My first memory of Star Wars was when my older sister Annabelle was watching Attack of The Clones and I vividly remember seeing those lightsabers swinging and my eyes being glued to the screen. Ever since that day, I have been fascinated with Star Wars, but it was only when I got older that I started to appreciate the original trilogy.

Since losing my hair at the age of 8, I have always stood out as different and the Star Wars community has embraced my differences.

My first experience of the dark side was when I used to come home from school crying every day from all of the bullying that was going on. The bullying got so bad that I would have to stay inside during break time so that nobody would pull my hat off, (I was wearing a hat to hide missing patches of hair on my head). After seeing me so upset week after week, my mum had finally had enough and went in to speak to all of the children in my year. She explained to the children that alopecia is not contagious and that I was still the same person, but that I just didn’t have any hair, it is the same as someone having to wear glasses. That’s the point, with the Star Wars community it doesn’t matter if you have no hair, or if you have glasses, or if you have purple skin with blue polka dots, if someone is going to be staring at a Sith Lord, no one is going to give a second look to a girl with no hair.

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On a normal day, before I go to bed at night, I have to think about what environment I’ll be in the following day, and who I will be around, mainly because I don’t want to create a fuss with people who don’t know that I have alopecia, unless I am planning on showing them for the first time.

For example, I’m in higher education at the moment and I haven’t gone in to classes without my wig on yet, just because it’s been easier for me to focus on my studies. This is better for me, without the distraction of the continuous curiosity which I understand people naturally have, but I would like to educate them. There is a time and place for everything though; this is what I have learnt with alopecia! In the Star Wars community, I can be whoever I want, whenever I want without having to feel like I don’t fit in or I have to explain myself.

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I believe the Star Wars community is so accepting because in Star Wars there are characters who are all shapes and sizes and are from all corners of the galaxy. This enables the younger generation and people in general to learn and understand that not everyone is the same, and that some people look more different than others, but that doesn’t mean they should be treated differently. This unwritten message from the Star Wars movies makes the Star Wars community strong and allows people to be themselves and not have to worry about being judged.

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The Star Wars community is by far one of the most accepting, non-judgmental and friendly communities on Earth. The community is like no other in the galaxy. From my experience at Star Wars Celebration 2016, I can definitely say that this creative community are like a second family to me. People just saw me as normal, no one thought there was any reason to ask me about having no hair. The only other time I’ve ever felt like that was when I went to Wimbledon wearing a bright neon green wig to celebrate and watch the tennis and everyone saw me as normal.

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On my journey, I’ve learnt that people can often be scared of the unknown and can be fearful of things that they are not used to, but where you’re brought into the world looking at things differently, with a widescreen imagination, your view on the world and all living creatures, large or small is more likely to be open-minded. Thank goodness George Lucas didn’t want to be a carpenter, and while we’re on the subject, thank goodness Harrison Ford gave up his day job too.

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Star Wars isn’t just about the films, it’s about celebrating the liberation of being unique.



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Joelle
In 2014 Joelle became a Young Person's Ambassador for the UK's leading alopecia charity, Alopecia UK, having lost all of her hair when she was 8. Appearing on national TV and radio and being covered by press around the world, Joelle is no stranger to the public eye. Combining her love for music and Star Wars with her various charitable initiatives, Joelle has created her own project for Force for Change.