Like most kids, KINSEY HARMON just wanted to fit in when she was in high school. Instead, going into her senior year, she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that made her different than everyone else.
Like 6.8 million Americans, Kinsey has Alopecia Areata, which causes hair loss on the head, legs, and other parts of the body. While a common autoimmune disease, it can be debilitating for a young woman in today’s image-focused world.
Kinsey dealt with her diagnosis by hiding it, only telling her closest friends and family. “I was constantly worried that people would see the bald spots on my head and think I had something wrong with me.” While to others she seemed normal, she leaned on those around her during the emotionally trying time. “My friends and family are the best support system in the world,” she says. “They never left my side.”
Eventually Kinsey learned to cope with her disease through fitness. “Alopecia affects the way you see yourself and for the longest time I hated looking in the mirror.” Alopecia isn’t something you can control, but she felt empowered controlling what the rest of her looked like. “Going to the gym makes me feel strong, which has made all the difference in my mentality.”
With encouragement from her friends at the gym, Kinsey became a National Physique Committee (NPC) competitor last summer. In her first competition, she placed second in her Novice and Junior classes in the Bikini category. She’s training for two more competitions this year.
Kinsey learned to cope with Alopecia through fitness competitions.
What she enjoys most is the training leading up to the event. She admits that competition prep is hard but worth it. “You push your body to its limits. Just when you feel like you can’t give anymore, you do and you surprise yourself. You realize how much you are capable of, mentally and physically.”
To get ready for competitions, Kinsey does fasting cardio in the morning six times a week and lifts weight in the evenings, with additional cardio afterward. She eats low carb and high protein and fat but sometimes sneaks in a cheat meal once a week. When competing, Kinsey wears her hair naturally but with a halo extension that adds length to the thinner areas. “Competitions remind me that the ‘limitations’ I think I possess are not actually that relevant at all. I am so much more than my hair.”
Outside of the gym, Kinsey is a junior at the University of Memphis studying exercise science. After hiding her disease for 3 1/2 years, this February 21-year-old Kinsey made it public on social media. “I want to help others by telling my story.”
Kinsey has been flooded with messages from people who are like her or know someone with Alopecia. “Many people can relate or need to hear that it’s completely okay to be different and to embrace your flaws,” she says. She hopes to be an inspiration and an ear to anyone who needs support. “I want to make sure everyone knows that they are beautiful no matter what flaws they have. These flaws are what makes us beautiful.”
By Jeff Hulett . Photo by Tindall Stephens.