Everything we know about Netflix’s must-see series ‘Inventing Anna’
Everything we know about Netflix’s must-see series ‘Inventing Anna’

Jennifer McShane

Proenza Schouler x Birkenstock are back with a second collaboration
Proenza Schouler x Birkenstock are back with a second collaboration

Holly O'Neill

10 brilliant Netflix picks worth a repeated watch
10 brilliant Netflix picks worth a repeated watch

Jennifer McShane

Does the sale of Reese Witherspoon’s company spell the end of female-led movies and television?
Does the sale of Reese Witherspoon’s company spell the end of female-led movies and television?

Sarah Finnan

Behind Closed Doors: ‘I’m an IT consultant by day and a dominatrix by night’
Behind Closed Doors: ‘I’m an IT consultant by day and a dominatrix by night’

Amanda Cassidy

40 of the best sun-bleached and desert-inspired summer nail shades
40 of the best sun-bleached and desert-inspired summer nail shades

Holly O'Neill

10 of Meghan Markle’s all-time best royal looks
10 of Meghan Markle’s all-time best royal looks

Jennifer McShane

Taylor Swift sent the Galway paddleboarders a letter when she heard about their ordeal
Taylor Swift sent the Galway paddleboarders a letter when she heard about their ordeal

Sarah Finnan

Sound the alarm! Lizzo and Chris Evans are flirting online again
Sound the alarm! Lizzo and Chris Evans are flirting online again

Sarah Finnan

Disney’s attack on Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow lawsuit is incredibly gendered
Disney’s attack on Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow lawsuit is incredibly gendered

Jennifer McShane

Image / Beauty

“I didn’t really understand what my hair meant to me until it was gone”


by Holly O'Neill
22nd Jul 2021
blank

Hair is so much more than what we see in the mirror. It’s linked intrinsically to who we are, to our identity, gender, culture and ethnicity, whether it’s the hair on our heads or our bodies. We spoke to seven Irish women on how their relationships with hair has shaped their lives. Here, Amber Jean Rowan, model, actress and founder of Hair Free and creator of Amber Jean hair pieces, shares her story.


I didn’t really understand what my hair meant to me until it was gone. It starting falling out when I was 15 as a result of alopecia, and was gone within a year. When you’re 15, anything different is daunting and terrifying. My journey with hairpieces began at around 17. The word “wig” for me has a lot of emotional attachment. Before I needed to wear them, “wig” seemed a very unglamorous word, a word that had a lot of emotional stigma attached to it. Hairpiece is a bit more gentle – it leaves people guessing. A wig means you’re covering something, but a hairpiece is more of an enhancement. Once I got my first good hairpiece, I came out of the salon and felt amazing. I had this long, luscious hair that I could have only dreamed of when I was younger.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Amber Jean Rowan ??? (@amberjeanrowan) on

When 26-year-old me looks back now, it’s interesting how I thought, and still do sometimes, that long hair equals beauty. My hairpiece for so long was my shield. It made me feel safe. It hid my most vulnerable part of me. I go hair-free more often now, but when I don’t have my hairpiece on, I feel completely vulnerable. It protects me. I still adore wearing hairpieces, but I’m getting to the point where I’m just as comfortable being hair-free as I am wearing a hairpiece. It’s just a case of how you choose to present yourself that day. Hair, no hair – it’s how you feel on the inside.

I could appreciate a beautiful picture of me without my hairpiece on, but finding confidence without wearing it has only happened in the last year or so. I’m taking little steps, like arriving at a shoot without my hairpiece on, or going to a talk with my scarf on and taking it off once I’m there. The month I spent in India, I made a promise to myself that I wasn’t going to wear my hairpiece, and that has made a massive difference. It took me until my third day in to take off my headscarf, but once I did, it was so liberating.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Amber Jean Rowan ??? (@amberjeanrowan) on

I felt safe without my hairpiece on within the complex of the yoga camp in India, but once I went out, those who didn’t know me would stare. I wouldn’t say I’m completely comfortable being hair-free. I’m getting more comfortable when people do stare, perceiving their stare in a more positive way. At the end of the day, hair is just hair; it means so much, but in the same breath it doesn’t. It’s just strands of dead matter that happen to be on our head.

With my website, I wanted to set up something I could have had when I was going through my own hair loss. It’s about finding community and learning how to love ourselves just as we are. Being able to give advice gives you a sense of purpose, but it’s opened up a lot of old wounds and brought up a lot of feelings that I haven’t felt in a while. Having all these people contacting me and sharing their stories, I’m automatically transported to the 15-year-old me. It’s been very therapeutic.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Amber Jean Rowan ??? (@amberjeanrowan) on

If I could talk to 15-year-old Amber today, I’d say, “You don’t need to make everyone like you.” A really good expression I learned through acting is just to own yourself. You don’t need approval from anyone. One of the main things I’ve learned is that success in your career doesn’t automatically equate to happiness. It’s other things in life that truly make you happy. A gorgeous quote I posted on my Instagram today was “Don’t define yourself by things that are temporary. Define yourself by things that are eternal.”

Shop Amber Jean hair pieces here.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of IMAGE Magazine. Photography by Jakub Koziel.

Also Read

nail shades
BEAUTY, SHOPPING
40 of the best sun-bleached and desert-inspired summer nail shades

This season’s warmest shades are sun-bleached and desert-inspired bold statement tones and muted pastels, from inky midnight sky blue to...

By Holly O'Neill

mismatched nails
BEAUTY
The best mismatched rainbow nails on Instagram for your next appointment

Screenshot these joyful mismatched rainbow nails for your next salon visit or lose a few hours attempting nail art this...

By Holly O'Neill

dark hair
BEAUTY
Tempted to dye your dark hair blonde? Avoid catastrophe with these less permanent alternatives

People with dark hair, I feel your pain. Dyeing our mops usually isn’t an option, at least not without causing...

By Sarah Finnan

leather scent
BEAUTY
Tom Ford’s new leather scent is as sophisticated as they come

Like a leather jacket, a leather scent is an eternally cool confidence hint as classic as it gets.

By Holly O'Neill

Ouai x Byredo
BEAUTY
Ouai x Byredo is back with more scented haircare

Ouai x Byredo has returned for a second collaboration with more luxurious scented haircare.Ouai and Byredo was a beauty collaboration...

By Holly O'Neill

scrub
BEAUTY
18 of the best scalp saviours for shinier, nourished hair

“The length, lustre and health of your hair depend on the scalp,” says Gareth Bromell, the celebrity hairdresser behind H...

By Holly O'Neill

Trinny
BEAUTY
Trinny Woodall on her obsession with skincare, make-up essentials and setting up a brand

Trinny Woodall has built a career on making over women. In IMAGE Magazine, she spoke to HOLLY O’NEILL about her...

By Holly O'Neill