Features Editor Brigitte Phillips Gets the Chop!
It has finally happened, something I have been building up to for well over a year, I cut off all my hair. Well, not exactly all of it, but a significant chunk of it. My long hair has always been an integral part of my identity for as long as I can remember, and now it’s completely different to how it has ever been before. But this new look of mine isn’t in the aid of fashion or preference, I have donated approximately 10 inches of my hair to a charity that makes wigs for children who have lost their hair.
I first got the idea over a year and a half ago, when singer Jessie J donated her hair to The Little Princess Trust after cutting it live on Comic Relief. This nucleus of an idea was solidified during a craze that swept the internet after actress Shailene Woodley cut her hair for the role of Hazel Grace in The Fault In Our Stars. While I still have not seen the film, I thought that Shailene’s idea to donate her long her to charity was really admirable, and I decided to do the same.
This was a pretty big step for me, as I’ve always had a strong attachment to my trademark long hair. It’s been one of my only features that I’ve been consistently proud of over the years, and I have drawn a lot of my confidence from it. When things got hard, I could always hide behind it. If I were to have lost it when I was a child, it would have been devastating, and probably incredibly traumatic.
Now I’m 21, and while the emotional connection to my hair is just as strong, I have realised that there are some people out there who need my hair more than I do. This is why I decided to donate my hair to The Little Princess Trust. They give human hair wigs to children all over the UK that have lost their hair due to cancer treatment, alopecia, and other conditions. The Little Princess Trust tailor-make the wigs for each child, in order to minimalise trauma and leave the wig looking as similar as possible to the original hair.
The Little Princess Trust was launched in 2006 by Wendy and Simon Tarplee, who had lost their daughter Hannah to cancer just the year before. During Hannah’s battle with cancer, they realised how difficult it was to find high quality wigs for children, and only found a suitable supplier (which has now become one of the suppliers for the charity) after a long search. Due to the difficulty in obtaining a wig for Hannah, her parents set up the charity after her death, so that high quality children’s wigs could be more accessible in years to come.
If I were to have lost my hair when I was a child, it would have been devastating, and probably incredibly traumatic.
After researching the charity, I decided that it would be the perfect way for me to help children in desperate need of hair. However, I didn’t feel like giving my hair was quite enough, I also wanted to do some fundraising for the charity itself. As there is a great need for wigs at the Little Princess Trust, they often have to buy wigs from their suppliers in order to fulfil the demand. However, these wigs don’t come cheap, and can often cost as much as £350 each.
Being an impoverished student, I originally set my JustGiving target as £100, expecting that to be a very modest and achievable goal for Student Finance-starved pockets. What I didn’t anticipate was that my target would be smashed within 18 hours of the page going live. So I doubled my target to £200, which was met even quicker. For the next 2 months, I watched the money roll in, until I had raised almost £500. I was completely astonished and thankful for the generosity of my family and friends, but I still felt like I was able to do more. With just one week to go until the Big Chop, I upped my goal to a whopping £700, enough to buy two extra wigs on top of my hair donation. While the donations have slowly been trickling in, there is still a way to go.
In the meantime, in a bid to boost the charity funds, I organised a fundraiser to coincide with my 21st birthday, which would culminate in the Big Chop itself. What originally started as an intimate celebration of the charity and the anniversary of my birth spiralled out into a hairdressing bake sale with a live band and a make-shift photo booth! There goes my plans of having a quiet Thursday night in.
But through all this, I have still been battling with my childish emotional attachment to my hair. Despite the fact that I have been resolved on the chop for a very long time, as the date draws closer I become more and more aware of the decision I’m making. But ultimately, I always come around, and remember why I’m doing it; for the children who would have been just like me at that age, devastated at the loss of their favourite part of themselves, their confidence, their identity. They really need my hair more than I do.
I am still just £70 short of my target; if any of you would like to donate to this wonderful cause, please feel free to go to www.justgiving.com/Brigitte-Phillips, and contribute what you can!
Photographs: @JessieJ, @shailenewoodley and Sam Lewis