“Sharing my experience may be a beacon of hope for anyone who is battling any sort of mental or physical battle.”
For Amon Ogyiri, a twenty-four-year-old fashion designer and entrepreneur, being diagnosed with Alopecia Areata at the age of twenty-four was an unexpected blow. The New-York based creative, whose fashion line Nomä New York has been worn by Cardi B, Offset, and Gunna, always took pride in his bold personal style. His 'crown' was an extension of his vibe and going bald disrupted his confidence and self-identity. Ogyiri explains, “As someone whose form of self-expression included their hair, I truthfully felt defeated.”
These feelings of depression and a decline in mental health are common among suffering from hair loss disorders and autoimmune diseases; especially among the Black community who are disproportionately affected by forms of alopecia. Medical research confirms, "research shows that people with alopecia have higher levels of anxiety and depression...They also experience lower self esteem, poorer quality of life, and poorer body image."
To show support and solidarity for others affected by alopecia, Ogyiri tapped into his gift of creativity. On August 6th, known as International Alopecia Awareness Day, Nomä New York unveiled its first limited-edition Human Nature Plush Figurine, in collaboration with Artist, III EYE VIEW. The 17-inch Plush representation was created to connect with the countless people, of all ages who find solace in soothing, comfort objects, particularly during times of uncertainty. Studies have found that Plush Figurines are believed to calm the nervous system through distress, anxiety and mental hardship.
He explains, “This collaboration serves as a reminder that behind all our vanities, vices, and possessions, we are human beings first. We all will endure moments of plight, sadness, confusion as well as moments of happiness, gratitude, and love. Despite our separate perspectives, empathy is the underlying factor that will allow us to coexist in a world where we’re all just trying to get through each day.”
Today, in conversation with EBONY, Ogyiri speaks more about his mission and a message of empathy for those coping with the disease.
EBONY: When and how did you discover that you had alopecia?
Amon Ogyiri: I discovered I had Alopecia Areata earlier this year, at 24. I found a bald spot after taking my braids out one evening so I made an appointment with a dermatologist and he confirmed that I had it. It was almost like the “straw that broke the camel's back” moment. A moment that for me, changed my mindset on life in general.
Did you know about alopecia prior to this? And that it affects men as well?
I had heard about alopecia very sparingly but I was unaware of its ability to affect any individual. I saw that Jada Pinkett Smith struggled with it, I also saw that Kanye West had a new haircut which appeared patchy and was speculated as Alopecia Areata. I initially noticed a portion of my facial hair was depleting and my barber informed me that he had seen it in a few of his customers and there was a possibility that it was Alopecia. In such a stressful time, my barber's remarks fell on deaf ears.
How did hair loss affect your identity, self-expression, and overall mental health?
As someone whose form of self-expression included their hair, I truthfully felt defeated. After taking a step back from NOMÄ for a few months due to stress, I battled balancing my mental health on a positive spectrum because of the reality that my alopecia was getting worse. Due to it being an Auto-immune ailment, my body was involuntarily carrying out actions that I did not have full control over.
Eventually I was able to accept the reality of it and face this ailment face forward. Taking control of my life, becoming more self-conscious of my lifestyle, workout schedule, stress levels, and diet choices allowed me to lead a healthier lifestyle. I clung to the notion that some experiences are a blessing in disguise and although we hear about the things people go through, we do not know the exact feeling until we experience it personally.
What was the tipping point where you decided to empower yourself and share your journey with the world?
After a 3-month stint of dealing with depression and living in a stressful state of mind. I didn’t want to exacerbate my current situation, so I figured I'd deal with it headfirst. Allowing Alopecia Areata to take over my life would have made it harder for me to progress and move forward on the path I have set for myself. The end goal is bigger than me therefore allowing something like this to impact me negatively will not only stop something potentially great from happening but disappointing all the supporters, family, friends, and most importantly my future self. It’s just another obstacle in my journey to overcome. I didn’t come this far to allow something like this to stop all the progress that I’ve made.
What are some routines that have helped you improve your health?
First, I had to accept the reality of it and face this ailment face forward. Taking control of my life, becoming more self-conscious of my lifestyle, workout schedule, stress levels, and diet choices allowed me to lead a healthier lifestyle. I clung to the notion that some experiences are a blessing in disguise and although we hear about the things people go through, we do not know the exact feeling until we experience it personally.
Can you share more details about your new venture and what you hope to accomplish with this campaign?
With this campaign, I partnered with Thiiird on his plush collection. Being a witness of his Plush Figurine Collection, I thought of a way to create something that signifies what Human Nature is through NOMÄ’s lens. I chose to go with a bald cut Plush Figurine because despite growing hair as adults, naturally, this is how we exit the womb and beneath all the hair, there is a bald head underneath. Embroidered on the face of the plush are the words “Your Face Here” this signifies the fact that the plush serves as a general signifier for all human beings. Despite all the things we go through, we shouldn’t allow these things to keep us down because we have so much more to offer to the world.
Empathy is a characteristic we should all embody as human beings. Witnessing individuals like Virgil Abloh and Chadwick Boseman pass away due to cancer yet display a great amount of resilience was extremely inspiring. They are exceptional pillars and examples of those who fought through their illnesses to provide impact and contribute into the world despite their ailments. Sharing my experience may be a beacon of hope for anyone who is battling any sort of mental or physical battle that hinders their productivity and lets them know they are not alone in this volatile battle of life.