A flamenco dancer who starred in a hit Hollywood movie has told how she turned her hair loss into a celebration after being diagnosed with alopecia.
Josie Sinnadurai, from Brecon, realised her hair was falling out in December, the week before her 25th birthday.
But she tackled the condition head on and held a party where she was filmed shaving off her hair.
The 25-year-old, who appeared alongside Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson in Lost in London, even booked a photo shoot.
“I woke up in the morning to find my pillow covered in hair,” she said. “When I washed or brushed it, huge clumps fell out.”
While Josie, who currently works in the Spanish city of Seville as a flamenco dancer, was back home in Powys for Christmas, she saw her GP who reassured her the condition was probably just temporary.
“But back in Spain, I continued to lose my hair,” she added.
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“I saw a dermatologist who prescribed a series of medications with the hope my hair would grow back.
“I tried not to stress about it. I have a busy life as a dancer and I didn’t want this to affect my performances.”
But a couple of weeks later, Josie noticed she was losing body and facial hair, too.
“My leg hair, eyebrows, eyelashes – it was all falling out,” explained Josie, who has travelled the world as a dancer, including Germany, Spain, Israel and Canada.
Doctors diagnosed her with alopecia universalis, an autoimmune condition characterised by a complete loss of hair on the scalp and body.
She was told her hair was unlikely to ever grow back.
“My hair was long and thick, my crowning glory, so I was obviously concerned. It was devastating,” Josie said.
“Not much is known about the condition and there is no definitive treatment. I had to come to terms with losing my hair forever.”
Josie decided on a strategy to help her accept what was happening – a “ritual” to say goodbye to her hair.
‘Only my appearance’
She said: “After a couple of days processing the diagnosis, I calmed down and told myself that this wasn’t the worst thing in the world that could happen.
“I wasn’t in pain and it wasn’t like losing my hair was going to kill me. At the end of the day, this was only my appearance.
“I booked a photo shoot so I’d have lovely photographs of myself with hair to look back on.
“Then I decided to shave off what was left of my hair. It was falling out so quickly that nothing short of a miracle would save it anyway.”
Josie invited her friends over to share a Mexican feast and film her while she had her hair shaved off.
“I even baked a cake. It was my way of saying goodbye to my hair,” the dancer explained.
“The evening was very emotional but also a celebration.”
Josie arranged to have a henna crown tattoo, adding: “Being proactive about my hair loss gave me the confidence to move forward with my life.
“Instead of feeling down and sad, I felt excited about the future.
“If I’m somewhere like London, people don’t bat an eyelid, but here in Seville I do stand out and attract attention. I understand I look unusual and people stare – but it doesn’t bother me.
“All my friends have been really supportive and encourage me not to wear a wig.
“But my head gets cold so I have to wear a headscarf sometimes.”
But what lies ahead for her career as a world class flamenco dancer?
“Artistically, I haven’t decided what I’ll do,” she said. “The world of flamenco is very traditional. A bald dancer would be really pushing the boundaries.”
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