Amber Jean Rowan

Amber Jean Rowan, founder of soon-to-launch wig brand Amber Jean, spent a decade hiding her story. Once she started sharing it, however, her life changed in unimaginable ways.

When Amber was 15, she developed alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss. By the time she was 17, she was completely bald. Initially, Amber, who’s a model and actress, coped by hiding this from the world. She wore wigs, drew on her eyebrows (which she lost when she was 19) and wore false lashes. ‘It took me a good few years to come to terms with the loss of it,’ she says. ‘The loss of myself, essentially.’

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Hair free

It took years for Amber to accept herself. The gradual process began with her taking her wig off in places she felt comfortable, namely in front of loved ones. The acceptance she received gave her the courage to do something she would never have entertained at the start of her career: be photographed without her wig. ‘I found it much easier to be in a controlled setting, like a photo shoot, than on the street,’ she says. Her confidence grew with each step she took.

Amber was getting messages from people who’d seen her photos without her wig and she wanted to use her position to create a positive space to share their stories. ‘There were so many other women going through the same thing that I really wanted to lead by example,’ she says. Two years ago, Amber started Hair Free, an online community for others suffering with the condition. ‘I was just so fed up with the fact that there were no resources out there,’ she says.

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There were so many other women going through the same thing that I really wanted to lead by example.
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Growth

A turning point for Amber came three years ago when she went to India for a yoga retreat. ‘I promised myself I wouldn't wear my headpiece, that I’d leave it behind in the box,’ she says. Feeling the sun on her scalp and dipping her head under water was an overwhelming experience for her.

When Amber came back, something had shifted. ‘I was stronger and more comfortable with expressing myself, both with wigs and without them,’ she says. ‘I was able to look at myself in the mirror and feel like me – peaceful with or without.’

Now, Amber is gearing up to launch her own line of wigs with Amber Jean Shop. The brand will carry hair pieces as well as educational resources about alopecia and hair loss. ‘My vision is for it to give women going through hair loss practical hair pieces, as well as emotional support,’ she says. ‘To be able to be with them through the whole journey.’

Your story will set you free

‘The risks I took in walking down the street in India with my bald head, or being in front of the camera for the first time without my wig, have led to so much self-growth. I had an overwhelming feeling of vulnerability, but there was such a sense of joy and pride there, too.

‘When I started posting pictures of myself hair-free, my career really opened up. The amount of interest I got from casting directors and magazines blew me away. I was brought in with open arms and offered dream jobs. People want people who have something to say.’

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