When Kara Ladd first started losing her hair after starting chemotherapy in December, she threw herself a party.
“I was intent on making the best of a bad situation,” explains the 24-year-old editor and fashion blogger, who has synovial sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that affected her left knee and calf muscle.
When her hair started falling out in clumps, she decided to “buzz it all off,” she says, inviting friends to join her in a private room at Bumble and Bumble in the Meatpacking District. “We were blasting music and joking around. Afterwards, we all went for lunch at the Standard.”
Ladd, telling the story at the Upper East Side salon Rodolfo Hair Boutique, touches her long, brown hair, which is thick and enviably shiny. It’s actually a wig she bought shortly after shaving off her hair. She’s about to be fitted for another — this time, a blond version. Owner Rodolfo Valentin, widely regarded as the “wig whisperer” in well-heeled circles, charges $4,800 and up for his custom, real-hair pieces.
“I can’t wait!” Ladd says, casually removing her brunette wig as if it were just another layer of outerwear. “When else am I going to be able to rock a blond wig one day and a brunette one the next? Wigs are my armor. They help me power through the day.”
Women who lose their hair — whether through chemo, autoimmune diseases like alopecia, female-pattern balding or plain stress — know the loss of control one feels in both their appearance and self-confidence. But they can also attest to how difficult it is to find wigs that look natural. The gold standard are those made out of human hair, and they’re costly.
Although some insurance companies pay for all or part of the expense — this requires a prescription for a “cranial prosthesis” — many don’t.
“My plan didn’t cover it at all,” says Ladd, whose father raised the $2,700 needed for her first wig via a GoFundMe page.