LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Swimsuit model, fitness trainer and dancer Christie Valdiserri said she faces many challenges in life, but none is like her struggle with alopecia.

“For 23 years I have known myself as a blonde all my life. I was a blonde sisterhood girl, ”she said.

Alopecia areata, the autoimmune disease that develops when the immune system attacks hair follicles, caused Valdiserri to lose all hair a few years ago.

Now she is switching between different wigs or her natural bald look.

"Sime people I meet now comment on my confidence and it's refreshing to hear because I haven't always been that confident," said Valdiserri. "When I got my wigs ready, I would turn my chair away from the mirror so I wouldn't have to meet my own eyes in the mirror. So it was extremely difficult. Now I'm in this place where I want to normalize bald women. "

Valdiserri said her goal is to make other women who have dealt with hair loss feel represented and beautiful.

This year she will appear in Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition, but admits that this hasn't been the smoothest trip.

"I was so nervous, scared and afraid to expose my bald head to everyone," said Valdiserri. "I knew it would pay off if I could just assert myself so I could try to get my message across there."

Valdiserri will be Sports Illustrated's first bald model.

September is Alopecia Areata Awareness Month to help raise awareness about the disease across the country and the need for FDA-cleared treatment.

Learn more about how to recognize the day at the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.


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