In early January, 7-year-old Gianessa Wride's hair started falling out. It turned out, Gianessa had alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss. By the end of the month, so much of her hair had fallen out that the little girl asked her mom to shave it all off.
While her mother, Daniella Wride, says adjusting to being bald has been hard, she and Gianessa are both embracing her new look.
"She is still her beautiful, sassy, smart, loving, kind self," Daniella wrote in a post to her Instagram account. "And I'm excited to embrace this and have fun trying new things with her."
They got a chance to do just that recently, when Gianessa's school hosted a "crazy hair day." Instead of having her daughter sit it out, Daniella used rhinestone stickers to bedazzle Gianessa's head with cool, sparkly designs like flowers and an owl.
“We pulled up to the drop-off point and she started to get out of the car, and you could just hear the kids and the teacher saying, ‘That’s so cool, that’s awesome!’” Daniella told KSL.com.
It's a joyful moment in what's been a challenging few months for the family: Gianessa's alopecia first showed up about a week after she had a stomach flu, her mom wrote in an Instagram post. "The doc said that her body wanted so badly to fight that virus that it got a little [too] excited and created antibodies again her hair as well," she wrote.
Although Gianessa's hair will likely never grow back, that's not how alopecia areata works for everyone. For many people with the condition, hair follicles remain active and the hair can grow back, according to the National Alopecia Areata Association. For some, hair goes through cycles of falling out and growing back.
The National Alopecia Areata Association says people with the condition often feel a sense of loss and grief, sadness or depression, as well as stress and anger.
While Gianessa may have all of these feelings at some point growing up with alopecia areata, for now she and her family seem to be embracing her new look. Her father even shaved his own head in solidarity.
As Daniella wrote in an earlier post, the first after Gianessa had her whole head shaved, her daughter is "a freaking warrior."