good, natural-looking wig helps you cope, because
to other people you look like yourself, and as nice as you possibly
can. It’s a great cover-up. It helps with the process of dealing
with everything, while not looking like a clown.
‘I have a boyfriend now, though our relationship is still in its early stages. He knew about my hair before we started going out, but it took a long time for me to take the wig off in front of him. One night, I sat on the bed with a towel around my head. I wanted to take it off, but I couldn’t bear him to see me with no hair. Eventually, he said, “Take off the towel,” and everything was fine. But that step was so difficult. As soon as someone sees I’ve got no hair, I think they’ll lose interest. It’s such a severe, frightening look.
‘About a year ago, I finally started to face up to the fact that my hair might never grow back. I cried a lot. I remember being in a café with my mother and saying, “I don’t know if I want to go on with no hair.” It was an awful thing to say, but I couldn’t see a future while I felt that way. Even now, I struggle with it. I’m fine when I’ve got my wig on, but when I’m washing my face or cleaning my teeth at night without it, I really don’t like it. Just last night, I slept with a wig on for the first time, because I wanted to lie in bed with hair around me – it’s such a luxury, feeling hair on your pillow. ‘Recently, my eyelashes and eyebrows have grown back, and a very fine down now covers my scalp. I think, “Please God, let my hair grow back.” My sister Jenny recently visited a psychic who told her that it will happen eventually. I don’t know if I believe that, but the good thing is that I’m no longer living in complete panic mode.
‘I feel much, much better about myself now. I never used to
be able to look into the future, because it always felt so uncertain.
But now I’m 35, and I’ve realised I want to get married.
I want to feel celebrated and feminine, and have a lovely big wedding.
I know it’s a fairy tale, but it’s every girl’s
dream. And I’ll get a new wig.’
For private consultations with Mandeville of London,
call 020-8741 5959 or log on to www.mandeville-wigs.co.uk