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Woman With Cancer Turns Her Bald Head Into Amazing Art

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After losing your hair due to chemotherapy, people are faced with a decision of what to do about their now-bald head. Do you wear a wig? A scarf? A hat? Or just go au naturale?

Singer and artist Kari Lynn Hewett took a different path: She used her bald head as a blank canvas to build incredible art, which she curated into an ongoing project called “Stuff On My Head.” Take one look at the photos, and you’ll see “stuff” is a bit tongue-in-cheek — Hewett uses a variety of creative objects like feathers, buttons, appliques, beads and paint to create gorgeous scenes and artistic themes.

scene with grass, sheep and clothesline on woman's head
Hewett wears fake grass, a sheep figurine and tiny clothes on a clothesline on her head.
kari lynn hewett with magic 8 ball on head
Hewett painted her head to look like a Magic 8 Ball, with the fortune “Be brave.”
kari lynn hewett head covered in coins and paper bills, and with sheet music strips and jewels
On the left, Hewett covered her head with jewels, flowers and strips of sheet music, surrounded by a zipper. On the right, her head is covered with coins while colorful Canadian bills pop out of her head.
kari lynn hewett with feathers and orange paint on head, and with blue paint and green continent shaped appliques
On the left, Hewett’s head is covered in orange and red paint and feathers. On the right, her head is painted blue and topped with green appliques shaped like the continents to create a globe.

Hewett, who lives in Leamington, Ontario, was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017. She had a lumpectomy, radiation and chemotherapy, which caused her to lose her hair. She told The Mighty she hated the idea of trying to hide the fact she was going through cancer treatment, but also didn’t want to be perceived as a “victim” or give people the impression she was ashamed or embarrassed.

“I wasn’t really actively looking to build the project into what it has become, but in the back of my mind, I was definitely looking for a way to pretty publicly take control and acknowledge that this is a thing I’m going through, but also use it to feature other aspects of myself, rather than make it *just* about the cancer,” Hewett said.

The inspiration for her first photo, in which she wears a pink mohawk hairstyle, came from her friend, who years ago told her she would look amazing with a mowhawk style. Hewett intended to try it before her hair fell out, but didn’t get to it. As she was puttering around in her studio hooked up to an IV pole for hydration, she came across some faux fur and thought, “Why not fake it?” All it took were a few pieces of double-sided tape.

kari lynn hewett wearing pink mohawk hairstyle
Hewett topped her head with pink and white faux fur, styled like a mohawk.

When Hewett shared the photo on social media, she found people really seemed to enjoy it. She was encouraged to do more. For the next picture, she created a mosaic pattern with buttons, using a pore-cleansing facial peel to get them to stick.

kari lynn hewett with blue and green buttons all over her head
Hewett covered her head with blue and green buttons.

Since then, people started sending Hewett ideas and requests and she tried a few of them. Most of the materials she uses to create her masterpieces are things she has around her studio, since she has a lot of arts and crafts supplies and enjoys thrift shopping.

Two years after her first bout with cancer, Hewett discovered it had returned, so she is currently finishing chemotherapy and will soon have a bilateral mastectomy, DIEP flap reconstruction and radiation. She described hair as an important “social indicator,” and said it feels like a true loss when chemotherapy takes it away. For her, “Stuff On My Head” helped her continue to feel like herself by expressing what chemo can’t take away — her creativity, humor, appearance, sense of self and social life.

“I may look different, and I may have some big and small challenges, but I’m still essentially the same person,” Hewett said. “I’m allowed to have fun and make the most of what I do have, where I can.”

In addition to people with cancer, Hewett said she’s heard from a few people with alopecia. She views her project as a way to help normalize female baldness in general. She hopes her photos encourage others to dig deeper and “double-down” on the parts of themselves that aren’t affected by their treatment process or hair loss and remember they don’t have to hide.

“In media, we mostly tend to encounter female baldness either as a joke or in some way that is labeled ‘brave.’ But for some people, in and out of treatment, it’s just who they are,” she said. “I’d like to see more people just roll with that and even find ways to enjoy it.”

You can see all of Hewett’s “Stuff On My Head” creations on her Facebook page.

For more insight from our Mighty community about hair loss, check out these stories:

Images via Kari Lynn Hewett

Originally published: August 15, 2019
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