It was a pleasure to interview Amy Gibson, who contributed to our book. Amy shared her amazing story from being an Emmy nominated Hollywood soap star to being effected by Alopecia at the tender age of 13 1/2, which she had to keep secret throughout her 20 years starring in television.
Now she shares her experience, advice, and expertise as a national spokesperson for women suffering from hair loss, an innovative International wig designer and savvy successful entrepreneur with an exciting website createdhair.com, which caters to woman globally.
Amy Gibson Interview:
Amy describes her first reaction when she discovered that she was starting to loose her hair:
“I was on my first Soap at 13 1/2 and was in the makeup room when Nick the hairstylist asked me turn my head over to brush my gorgeous main of hair which was my calling card at the time.”
All of a sudden he said, Wow do you know that you have a bald spot the size of the palm of your hand?
I grabbed a hand mirror and saw the bald spot and thought “Wow – this is crazy – and it’s so smooth. I mean when does anyone really see their scalp? Part of me was intrigued. However my next thought was that I must have leprosy! I must have seen a documentary on it the night before and suddenly went into a horrible emotional spin and completely started flipping out thinking my arm was going to fall off next.
Amy discovered that her hair loss was due to Alopecia and describes receiving treatment:
My aunt took me to a famous doctor in NY who told me I had an immune disorder called Alopecia and that there was no cure, only a band-aid, and for it to work he would have to shoot Cortisone into my head to get my hair back. It was very painful and the only way I got through it was to breath in the numbing spray, which would get me high enough for a few seconds to numb out the sound of rice krispies as the needles entered my scalp.
Amy describes her reaction to Cortisone treatments and completely losing her hair:
I had been out of work for two years since leaving The Young and the Restless in the 80’s and the producers who had gone on to executive produce General Hospital had written in a fabulous part for me as a undercover detective.
It had been close to two years since I had worked. I hadn’t had the money to get the treatments I needed so there were several small bald spots present, which I would cover up with hats and scarves.
Within six or seven weeks before I was to begin filming, I went in to Cedars (Cedars Sinai Hospital) and I had a heavy treatment. Unfortunately, nobody ever took my blood test in 17 years and I was probably getting a lot more cortisone than I should have. As I walked out of Cedars, my body had a bad reaction to the shots and I decided in that moment to completely stop all treatments and lost all my hair in 3 weeks… I was in my late 20’s.
Amy describes how she saved her acting career:
I was desperate to keep my job, so after experiencing a mini nervous breakdown I came up for air three days later and with what I thought was the perfect idea. I would talk the producers into turning my character of an undercover detective into one with several different dialects and looks to get her man, thus utilizing several wigs and most of all, protect my secret.
I met with the producer and in the middle of pitching him my idea he stops and says ‘that is such an amazing idea, how did you come up with that?’ Then I shared my secret and said nobody can know or I’ll be ousted as some bald freak from the industry. He said ‘I’ll do my best to make sure that the make-up artist never talks and know one ever finds out.’
I decided that I would wear the same wig to work everyday so that the cast would think it was my real hair. He got the network to increase the budget by almost $100,000 just for my wigs and this storyline. I played many roles including a Russian spy, and it worked well.
Amy on revealing to cast mates about her condition:
No, in fact when People Magazine covered me, they went to every single cast mate that I ever worked with and nobody ever knew.
Amy elaborates on her quote in our book “Hair is an important part of us. Most woman are taught that it’s our crowning glory, our mane, our sensuality, our sexuality however we are more than our hair”
I do believe that hair is important to many women. Unfortunately it’s inbred in us. However I have three heroes:
The woman with alopecia, because she has to investigate her inner world so much more than most women to find out what makes her tick aside from her external being.
My second and biggest hero are women with cancer, because they not only have to deal with their hair loss, but they have to reach down far deeper too and do what ever it takes to fight to stay here even after having lost their hair, breast, and organs and still be okay in their feminine body for their mate, while keeping their mind together for their family and for their friends.
And the woman who walks into my studio for a wig is my hero. She’s the woman who is going through menopause, hair thinning, or some kind of medically related hair loss and willing to go on a new fabulous journey for peace of mind and to feel and look complete again.
All of which take an enormous about of strength and guts.
Amy on gaining confidence after her hair loss:
I was knocked down a lot before I went public with my story. I had men not want to date me because of my hair loss and I had to accept it and move through it. It wasn’t easy. But along the way as I have become more comfortable with it so have the men in my life.
I believe women in general are more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. My mother used to say “Amy, women can move mountains with their minds.” And I have grown to agree with her. We are amazing individuals. I miss her.
Amy’s advice for women who just lost their hair and feel uncomfortable:
There are two things that contribute to that; one is if you are wearing the wrong wig especially if it’s itchy, hot, and doesn’t look like you, it’s going to make your journey that much harder.
It’s really important to find something comfortable, in the right color and a piece that when you look in the mirror looks like you and most of all, makes you feel like you.
Bring a friend with you and look at the pc. in natural sunlight only, because you will not get the proper hue the color inside. The second thing is to realize that everything is very temporary in this life. With that I say, ‘ok I lost my hair, this is the way it is right now – but I still have to live my life. So what can I do to make me okay right now with this?
You also have to let yourself grieve the loss of your hair so you can move through it. It’s just not productive to let that go on for months before you do something about it. The faster you do something, the better you’ll feel. The main thing is to be as proactive and getting the most knowledge as possible to help you through this process. This is one place where you can have control.
Amy on how she started her wig line and createdhair.com:
I started my business in the year 2000 out of the trunk of my car but it under was another name. Through a variety of serendipitous events, I designed the First Women’s Swim Wig which was in stores all over the world from 2004 – 2009 before I released my newest line in 2010 called the Water Wig™ which is made for the active woman.
Amy’s three tips when looking for a wig:
The fist thing to do is remember your color so you can get a wig to match it. However because most are on information overload at this time, remembering you’re exact color can be challenging. If you are going for chemo have somebody take a good size sample of your hair, not strands, about 1/4 inch wide starting from the crown (top), which is always lighter than the nape (which is always a little darker), and both sides. Place them into zip lock bags and label separately.
The next thing is to find something lightweight. As I don’t sell anything that I don’t personally wear, and as I have an aversion to perspiration, everything I make is very light. With me, comfort is the #1 priority.
We (createdhair.com) make an all lace cap, which is the lightest you can get. The material itself is hard to find, particularly because the lace comes from Switzerland. If you place your hand on the inside of the wig and blow on the outside, you’ll feel the air on your hand. That is how you can always tell if the wig will be lighter on your head. I always say; hold your wig up to the light. If you can see through it -you can breathe through it.
You want to have a wig that shows the part, called “monofilament” which makes it look more natural as they’re thinner and lighter on top.
The third tip is picking the style. Because most manufacturers make wigs for the masses they tend to come in too heavy and need to be thinned. Try to go to a shop that’s reputable. Nowhere is perfect, therefore don’t base it on one complaint, but look if there are many complaints.
Amy on how having alopecia and meeting women and girls across the country with hair loss has changed her life.
It has helped me put my own hair loss in perspective at times. It’s made me more humble. I’m so grateful to be able to make this work and be in a position to help those in need.