A woman’s hair often feels like her literal crowning glory — especially in an image-obsessed profession like acting. So when theater performer Lauren Marcus suddenly started losing her hair last fall at age 32, she was terrified for her health and her career. She says her diagnosis of alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that manifests in severe hair loss for approximately 6.8 million people in the U.S., has affected every aspect of her life at a time when she’s gearing up for her highest-profile role to date, in Be More Chill. A Dear Evan Hansen-style YA musical with an online fandom so massive that the New York Times published an article about it, the show opens this month in New York City for a nine-week run that’s nearly sold out. In an exclusive interview with Yahoo Lifestyle, Marcus talks about the challenges — and triumphs — of revealing her new reality.
The first time I noticed something was wrong was last year when I was doing a show out of town. I was getting my hair ready, and I noticed a bald spot on the left side of my head, which I’d never seen before. I could laugh now at the amount I cried over that tiny bald spot! It was really scary because I didn’t know what it was or why it was happening. I did some research and found out that type of bald spot is actually really common. So I tried to forget about it. Then toward the end of September my hair started coming out in clumps. Every time I showered, it would just fall out.
I probably saw about five dermatologists. The first one diagnosed my alopecia, but it was one of the worst experiences with a doctor that I’ve ever had. He told me there was nothing I could do and it would just be easier if I went bald. I sought out other opinions. I saw my main doctor and had a lot of tests done. I saw a gynecologist, just in case. I started seeing some holistic doctors and having acupuncture done. I went on an autoimmune diet. But I kept losing hair.
I got a pixie cut, and wore hats and scarves, but finally, when I was doing a show in St. Louis in January, I decided to shave my head. Luckily, one of my very best friends from college was living downstairs from me, so he helped. Then I put out a post on Instagram, and that was the craziest day. Only my close friends and family knew about my hair loss before that, so I was shaking putting the post out there. The reaction was insane, especially from the Be More Chill fans. People were so sweet. Some even started sending me bald fan art.