'It is a journey': Sports Illustrated swimsuit hopeful opens up about living with alopecia

Sports Illustrated is breaking the mold with the group of women involved in its latest model search.

The magazine has released the 17 finalists vying to land a spot in next year’s coveted Swimsuit Issue in hopes of following in the footsteps of former SI models Kate UptonAshley Graham and Chrissy Teigen.

Christie Valdiserri. Image via Sports Illustrated.

Standing out among this year’s crop of would-be models is Christie Valdiserri, a dance and fitness instructor with alopecia. Despite having some previous modelling experience, the Los Angeles resident revealed walking the runway for SI was the first time she has ever modelled showing off her bald head.

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Vadiserri’s hair journey began three years ago when she found a small bald patch on the top of her head.

“The next month I found another patch, and then my showers were spent watching chunks and chunks of hair clog my drain with tears running down my face,” she told the magazine.

Image via Christie Valdiserri.com.

While living in New York City for a dance program, Valdiserri met with a doctor who told her she may have alopecia. After losing her dream job of dancing on a cruise ship because she “stood out,” the rest of Valdiserri’s hair fell out, leaving her completely bald.

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“Up until April 2019, my hair was growing in and almost all the way back,” she said. “Out of nowhere, it started falling [out] again and wouldn’t stop. I had to shave it all off to sustain my sanity, honestly. To watch my hair fall out every single day after I really felt like I was doing everything in my power to grow it back was one of the hardest things I’ve ever been forced to experience. And then I lost my eyebrows. And just within the last month, my eyelashes are also gone. It has been extremely difficult for me.”

Valiserri says she is “confused” by how to move forward in the entertainment world and personally as someone without hair.

(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated)

“It is a journey,” she explained. “But it has taught me invaluable lessons about life that truly could not be taught to me in any other way. My new focus is loving myself bald and feeling confident bald rather than putting all of my energy into growing my hair back, because you never know. So I’d rather focus on loving me in all shapes and forms and someday be able to say the words, ‘I don’t even want my hair to grow back anymore, I love this look on me.’”

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Valdiserri is moving towards confidence with Sports Illustrated’s help. After creating a submission video where she removed her wig on camera at the beach, she appeared in the magazine’s runway show in Miami showing off her bald head.

“This was my first time modelling with no wig,” she told the magazine.

“I truly believe we need to educate the next generation that beauty comes from who you are, not from what you look like,” she continued. “Associating hair with beauty was taught to us. We weren’t born believing hair makes you pretty, but society has lead us to believe that. So I plan to let my personality and my positive nature shine through regardless of if I ever have hair on my head again.”

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