TV star Anthony Carrigan, who has lost all of his hair to a severe form of the autoimmune disorder Alopecia Areata, has spoken out about his hair loss in an inspiring video made by style website stylelikeu.com.
The actor, who plays the psychopathic Victor Zsasz in the hit US TV series Gotham, talks about his Alopecia Areata while slowly disrobing, for a series that is called ‘The What’s Underneath Project’. The team state at the start of each video that the point of their films is “To honour how style is not the clothes you wear. It’s what’s underneath.”
Carrigan begins his clip – which you can see here – fully dressed and wearing a hat that covers his smooth bald head. He explains that some of the things that people think about him when they see him include that he has cancer, or that they are puzzled as to why he has no hair. Sometimes, though, he says they think, “Wow, that guy is really cool.”
The actor most likely has a severe form of Alopecia – either Alopecia Totalis or Alopecia Universalis – an assumption that can be made because he explains how his hair loss includes his eyelashes and eyebrows, symptoms which are not associated with Alopecia Areata which causes patchy hair loss of the scalp only. In the video, Carrigan says that the hardest thing for anyone with a severe hair loss condition is to, “Get to a place where you’re okay with yourself.” Continues below…
Carrigan’s hair first started falling out when he was three. When he was growing up, he would have spots of hair falling out and, he says, adults would ask his parents if he was OK. Children, he says, would tease him. “I didn’t really know what it was,” he says. “I just knew that it was something to cover up, and I had a whole list of things like powders and eyebrow pencils and it progressed to wig pieces. It was this weird, shameful thing I had to keep concealed at all costs.”
Ironically, he says, when you’re hiding something you tend to broadcast it. “I would go around with half a scalp of hair and I would cover it up with a hat, thinking, ‘OK, cool, I’m safe’.” But he says wearing a hat actually made people want to grab at it and pull it off his head.
On the subject of why he wanted to become an actor, he admits it was an interesting choice, given years of trying to stay out of the limelight. Carrigan states that part of him was imploring him to stay hidden, but there was also a desperate need to be seen and to “connect” – something he felt able to do on stage.
Encouraged, he moved to Los Angeles and showed up with a full head of hair for a nine-month TV production, by month six of which he had lost half of his hair and most of his eyebrows and eyelashes. “The problem was that we had to make me look like I was in the first episode,” he says. “So everyone was scrambling to make that happen.” When the producers found out, Carrigan was relieved that they were supportive and said they would do whatever he needed to feel comfortable.
He goes on to explain that subsequent acting work has been hard won due to his “niche” look which has lead to bad guy typecasting, and says he no longer gets offered roles for a “pretty boy” like he used to. When work was especially thin on the ground, he says he thought about quitting: “When enough people tell you, ‘I’m sorry, it’s not going to work’, it takes a toll.”
Being different is cool
The story of Carrigan’s struggles is typical of that of many people with the various types of Alopecia Areata. Today, he says, he has dreams of being able to show people that being different is really cool. “Living on the surface of life is no fun,” he says. “The really good stuff is way down deep and it takes a long time to get to know.”
Alopecia Areata hair loss occurs when the hair growth cycle becomes disrupted; the cause is unknown but triggers include shock, trauma and genetics. There are usually no other physical symptoms associated with the condition although research has indicated that people with autoimmune conditions including Alopecia Areata are likely to be more susceptible to others.
The hair may regrow naturally – as it does within a year in fifty per cent of cases – but when or if this will happen is impossible to predict. The condition may also recur once the hair has regrown; again the reasons why are still unclear but researchers are studying this autoimmune disorder closely with databases and biobanks being set up in both the UK and USA.
Treatment for Alopecia Areata is often possible and can be extremely effective, however, whilst there are currently limited Alopecia Totalis and Universalis treatment options – including the steroid injections and creams Anthony mentions trying – numerous clinical trials are making significant progress in this area.
The Belgravia Centre
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.