#NoHairSelfie: Take It (Off) For World Cancer Day

It’s the only body part to have a hit rock musical named for it.

Religions have copious instructions for what to do with it.

Yogic tradition believes it helps raise Kundalini energy.

Nearly everybody believes it adds immensely to a woman’s allure.

Donald Trump has made it his trademark.

Hair.

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It’s more than just a filament that sprouts from follicles on the head.

The mystical significance of hair and how it enhances our appearance: they’re the reasons why losing it, especially for women, is so traumatic.

One of the first questions women diagnosed with cancer will ask, when discussing their treatment, is whether their hair will fall out. With most chemotherapy, it will.

The link between cancer and hair loss inspired the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation to go global with its 2016 #NoHairSelfie fundraising campaign

Last year, the #NoHairSelfie campaign’s virtual shave option motivated more than 50,000 people to download the #NoHairSelfie app and share their virtual shave. Apple named it one of 2015’s best new apps.

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On Thursday, Feb. 4, World Cancer Day, supporters in Canada, South Africa and Israel are invited to shave their heads, for real or virtually.

Jorn Weisbrot, artistic director of Toronto’s Luminato, will have his dome mowed for real that day at Princess Margaret. The shearing will be done by his husband, singer-songerwriter Rufus Wainwright in honour of Wainwright’s mother, folk singer Kate McGarrigle. She died of cancer at the age of 63 in 2010.

Here’s how to participate in the #NoHairSelfie campaign:
*Decide on an actual or virtual shave
*Encourage friends and family to sponsor your virtual or actual head shaving efforts – to be revealed on World Cancer Day, February 4th.
*For a virtual head shave, download, the #NoHairSelfie app on iTunes or Google Play.
*Shave, share and donate on World Cancer Day: post your #NoHairSelfie look on Facebook or *Twitter or Instagram
*Or text NO-HAIR to 410-10 to donate

Celebrity shavers will publicly have their curls clipped on Feb. 4 at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre at 11:00 a.m. Some of the top FundRazors will have their tresses shorn at the “Celebrity Buzz-Off” taking place at the Steam Whistle Brewery at 6 p.m. To sign-up or to sponsor someone, go to www.nohairselfie.com.

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Already, more than 60 Canadians have gone “bolder and balder,” just as the campaign slogan encourages, for a series of photos and videos to promote #nohairselfie.

Internationally renowned Canadian photographer Paul Alexander shot them all, capturing before and after images.

“I do see a little bit of trepidation in the before shot,” says Alexander, “and genuine excitement in the after shot.”

And yeah, he says, “it’s a lot harder for women. I’ve shot shaved heads that had beautiful locks of hair. I’m astounded by the courage of doing that to show solidarity with a cause.”

And then there was Dennis,

“Dennis came in with a ponytail,” says Alexander “and then, bam, it’s all gone. The look on his face was a mixture of ‘I can’t believe I did this’ and pure joy.”

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Alexander says he feels honoured to be part of the campaign.

“I got to witness and capture the excitement and joy and spirit,” he says, “that moment when they’re running their hands through where their hair used to be a moment ago and the expression that says, ‘Where did it go?’ “

Alexander is famous for his portraits, fashion photography and magazine covers, including Zoomer.

Shooting the #NoHairSelife campaign, he says, is very different than shooting fashion. “Fashion is manufactured,” he explains.

“These are in the same vein as portrait shoots but they’re really more reportage than portraits.”

He explains, “When you have that much positive energy, it’s almost religious in a sense. It’s almost like, collectively, they’re giving cancer the middle finger.”