Ricki Lake is freeing herself from three decades of shame — and she looks darn good doing it.
"I am finally ready to share my secret. Deep breath Ricki.... Here goes," the "Hairspray" actress wrote on Instagram this week. "I have been struggling with hair loss for most of my adult life."
After three decades of "suffering in silence," Lake shared a photo of her shaved head and penned a long, revealing message about the "debilitating, embarrassing, painful, scary, depressing, lonely" battle that began in the late 1980s. "There have been a few times where I have even felt suicidal over it," she wrote.
Although she notes there are all sorts of contributing factors — pregnancies, stress, weight fluctuations and genetics among them — Lake believes the root issue traces back to "Hairspray," during which her then-healthy hair was repeatedly processed with harsh chemicals and teased into the now-iconic ultra-teased bouffant. (Today, the character of Tracy Turnblad is typically portrayed by actresses wearing wigs.)
Liberated and Free, Me. First things first, I am not sick. (THANK GOD.) I am not having a mid-life crisis. nor am I having a mental breakdown, though I have been suffering. Suffering mostly in silence off and on for almost 30 years. AND I am finally ready to share my secret. Deep breath Ricki…. Here goes….. I have been struggling with hair loss for most of my adult life. It has been debilitating, embarrassing, painful, scary, depressing, lonely, all the things. There have been a few times where I have even felt suicidal over it. Almost no one in my life knew the level of deep pain and trauma I was experiencing. Not even my therapist/s over the years knew my truth. I know that by sharing my truth, I will be striking a chord with so so many women and men. I am not alone in this and my goal is to help others while at the same time unshackle myself from this quiet hell I have been living in. Ever since I played Tracy Turnblad in the original Hairspray back in 1988 and they triple-processed and teased my then healthy virgin hair every 2 weeks during filming, my hair was never the same. (Yes, that was all my own hair in the film.) From Hairspray to Hairless. :( In my case, I believe my hair loss was due to many factors, yo-yo dieting, hormonal birth control, radical weight fluctuations over the years, my pregnancies, genetics, stress, and hair dyes and extensions. Working as talent on various shows and movies, whether DWTS or my talk show, also took its toll on my fine hair. I got used to wearing extensions, really just over the last decade. All different kinds, tried them all, the ones that are glued on, the tape-ins, the clip ins, and then into a total hair system that I hated, and finally to a unique solution that really did work pretty well for me for the last 4 or 5 years. I tried wigs on a few occasions but never could get used to them. It all felt fake and I was super self-conscious and uncomfortable. I’ve been to many doctors, gotten steroid shots in my head, taking all the supplements and then some. My hair would recover and then shed again. It was maddening. To read more: please go to my Facebook page. ❤️
A post shared by Ricki Lake (@rickilake) on Jan 1, 2020 at 11:25am PST
Over time, Lake says she became accustomed to wearing faux hair extensions as she tested all types of growth products and systems, from vitamin supplements to getting steroid shots in her head. Some of the solutions actually worked, but only temporarily: "My hair would recover and then shed again. It was maddening."
Lake, 51, sought both physical and emotional treatment as she hid her hair loss from the public. But in recent weeks, she decided to buzz her hair short and simply come clean. "It is a new year and new decade and a new me," she wrote on Facebook.
She added that she'll sometimes wear faux hair, "but now it is for fun, not because I am hiding anything. I am so done with hiding."
The candid post has already proven resonant with fans, with many commenting that they quietly face identical struggles. "Welcome to the new you without dealing with the stress of hair loss," one wrote alongside a photo of her own shaved head.
"Thank you for living your truth and speaking out," wrote the mom of a child who has alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes sudden hair loss. "You look absolutely beautiful!!"
"Good for you for letting go of all the expectations society puts on us as women!" another said. "I mean, if a man starts to lose his hair he would be told to shave it."
The influx of support isn't lost on Lake: "I am not alone in this," she wrote, "and my goal is to help others while at the same time unshackle myself from this quiet hell I have been living in."
Lake's fresh start comes three years after the suicide of her ex-husband, Christian Evans, which left her devastated. The couple had separated in large part due to his battle with bipolar disorder, but they continued to live together and support each other after the split.