… and her glasses!
When I first heard about Rita and what she did, I knew I had to meet her. I didn’t know what to expect as I waited in a cafe in ABC. Would I immediately recognize her? Would she be wearing the wig? No pictures had been posted of her wearing her wig.. yet.
All of a sudden I was noticing every passerby’s hair. Was anyone around me wearing a wig? Would I be able to tell?
One thing I did notice was that most women had very similar hairstyles. Teens and younger women had straight brown hair (the kind that’ll poof at the very first sign of precipitation) with the occasional rebellious afros (me included). Older women fit into two main categories: fake blond with layered highlights (that if counted can reveal the woman’s true age) and the easy-to-maintain mom dos. You know the type – short with poofy bangs.
A few minutes later a short brown bob was walking towards me and I quickly recognized who it was from her smile.
Since Rita’s shaved her hair a few weeks ago, she’s reached out to several cancer centers in Lebanon. Among them, the Children’s Cancer Center by the American University Hospital in Hamra and the Tamanna Organization that grants wishes to critically-ill children in Lebanon. Her focus was initially to help children battling with cancer, but her eyes were opened to an unexpected reality. Children have a rather optimistic outlook towards their sicknesses and more strength than we are led to believe. It’s their parents and adults who actually have a harder time dealing with matters relating to cancer.
It doesn’t help that our culture is still very hush-hush about cancer. Patients hide their conditions from the outside world, as if it is something to be ashamed of. Living in shame leads to more isolation and a stressful recovery of constantly worrying over what others are going to think. Not healthy in the least bit when the patient’s only concern should be healing.
And that’s what Rita wants to change – both by the physical statement she’s making and through her upcoming projects with cancer associations in Lebanon.
After we’d had a chance to chat, the moment came for the wig to come off. It took no convincing whatsoever. “After all, how am I going to spread the message if people don’t see me without the wig?” was Rita’s response to quiet my own concern about the scene it might create.
Rita has gotten some pretty funny reactions so far (read more in her blog entry “My Take on the Wig“). It’s expected that people would stare, but one guy literally fell off his seat once when she walked past! It’s ironic how women with ridiculously obvious cosmetic surgery won’t get a second look in Lebanon but then a woman with a shaved head is suddenly considered a “freak”. It’s about time we re-questioned our beauty standards here.
There we were, in the middle of a crowded cafe with Rita’s wig on a happy wig stand’s head and the camera flashing away. No one stared and people didn’t even seem to notice what we were doing. (Or so it seemed. Apparently we got a few shocked looks according to Rita, but I was too engrossed in taking photos to notice.)
Here’s a shot of Rita with her wig on – a first, exclusive shot!
We’d like to thank Rita for taking the time to meet with us and we wish her the best of luck on her future projects!
Keep up with Rita’s latest updates and projects on her blog.