Six year old Deléna Thompson has written a book called 'I Am Not My Hair', inspired by her experience with alopecia. We caught up with Deléna and mum Telena to find out more..

Telena, tell us about your family's experience with alopecia

"My daughter Deléna started her alopecia journey at 4 years old. It started off with one small patch which quickly escalated to more patches. The patches got wider until there was a only a few patches of hair left that were basically matted together. It was a very distressing time for us all. Initially our first thoughts were that she was ill, then after her diagnosis it was hard to come to terms with the fact that she may never have hair again. Witnessing my daughter lose a part of her identity and having to explain to a four year old in a way that she would understand was particularly difficult. Especially all the questions that come with it "Am I not pretty anymore?”, “When will I get my hair back?” 

In the black community hair is very much a part of our cultural identity. I used to wash and braid Deléna’s hair weekly. It was our bonding time for just us two. I felt enormous guilt as I thought it was something I had done. I would cry daily, I felt so useless. As a mother you want to fix everything and make it better.

Deléna developed alopecia universalis during lockdown. I think with it being lockdown, it gave us all time to process things as a family. I was very (overly) protective. I didn’t want to leave our bubble and go outside. Not because I was ashamed of my daughter. I didn’t want her to be subjected to peoples stares and comments. It was my dad who explained to me that it was important for Deléna to face the world. I also reached out to a friend of my aunts called Annette Almocado, a fellow Alopecian beauty on Instagram. I asked her for advise and she gave me the best advise, I will forever be grateful for. She explained that instead of focusing on what Delena does not have focus on what she can do! That email completely changed my mindset."

How did the book come about and how does it feel to have a daughter who is a published author?

"My auntie Fenella owns a salon in North London. She was talking to one of her clients Juliet Bremmer who owns a publishing company for books written by children. My aunt told Juliet about Deléna and she got in touch. Juliet met Deléna and immediately commissioned Deléna’s story. 

We are immensely proud that Deléna, at just 6 years old, was able to retell in her own words her journey with alopecia so far. Every time we read the story I well up a little."

Deléna, congratulations on becoming an author! How did you feel when you first received a copy of your book?

"I was surprised. When I saw the book and opened it for the first time I felt like I was dreaming."

How do you hope that ‘I Am Not My Hair’ will help other children with alopecia?

"I hope that when children with alopecia read my book they will be happy to see someone like us in a book. I hope that they will also be able to read the story and see that we have had similar experiences. I also hope that they will be able to give the book to their friends and their friends will be able to read what it feels like to have Alopecia. 

What do your classmates think about you being an author?

I think my friends are happy for me. They were surprised when they found out that I had written a book.  They kept asking me questions like “How do you feel about being in a book?” and “Where can I buy it?”. 

Well done Deléna on getting your book published! 'I Am Not My Hair' is available from 'Young Lit Stars', the UK’s first publishing company dedicated to young Black authors.

Find it here