Sports Illustrated is breaking the mould with the group of women involved in its latest model search.
The magazine has released the 17 finalists vying to land a spot in next year’s coveted Swimsuit Issue in hopes of following in the footsteps of former SI models Kate Upton, Ashley Graham and Chrissy Teigen.
Standing out among this year’s crop of would-be models is Christie Valdiserri, a dance and fitness instructor with alopecia.
Despite having some previous modelling experience, the Los Angeles resident revealed walking the runway for SI was the first time she has ever modelled showing off her bald head.
A long journey to confident and hairless
Vadiserri’s hair journey began three years ago when she found a small bald patch on the top of her head.
“The next month I found another patch, and then my showers were spent watching chunks and chunks of hair clog my drain with tears running down my face,” she told the magazine.
While living in New York City for a dance program, Valdiserri met with a doctor who told her she may have alopecia.
After losing her dream job of dancing on a cruise ship because she “stood out,” the rest of Valdiserri’s hair fell out, leaving her completely bald.
“I had to shave it all off to sustain my sanity, honestly. To watch my hair fall out every single day after I really felt like I was doing everything in my power to grow it back was one of the hardest things I’ve ever been forced to experience,” she said.
“And then I lost my eyebrows. And just within the last month, my eyelashes are also gone.”
Christie says she was ‘confused’ by how to move forward in the entertainment world and personally as someone without hair.
Now however the model has found her feet and opened up about how she found happiness without hair.
“I’m so much happier now & know who I am, compared to the young, broken me w hair. I can miss it of course, but gotta remember that hair isn’t everything!” she shared on Instagram earlier in the week.
Christie is moving towards confidence via her work with the increasingly diverse magazines.
After creating a submission video where she removed her wig on camera at the beach, she appeared in the magazine’s runway show in Miami showing off her bald head, the first time she modelled without a wig or her natural locks.
Now she has her sights set on the coveted cover, and it was seeing her finalist shots that truly made gave her peace for the first time since she began to lose her precious hair.
“This was the first moment since my hair loss began, that i truly recognised who i am again...” she captioned an Instagram post showing the shot.
Got a story tip or just want to get in touch? Email us email@example.com
Or sign up to our daily newsletter here.