Tejai Oakes is a 23 year old who was born and raised in Gloucester, Southwest of the UK. Tejai is half Jamaican, ¼ Welsh and ¼ English and suffers from Alopecia Areata. Tejai experienced feelings of despair and anxiety over time as a result of the condition. He was much more affected in his teen years as he did not fully comprehend the circumstances leading him to experience mental health issues. As a young adult, Tejai now understands that his condition and mental health issues make him who he is today, and he wouldn’t trade that for anything. Tejai never revealed his head to anyone from the age of 16 to 18. He used this as a coping mechanism for something he didn't understand. He constantly had something covering his head, whether it was a hood, cap, or durag. While struggling to deal with his Alopecia and Mental Health issues Tejai was also having an internal battle in regards to his sexuality. It was like a warzone inside of his head that he could not escape. He spent the next 2 years trying to find who he was within himself - he was tired of running. As hard as it was - Tejai used this time to break free of the mould he had set for himself and come to terms with his condition and sexuality.
Tejai feels like when it comes to Alopecia, Male genders are not taken seriously as the females in regards to the effects it has on the Males. This is because as a man it is seen as normal to go bald with the assumption that it has no emotional effect on. The main thing Tejai was told growing up was “At least you’re a man so it’s normal for you to be bald”. Looking back Tejai feels like this is one of the worst things you could say to a male suffering with Alopecia.
No matter the gender Alopecia is Alopecia. It affects everyone the same way. Although Having Alopecia at first tore him apart it gave Tejai the opportunity to rebuild himself in the best way possible. Not only does Tejai love the person he has become but he has embraced the condition that helped him to find his Strength Amidst Alopecia.
In his words "The new normal is now being different and it is something we need to embrace."
Photographer: Taiye Omokore
Model: Tejai Oakes
Make up: Oyindamola Afolayan
Hair: Georgia Fricker
Studio: The Sustainable Studio
Supported by: Sarah Valentin
Video: Pierre Gashagaza
Clothing and Accessories: Abbastanza Collective