By Aziza Shuler on September 14th, 2023
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A member of our CBS News Philadelphia family, weekend anchor Aziza Shuler, has been hiding something about herself for years. But not anymore. She's ready to open up to us about a story personal to her.
How I look is an important part of my job. The makeup, wardrobe, all under the lights in the studio It's an effort to look perfect when I come on your TV screen to bring you the news.
But perfection isn't just a part of my job. I've spent much of my life trying to be perfect and that involved hiding two big secrets in my life.
One is that I have alopecia, it's an auto-immune disease that's caused all of my hair to fall out. I wear a wig every day. But I've come to realize this isn't me. I've decided, I want you all to know the real me and how it all started.
For a long time, the other daunting secret was my traumatic childhood.
I was born in a women's jail because my mother was incarcerated when she gave birth to me. Throughout my childhood, my parents struggled with drug addiction. By 5 years old, my six siblings and I were forced into the foster care system where I was abused physically and sexually.
At 12 years old, I woke up one day with a bald spot the size of a lemon slice. We found out it was alopecia. It's a type that's likely linked to trauma and stress. Within a year, I lost all my hair.
Although I'm always smiling, I've lived my life feeling ashamed, insecure, and afraid. My identity has been tied to my hair or lack thereof.
I've lived more than half my life hiding this, not because I didn't feel beautiful, but because I was more so afraid of what others would think of me. Growing up, I didn't see women who were boldly bald. My boyfriend was one of the first people I revealed my bald head to. We'd been dating for about a year and a half when he asked me: "When are you going to take your wig off?" He wanted to see me comfortable and confident in who I am.
It was then I knew I was ready to show my true self to the world. I wanted to be free. And I feel liberated!
My hope is to inspire other people to find the confidence and courage to accept themselves, be fearless, be you! That is where true beauty lies.
If you or someone you love is experiencing hair loss, seek out a board-certified dermatologist. Also, know that you are not alone.
Support groups like the Alopecia Justice League provide a sense of community.
Originally Featured on CBS News Philadelphia