NEW YORK — Ali Voron is an author, the mother of a 2-year-old, a wife and expecting her second child. She’s also bald. No, she doesn’t have a cancer. She’s also not a punk rocker. And yes, she fields those questions all the time.
“I was healthy kid growing up normal, typical,” Voron said. “When I was 16, I noticed a bald patch and thought my ponytail holder pulled it out.”
Doctor after doctor thought it was Lupus, but then a dermatologist diagnosed her with alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes patients to lose some or all of their hair.
Voron lost it all and it’s never grown back, despite numerous treatments. Then she was hit with a second autoimmune disease, as is common: colitis. Because of that new diagnosis, she eventually opted in her late 20s to remove her colon and she’s been healthy ever since.
Voron successfully pursued voice acting and motherhood, but always felt like she needed to do more. At age 17, she shared her story in the book “Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul” and would receive tens of thousands of letters from readers who were touched by her story and inspired to tell her own.
That was the start of an idea: maybe she’d lost her hair, to learn how to give back.
A friend approached her to record a PSA. Voron bared her face and her soul to inspire others to be themselves. And she and her husband have started a nonprofit to spread that message.
Just Be You has raised $14,000 to buy and give away bald dolls to kids. Up to 3,000,000 people a year suffer from alopecia diseases and Voron said creating toys that reflect their experience levels the playing field.
“I wanted to empower these kids so that when friends are over playing with Barbies, there are dolls with hair and dolls with no hair,” she said.
Those are small acts that Voron hopes add up to big changes in self esteem for many.
“My happiness doesn’t depend on how beautiful I am to the outside world, but how happy I am in my eyes,” she said.