Cheyenne McCall’s hair began falling out when she was 12, a seventh-grader trying to fit in like all the other girls in her school.
At first, she hid small bald patches under longer locks of thick, dark hair. No big deal. She thought it was temporary.
Though McCall is Cherokee by birth, her mother chose her name from another tribe: the Cheyenne. She had no idea then that she would need the courage of a warrior.
Doctors diagnosed her with alopecia, hair loss that is most common in children ages 5 to 12.
Hair loss can be temporary or permanent. McCall wished and hoped it would stop.
In a culture based on perfection, it was a crushing problem that worsened as she prayed it would go away. Lotions, shampoos, even injections didn’t help. When her eyelashes and eyebrows fell out, she learned to create her own and began to wear wigs.
“It was terrifying,” she said. “I’ve struggled with insecurity and self-esteem throughout my life. Then I lost the one thing I was truly trying to hang onto.”
An unlikely friend with cerebral palsy showed McCall a new way to live.
“Naudica is unable to walk on her own, but she is the most positive person I know. As I watched her, I asked myself what made her so special. I learned it was Jesus and the church,” McCall said. “God gave her worth and self-esteem.”
Naudica invited McCall to a fall festival at her church. That night, a skit about heaven and hell made the Gospel real, and McCall decided to follow Jesus.
Newfound faith didn’t fix alopecia.
Finally, McCall decided to stop wishing and hoping for a cure. She believes bald is beautiful and God gave her a hard story for a purpose. Sometimes she wears a wig; sometimes she doesn’t.
“It took me a long time to get to this point, but when I accepted it, I felt liberated—free,” she said. “I decided losing my hair gave me a platform to glorify God. And when I began meeting kids with alopecia, kids who struggle, I understand why God allowed me to have this testimony.”
Difficult times were woven with encouraging moments. Each one taught McCall more about herself and God.
When McCall walked into a restaurant one day, women near the door noticed her bald head and flipped their long locks as they laughed.
“I had two choices,” McCall said. “I could hang my head and sulk, or I could pick my head up and own it. I decided to glorify God with losing my hair.”
Since then, she has met many with alopecia, young girls who do not feel worthy and suffer from bullying.
Through college, McCall worked with students in in the Louisville Urban League program, where she talked about real beauty, discovering purpose in life, accepting others as well as yourself and speaking kind words.
When she speaks to a group, McCall often wads up a piece of paper, then tries to smooth it out again. As students watch and realize the paper will not be the same no matter how hard she tries to iron out wrinkles, McCall talks about harsh words that wound.
When McCall met Southeast Christian Church member Steve Wigginton at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes event in 2018, he asked her to speak to FCA huddles at various schools throughout Louisville.
She began showing up before classes and practices to speak to FCA athletes and students about God, His kindness and His plan. Sometimes she wears a wig when she tells her story; other times she doesn’t. If she knows there will be a student in the crowd with alopecia, she’ll go without a wig to say, “Hey, I’m with you.”
Wigginton has watched McCall connect with kids.
“I saw Cheyenne remove her wig for a young girl—it was a moment,” he said. “Because Cheyenne is comfortable in her own skin, she helps those around her feel the same. We all try to hide our imperfections, but Cheyenne’s openness instills courage in kids to be real. Her authenticity makes it easy to let your guard down. Once the guard is down, we are all more apt to embrace God’s truth. She’s a great girl! Much loved by the students she meets.”