I’m a person who buys hair now. Never thought that would happen! Two days after my first treatment I met with Maurice Neuhaus, a wig maker in Los Angeles to work his magic and craft an exact replica of my hair (wigsfromscratch.com). For all you non hair-buyers out there, here’s something you may not know: This shit is expensive! Fortunately, I’m nailing it in the insurance department right now and my plan covers one wig per lifetime. So no room for error!
Turns out, hair shopping is fun! And time consuming. We went to Extensions Plus in Reseda, an unassuming store with a few wigs displayed out front but a stock room that packs a punch. Immediately, the lovely sales woman brings out buckets of every kind of gorgeous strand that you can imagine. Long, straight, curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy–sorry, I just started singing lyrics for a second there. Let’s just say there’s a lot of hair. After massive amounts of discussion about length, color, density, and texture, we finally settled on a base of deep browns and some vibrant violets to mimic what I had before. $800 later (for HAIR! We all have goldmines sitting on our heads and we don’t even know it!) I left Maurice to get started on his creation. The plan is to have it shipped to me while I’m in New York and have my hairdresser cut it exactly like she normally would while it’s on my head to have the best chance of recreating of my former style. I drive home that night on a high, thrilled with the idea of this silky crown coming together so perfectly.
This high is short lived because a few days later, the chemo starts to hit me. Hard. The nausea is no joke, my friends. The concept of a good night’s sleep has been banished from all memory. And the shot I get to stimulate my white blood cells is causing “bone pain.” Imagine the insides of your bones hurting, like growing pains but everywhere. My joints feel out of place, as if my body came in a kit and has been assembled incorrectly. But the knowledge that all this is temporary pulls me through. I envision my super fun trip to New York coming up where I’m getting a feisty new haircut. I remember that somewhere in L.A., a wig is being made, by hand, from hair I picked out. Something beautiful is coming to me soon. So I keep going.
Miraculously, a week later I feel almost perfectly normal. I survived the plane ride to NYC with no pain or sickness, even managing to lug a suitcase up two flights of stairs, which three days earlier actually felt like a task I would never achieve again. I land in the city and two hours later I’m performing at UCB and going out with friends afterward! It’s an eery and slightly empowering feeling to know you are sick but to feel so normal, like you’re cheating the system. I feel almost guilty about it. During this time I still haven’t shared with everyone that I have cancer. The secret inside is so large but the desire for normalcy is monumentally larger. I have found that sometimes it just feels good to pretend. One of the first things you realize is that no one wants to tell you their problems or talk about fun frivolities when there’s a cancer elephant in the room. What they don’t know is that I’m the LAST thing I want to talk about! I don’t want something as greedy as this tumor to steal my ability to be a friend, a confidant, a woman. I’m not ready to be known this way. And once my hair falls out it will be harder to maintain these covert but carefree conversations. So I soak it all in, acknowledging how good laughter feels and visualizing the silky wig being made for me out of beautiful hair.
Now that I had some hair on the way, it was time to start getting rid of some. In all honesty, I didn’t feel like getting too creative with my new cut. It was going to be around for literally a week tops before it would start to fall out. Plus I have some super fun wigs coming in the mail so I didn’t want to exert too much energy picking out the perfect cut. Something short and sweet that would ease the transition. Enter Ms. Jennifer Lawrence! The patron Saint of pixie cuts. I screen captured a couple of her best red carpet hairstyles and would find myself just staring at them at all hours of the day, showing them to anyone who would look and mustering up the courage to start the change.
The truth is, I have always loved my current haircut. My stylist, Mala, had created this haircut for me about 8 years ago when, after playing homely Bebe in A Chorus Line. I needed a fresh and edgy look for In The Heights. We picked the color: plum. We imagined a cut: asymmetrical enough to be cheeky but sleek enough to be classy. And we stuck with it….for years. I never let anyone but Mala touch it. I would joke that I’m going to be like Halle Berry and have the same haircut until I’m 50. It just made sense for me. My whole life, I never felt comfortable with long hair. The day I cut it short my freshmen year of college was the day my outsides finally matched my insides. I grew up being a nondescript brunette in a sea of sunkissed beauties in Southern California and suddenly I had become a bobbed badass with her sites on an NYC takeover. This was it. I was never going back
Now here I am, staring at pictures of Jennifer on my phone and making myself be ready to do something different for the first time in almost a decade. Nothing like a future of forced baldness to make you take a risk! But just because it was necessary and inevitable didn’t keep me from being a nervous wreck beforehand. I even put it off a few days. There was just something about it that made me feel like there was no going back. I’m guessing it was the fact that there was no going back. Makes sense.
I brought my lovely best friend Natasha with me for moral support. A girl always needs a she-spiration when starting a new style change and she had chopped her hair off a few years ago to much success. Mala started snipping. Very slow at first; she knew I was nervous. But the more conservative she stayed, the more I gained courage. I even started asking for it shorter. You’re all going to laugh because it honestly doesn’t look that much different but the empowerment it offered me was exhilarating. I was getting a free pass to be a new kind of woman. A woman who fears no change, who relishes in the opportunity to reinvent herself. I realize now that I want to be that woman even when this is all over. Turns out that it doesn’t matter if it comes in a bucket, falls from my head or doesn’t exist at all: “There ain’t no words for the beauty, the splendor, the wonder of my…
Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair”
Move over Halle and Jen; K-Rod is in town.