Sunday sit-down with…Natasha Lachs
Blyth local Natasha shares her experiences of living with alopecia since the age of 21 – the perils of going clubbing, the comments she gets from men, and why she now knows that being bald is beautiful
For many of us, our hair is our crowning glory. It makes us who we are and feels central to our femininity. We all have those classic bad hair days that can have us feeling down in the dumps, so we know there’s some connection within us between how we feel our hair looks and how we feel in ourselves. So imagine being faced with the realisation that big clumps of your hair is falling out into your hands.
Our heart goes out to the two in every 1,000 people in Britain who have alopecia – an autoimmune disorder that triggers episodes of hair loss, sometimes in just small patches, other times over the whole body. Alopecia can be caused by stress, pregnancy, menopause, and other underlying illnesses.
A lot of women feel too ashamed to talk about the disorder and suffer in silence. But not one local legend. We spoke to Natasha Lachs, who was diagnosed with alopecia aged 21 and isn’t hiding behind her wig.
From sharing her experience on BBC Breakfast to featuring in a glamour photoshoot with photographer Chrissy Sparks without her wig, Natasha is spreading the important message that beauty is from within and that your hair doesn’t define you. You go, girl!
At the age of only five years old, Natasha first saw strands of her hair falling out into her hands. As a teenager, she was lucky enough to have long locks, before it all tragically fell out in clumps within the space of just one week. We chatted to her about the struggles she’s had to face as a woman with alopecia, and how she has overcome her insecurities to be the confident, inspirational woman she is today.
How did you feel when you were first diagnosed with alopecia 15 years ago?
My hair was coming out in clumps and in piles on the floor within a week. I had long, thick hair before it started receding. It was a massive shock. I was an entertainer at a holiday park and I was in the public eye, so I felt so embarrassed.
I was diagnosed when I was 21. I didn’t know what alopecia was – it wasn’t well known then or massively talked about. Although the doctor explained it to me, I still really wasn’t 100% sure. There wasn’t any support out there, like Alopecia UK now, so I was just left to deal with it, not knowing where to start.
Hair is an important part of our appearance; how does it feel as a woman to have alopecia?
When I was younger, my biggest insecurity was wearing a wig, especially when I was going out clubbing. The fact that I’ve got no eyelashes is quite hard as well. Before I lost all my hair, I used to doll myself up a lot, but it’s a struggle now when you haven’t got eyelashes or eyebrows.
I’m not always confident to go around without my wig, but I often wear a trendy headscarf in the hot weather to stay cool. But I’m at a more comfortable stage now so I don’t have those insecurities anymore.
You recently appeared on BBC Breakfast to share your experiences of the disorder. Why is it important to you to speak out?
To make people aware of what alopecia actually is. A lot of people automatically assume when they see someone with a bald head that they’ve got cancer and are going through chemotherapy. I’ve been asked a few times myself.
Also, it’s to let women know that they’re not on their own. The whole feeling of being beautiful is a big thing for women. It does make you feel more feminine when you’ve got a full head of hair, so speaking out helps make people aware that you’re still beautiful with or without your hair. It doesn’t define you.
You look stunning in the photoshoot with Chrissy Sparks for Panache, which transformed women with alopecia into glamour models. How did that experience make you feel?
It was amazing! I’m not the most confident person when it comes to my looks and body shape. It was daunting, especially when I had a look at the website to see Chrissy Sparks and her stylist Nav Soroya’s work. So I was amazed that she made me feel and look amazing. I absolutely love the photos that she came up with, they look gorgeous.
Experiences like that do help women with alopecia with that feeling of being beautiful within themselves. When it came out, one of the things I worried about was what men would think of me being bald, but I had a lot of nice comments come back, which felt good.
What would your advice be to any woman who’s been diagnosed with alopecia?
I would say, seek help and advice from organisations like Alopecia UK. There are loads of girls like myself in the North East who’ll give you support. There are also some amazing workshops out there, which will make you realise that being bald really is beautiful.
Also, make sure that you get the right sort of wigs, as they’re an important part of where your confidence comes from. It’s all about making sure they look real, so it’s worth spending a little more for quality.
You’ve done an amazing job empowering women so far. What’s next for you?
I post a lot on my social media and make Tik Toks with my wigs! I’ve had people contact me on Facebook asking me to reach out to their children who have alopecia. I get a lot of people asking me for help and advice, which is really rewarding.
There are a few other women with alopecia locally and we used to have a support group together, before COVID. So we’re hoping to get back into the swing of that soon. I’d love to carry on doing what I’m doing, but I’d also like to do more. I’m always wanting to get out there and get more exposure within the media to help spread awareness.