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Real Housewives of Atlanta Talk Hair Loss at ‘Bye Wig’ Party

In a celebration of natural hair, the ladies of top-rated TV series Real Housewives of Atlanta attended a ‘Bye Wig’ party, complete with ‘I Am Not My Hair’ cake.

Held by original cast member Nene Leakes, the gathering was supposed to show each other what was going on under their weaves, as many of the women had been accused of having hair loss.

It was also a chance to give their follicles a much-needed rest from their usual wigs, weaves and hair extensions, and exposed a notable drop in volume, length and thinning edges for almost all attendees.

Nene Leakes Bye Wig Party Real Housewives of Atlanta Natural Hair Thinning Edges
Nene Leakes

The party, which was broadcast as part of season 11 of the popular reality show, was hailed by many on social media for showing other women the beauty of natural hair and that they did not need to wear these problematic hair accessories.

Whilst they all certainly proved they did, indeed, have ‘some hair’, there were a few instances of noticeable thinning hair at the temples – also known as thinning edges.

No edges, but they’ve got some hair

Talking about the premise of the theme party, Nene said, “I’m having the Bye Wig luncheon at the house, these folks feeling some kind of way about coming bald-headed. They may not have all their edges but they got some hair… the rules are no hair extensions whatsoever. That means wigs, weaves, clip-in, clap-in, sew-in, tape-in – whatever you got in, take it out.”

“So many people are saying things like, “you don’t have any hair”, “you don’t have edges”, so I just wanted to show people that I really have hair! It may not be as long as the hair on my head [said whilst wearing a waist-length lace-front wig] but we have some hair.”

Model, Eva Marcille, who regularly has to change her hairstyle as part of her job, celebrated being a ‘naturalista’ and noted she was excited to see how her friends all looked au naturel. “I haven’t seen [fellow Real Housewife] Shamari without a wig so, when you wear a wig all the time, inquisitive minds wonder… what is under that cap?”.

Cynthia Bailey Kandi Burruss Bye Wig Party Real Housewives of Atlanta Natural Hair Thinning Edges
Cynthia Bailey (left) and Kandi Burruss

Each of the women – all of whom are African American or biracial and share the Afro hair type – wore their natural hair to the event. However, the Grammy-winning signer/songwriter Kandi Burruss, show regular Marlo Hampton and radio host Porsha Williams had their curls straightened for the occasion. This was done via blow-drying, rather than using relaxers – the reason for another well-known cause of hair loss, Chemical Trauma, particularly for women of colour.

Nene Leakes showed off her short bleach blonde crop, combed forward to cover her hairline, hoping to dispel rumours that she had thinning edges – or no hair left at all. Controversially, it did appear that the host was wearing a ‘topper’, however. This is a small hairpiece designed to add volume but which can also be used to cover areas of patchy hair loss.

The potential rule-breach did not go unnoticed on social media, with many viewers tweeting about how Nene had worn a wig to her own Bye Wig party.

This was largely seen by the audience sharing their views as particularly hypocritical after she asked one of her guests, model Cynthia Bailey, to take her Afro Puffs hairstyle out to prove she had not added any extensions, on arrival. The fact Cynthia had tied her two buns with large scrunchies, potentially to make the hair look thicker, was considered cheating by the host.

Insecure about hair loss being revealed

Porsha Williams Real Housewives of Atlanta Natural Hair Thinning Edges
Porsha Williams

Before the party started Nene noted that going wig-free may make some of her guests feel “a little insecure”. This was a sentiment echoed by some of her guests, including Burruss, who admitted, “I always love a theme, but why you gotta take my wig off me? I mean, I can wear my own hair but it’s just so plain.”

Interestingly, it was Porsha Williams – who has her own line of wigs and hair extensions – whose frontal hair loss seemed the most advanced. This was despite the fact that she was heavily pregnant at the time of filming, and women’s hair tends to appear thicker and more lustrous during pregnancy due to the effect it has on the hair growth cycle.

Porsha confessed to being uncomfortable at the party, saying,“Without my wigs, I feel vulnerable – if the wind blows and moves one piece of hair, then something could be revealed…”.

Her pattern of hair thinning around the hairline and temples looked to be synonymous with Traction Alopecia. This is a fully-preventable hair loss condition that is known to be caused by the regular wearing of tight and/or weighty hairstyles, including wigs, weaves, hair extensions, high ponytails, buns and protective hairstyles including braids.

Although normal hair regrowth may resume in due course once the offending hairstyle has been ditched, a hair loss specialist may be able to recommend a tailored course of Traction Alopecia treatment to help speed this process along.

Traction Alopecia can cause permanent baldness

It is important, however, to be aware that when people become too attached to the extra length and volume hair extensions or wigs can provide, they can develop a tendency to wear them more often than is healthy for the follicles. This can cause unrealistic expectations of and disappointment with their own, natural hair, as Kandi expressed.

Senior Belgravia hair specialist, Leonora Doclis advises, based on her many years of experience with clients, “Women can then have the feeling that their natural locks look too ‘plain’, thin or short when they take their weave or extensions out, leading to them relying too heavily on wearing these problematic hair additions as they can get used to the extra volume and length.

Hair loss from Traction Alopecia is generally concentrated around the hairline and temples, as these are the areas of the scalp which bear the brunt of the tension caused by tight hairstyles and extensions, wigs, weaves etc. There can also be bald patches and hair breakage around the areas where these products are attached to the scalp or roots of the hair.

Going back to their obviously less thick, natural hair can make them feel insecure – or at least less confident and happy with their hair – so they go back to wearing the extensions or wigs, despite the damage it does.

If this goes on for a significant period of time without the follicles being allowed to fully recover, it can result in permanent hair loss. This is why it is important to wear potentially problematic hairstyles only occasionally and always allowing the scalp to recover afterwards if you want to prevent hair loss.”

In this case, the often far-fetched world of TV’s Real Housewives seems to have accurately reflected the real-life hair loss concerns of many women. Hopefully the willingness of (at least most of) these celebrities to ditch their wigs may encourage others to embrace their natural hair, or at least give their follicles a rest from such punishing styles every so often.


The Belgravia Centre

The Belgravia Centre is an organisation specialising in hair growth and hair loss prevention with two clinics and in-house pharmacies in Central London, UK. 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 world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world’s largest gallery of hair growth comparison photos and demonstrates the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time to arrange a free consultation.

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