OUR individuality is a gift which should be celebrated.

That is the ethos of 29-year-old Laura Mathias who has been named an ambassador for Models of Diversity, a charity which encourages diverse representation in the modelling industry.

Laura, who lives in Manningtree, lost her hair due to the auto-immune condition alopecia when she was just 13 years old.

Having hidden her hair loss with wigs throughout her life, during lockdown, Laura started sharing her experience on Instagram to help others and find the courage to embrace her condition.

Harwich and Manningtree Standard:

Model - Laura says you can be bald and beautiful 

Laura said: “I don’t want to be ashamed of being bald anymore.

“In fact, I don’t want any person, whatever age, whatever reason, to be ashamed of not having hair just because society has told us we should be.

“Alopecia is an autoimmune condition that I have no control over. I was 13 when I started losing my hair.

“Over the years it has taken my eyelashes, eyebrows, all the hair on my body.

“For many years, alopecia took my confidence too. I have let hair loss dominate my life. I have said, “I can’t do that, because I wear a wig” more times that I’d like to admit.”

However, Laura recently realised if she started embracing herself for who she is, she would not have to wear a wig if she didn’t want to.

She said: “I don’t have to wear it to ‘hide’ my alopecia at all. I can choose to wear whatever wig as and when I want to, but know I am beautiful without it too.”

Laura spent time in lockdown looking at beautiful women with hair loss on Instagram and said reaching out to people in the hair loss community was a game-changer for how she viewed herself.

Laura, who works at the University of Essex in the communications team, now wants to empower other people who feel they are ‘different’ or not represented in the media and fashion industry to step forward and celebrate their beauty.

She said: “Models of Diversity is working to redefine society’s limited conception of beauty and that work should be supported by us all.”

Laura added: “I am so excited to be working with Models of Diversity to raise awareness of alopecia.

Harwich and Manningtree Standard:

Diverse - Laura sometimes wears wigs, but is comfortable without one 

“I want to offer a platform for any person who feels they don’t see enough of themselves in the media.

“It’s not enough for brands to include diversity in certain campaigns, we should be celebrating the extraordinary diversity of the general public in all media.

“I want to see inspirational and real people on the catwalk, not aspirational and unattainable beauty.”

Laura’s advice for other people going through alopecia is that whether their hair grows back or not, they should never be ashamed of themselves.

She said: “It’s OK to feel like losing your hair is the worst thing to happen and want to hide it from the world.

“Equally, it’s OK to embrace being bald or having fun with wigs.

“Your hair loss experience and how you deal with it is unique to you.

“The world will catch up and see how wearing ‘alternative hair’ or having none really isn’t a big deal.

“You can be bald and beautiful.”

Harwich and Manningtree Standard:

Awareness - Models of Diversity celebrates women of all backgrounds

Models of Diversity chief executive Angel Sinclair explained she started the charity because, as a black woman she did not feel represented and found many others felt the same, including older models, plus-size models and people with disabilities.

Angel said: “We are determined to show the fashion industry that diversity is more interesting, engaging, fairer and better for consumers, models and the industry itself.”

You can follow Laura and her hair loss journey on Instagram via @RelightAlopecia, and she is open to answering questions on the topic.

To find out more about Models of Diversity, go to modelsofdiversity.org.