In Patient Stories

Eighth-grader Gracie Ann Roland has been making waves in the community with her body positive message: “Bald is beautiful.”

Gracie has alopecia areata (alopecia totalis), an autoimmune disorder that results in complete hair loss of the scalp. Over time, she embraced her condition, and in January she entered a school pageant at Lexington One Performing Arts Center – and won!

Gracie was crowned as the 2018 Miss Gilbert Middle School, and her confidence, strength and beauty have taken center stage. WLTX, WIS, Lexington County Chronicle and The Dispatch News have all featured her story.

This experience has served as a “big booster” in confidence, according to Gracie’s mother, Sherri Dykes Craven.

2018 Miss Gilbert Middle School

Photo: Lexington School District One

About a year ago, sections of her hair would fall out, and she eventually lost all of her hair in a month, including her eyelashes and eyebrows. After initially meeting with a pediatrician, Gracie and Sherri visited Dr. Asha James at Columbia Skin Clinic.

She was soon diagnosed with alopecia areata. The skin disease occurs when the body’s immune system attacks healthy hair follicles, causing them to become much smaller and slow hair production to a degree where hair growth may stop.

Alopecia areata affects around 6.8 million people in the United States. People of all ages, genders and ethnicities can develop it, and it usually first appears during childhood. Although there is no cure for the condition, hair follicles remain alive, and hair has the potential to grow back.

Dr. James tried a multitude of treatments, including topicals, steroid pills and a newer immunotherapy called squaric acid, but Gracie’s condition did not improve.

The first six months were the most challenging. Emotionally, Gracie was adjusting to her condition, and at school, she unfortunately was picked on by some students who were later suspended. Her mother offered to shave her own head to make Gracie feel more comfortable, but Gracie declined. She needed to find her own footing.

Gracie Ann Roland wins pageant

Over the course of her journey, Gracie has chosen to own her condition. She wears a hat instead of a wig, and she radiates confidence with her smile. And for now, she’s decided to not pursue acid treatments. She’s also got big plans in store. She is passionate about children with special needs and wants to pursue a degree in special education.

Gracie looks forward to attending Camp Alopecia in Texas later this year to continue to build confidence and meet others with the same skin disease. She’s even started a Facebook and Instagram page to spread the message: “Bald is beautiful.” Follow her and her journey at #teamgraciealopecia.

“God gave her this for a reason – to shine and share this with others,” says Sherri. “And she’s rocking it.”

It’s safe to say the world needs more Gracies!