Life has changed dramatically for North London teenager Joelle Amery since she became a YouTube celebrity with her hit song ‘Big in LA’.
In 2013, the 14-year-old uploaded a self-penned song called ‘Big in LA’ on to YouTube. The accompanying home-made video clip was shot during a family vacation to the US, and features Joelle living her fantasy life in sun-soaked LA. The video quickly went viral, and has led her to several US television appearances.
In the clip, Joelle looks like a typical schoolgirl. But many have been surprised to learn that her luscious brown locks are in fact a wig. Since the age of eight, Joelle has been living with Alopecia Universalis, a rare condition in which all hair on the body is lost – including eyebrows and eyelashes.
Alopecia Universalis: the rarest form of Alopecia
Alopecia Universalis is the rarest and most severe form of Alopecia, causing total loss of hair across the scalp and body. The condition exists from birth, though may not present itself until later on in life. While this severe form of the condition is very difficult to treat, some sufferers do spontaneously experience hair regrowth years later.
Joelle’s mother Michelle first realised her daughter was experiencing hair loss soon after she finished Year 4: ‘When I brushed her hair after a shower, I saw there were massive patches where I could see her scalp. I can still remember my utter shock as it started blocking up the plughole. I tried to hide her hair loss from Joelle but within a few weeks all her lovely long brown hair had fallen out. ‘
Joelle suffered bullying at school due to her appearance, with other children calling her names like ‘cancer girl’, or whispering about her whenever she entered the room. Joelle said of this difficult period: “During the school day, I would try and hold all my emotions in. Then the moment I got home, I would shut the front door behind me and collapse in tears.”
Sharing her experience with others
Through writing and sharing her music with others, Joelle found the courage to show the world what she really looks like. To date, she has made several US television appearances and attended photo shoots without a wig, determined to bring more awareness to the rare condition.
The brave teenager has said of her experience: “Alopecia has been the breaking of me, but also the making of me.”
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 diagnostic 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 0800 077 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.