I Am Not My Hair

6-year-old writes a book about alopecia 

Delena Thompson is a six-year-old girl, aiming to spread some love and light during this winter season. 

This London schoolgirl, the eldest of three siblings, has just released her debut book, ‘I Am Not My Hair’. Published by BlackJak Media, the only company in Europe specialising in publishing books written by Black children, I Am Not My Hair is the true-life story of Delena’s journey with hair loss.

There was great excitement in the Thompson household when Delena received the hard copies of her book. Her family, including grandparents, celebrated along with her. Delena was even asked to autograph copies of her book that people had bought. She got caught up in the excitement, and when things had calmed down a little, Delena went and sat in her mother’s lap and told her: “I’m so proud of myself.” And so she should be.

Delena suffers from alopecia – the medical term for hair loss. She was just four when she was diagnosed with the condition. Alopecia is more commonly associated with adults and can be caused by stress, poor diet, and even certain hairstyles.

Her mother, Telena Longman, a nursery manager, explained: “Alopecia wasn’t something I was aware of until my daughter was diagnosed with it.”

“(Delena) had been sick for a month. She was having constant headaches, and her body always seemed to be aching. She did get better, but then we noted she had a coined-size patch on her scalp. We then started to find more patches and, by the time her brother was born, Delena’s hair was matting together. The doctors said there was nothing more they could do and advised us to cut off her hair.”

When the day came for Delena to get her hair cut, she told her mum: “I’m not going to be beautiful without hair.”

Deeply moved by her daughter’s words, and in a show of solidarity, Telena got her hair cut as well, to practically demonstrate that it is possible to look beautiful with little or no hair.

Telena recognised, following the loss of Delena’s hair, that she would need to take steps to build up her daughter’s self-confidence, so during lockdown, she sent Delena to dance and drama classes. And, when it was time for Delena to go back into the classroom, Telena sent a message to all the parents to prepare them for Delena’s new look.

Upon her actual return to school, Delena gave talks about alopecia and her hair loss to her fellow pupils in their classes. Telena recalled: “The children were very supportive, and some told Delena she was beautiful, even without her hair.”

It was during a chance discussion at a hairdressers that BlackJak Media founder, Juliet Coley, got the idea to approach Delena to write a book. Juliet recalled: “There are so many books out there about young Black girls embracing their beautiful and natural hair and, after learning of Delena’s hair journey, I was impressed by the courage and strength she exhibited without any, and thought her story would make a great book.

I’ve experienced hair loss myself when I underwent chemotherapy for colon cancer. I found the experience traumatic, so when I met Delena, and heard about the positive way she was dealing with it, I had nothing but admiration for her.

Delena’s desire is to raise awareness and understanding of alopecia through her book, as well as to stand in solidarity with people whom society deems as different.

She said: “I wanted to write a book so I could share what it was like lose my hair. I feel OK about having alopecia, because I’ve learnt about why I have it, and I know that having alopecia can’t stop me. I want people to be aware of it, and I want people to stop bullying people who have alopecia or who look different.”

She added: “I want anyone who feels or looks different to know they are not alone. They are loved, and they will always have a friend in me.”

Everyone who meets Delena says she is a brave, beautiful child. Her family feel the same too. “We are extremely proud of her – every single one of us. Delena hopes that through reading I Am Not My Hair, people will understand how people with alopecia feel, and gain an understanding of the condition.” 

I Am Not My Hair is published by BlackJak Media. Visit www.younglitstars.com to get a copy. 

Written by: Marcia Dixon MBE

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