(From Samantha Vallejera)
Samantha Vallejera joined us this morning to share her experience of living with alopecia areata, an autoimmune skin disease resulting in the loss of hair, and how Locks of Love has changed her life. Here, Samantha, 15, speaks in her own words...
When I first lost my hair 6 years ago, other kids would tease or bully me because I was different and it really hurt me. I think that when we were little, kids judged people by their appearances. We don't realize that even though my appearance is different, I was still the same person I always was. I lost my confidence and self esteem. When I got my hair prosthesis from Locks of Love, it really changed my feelings and I was able to regain my confidence and self esteem. Now that I am in high school, I don't want what happened to me in the elementary school. I am older now and know that I'm the same person. I would like to be judged for who I am. I am very grateful and thankful to Locks of Love for their awesome services rendered to teenagers like me.
When we first got the call from Madonna, the president of Locks of Love, for me to be on The Today Show, I was really excited. I was just thinking "Oh my god! I'm going to be on TV!" My experience at the NBC studio was a once in a lifetime, memorable experience. In the beginning I really didn't know what to expect. I was just so excited and anxious about what I was going to say and do. But once we started taping, I relaxed and I felt more confident. And now I really can't wait for Thursday, when I'll be on live television. That's another experience I'm really looking forward to. I just want to go through with it. I think it's a once in a lifetime opportunity that I'll never be able to have again, a chance to show people who I am and gain confidence despite my condition.