Flash of Brilliance
On Sunday, September 18, Jennifer Konopski organized a flashmob event in New York’s Times Square to draw attention to Alopecia Areata Awareness. She describes how this spectacular event came to be:
“My name is Jennifer, I’m 25 years old and I’ve had Alopecia Totalis for 22 years.
“The idea of doing a flashmob/social experiment came from the desire to not only spread Alopecia Areata Awareness but to also overcome my greatest fear: being wigless in public. I think that is the hardest part of having alopecia, not feeling like your truest self, as if you have something you need to be hiding. To me that’s unacceptable. I felt it was my responsibility to do something about this. I knew I wanted to shed light on my community in a positive way. One of the first things that came to my mind was taking my wig off in a densely populated place. I figured that if I was going to take my wig off in public I might as well do it in the biggest and baddest place I could think of: Times Square. The idea of doing a flashmob/social experiment was born and for me there was no turning back.
“July 2016 was the first time I ever attended the NAAF Conference, it was incredible to be surrounded by fellow ‘Alopecians’ and for the first time I didn’t feel alone. I was overcome with inspiration, hope, and a sense of community. I networked and started circulating the idea of a flashmob to as many people as I encountered, including Charlie Villanueva and his brother Rob. With the help of their clothing line Alopecia Apparel, all the incredible staff at NAAF, our media crew, and my fellow Alopecian heroes, we set off to make this wild dream a reality. We were a group of about 30, bringing a full spectrum of alopecia areata for all to see.
“Everyone involved contributed in a strong and powerful way. I felt like I was on the best team ever! We were blessed to have a dance teacher in our group who led us in a dance to the heart pumping beats of a street performer who luckily happened to be nearby. During our flashmob the reaction of the crowd ranged from confusion and shock to connection and excitement. It was incredible to witness and experience. For the first time I was fully unafraid and realized that overcoming my fear started and ended with me. Showing yourself in such a vulnerable way seems to breed not only awareness but empathy. Acknowledgement of my alopecia areata in a positive way has become the foundation to a happy and fulfilling life. My whole life I’ve searched for a reason to do this, and now I have at least 147 million reasons to continue to spread alopecia awareness and connect people in an empowering way.
“I’d like to dedicate a gigantic thank you to all the lovely people who participated, to our beautiful families that always support us, to John, Andres, Cynthia for portraying us so authentically, to Charlie and Rob Villanueva and Alopecia Apparel for sponsoring us, to John Rich for capturing the event on film so beautifully, and to Gary and our NAAF superstars for always having our backs (and heads).”