My name is Olivia Rusk and I am 13 years old. I am in 8th grade at Fishers Jr. High. I have the medical condition alopecia. It is autoimmune related and it causes hair loss.
Since I was 2 years old, I have lost all of my hair twice. When I was 8 years old, my mom had a custom wig made for me. It looked great and everyone loved it, but me.
I had to use a special kind of glue to attach it to my head. After only 5 months, I woke up one day and told my mom that I was going to school that day without my hair. She was upset and tried to talk me out of it. But I felt like I was hiding something and finally she let me go to school without hair.
Since then I have not worn hats or wigs. I have had some amazing things happen to me as a result of my condition. I have shared my story on TV, in newspapers and in magazines. One day I was asked to share my story on the radio show, Concerned Kids on Radio Disney. It was a lot of fun and then they asked me to become a Kid Caster for the show.
For the last two years I have worked as an employee of ABC Family and Walt Disney where I get to interview people on the radio. In 2009, I was selected to receive The Power of Children Award from The Indianapolis Children’s Museum. It was such an honor to win and now my story is on permanent display in the exhibit.
This year I began to worry about all the teens who commit suicide because of bullying. My uncle committed suicide on Jan 5, 2009 and though it was not due to bullying, it devastated my world. He was like a father to me, and no one knew that he was sad or depressed.
Because I know how it feels to lose a family member that way, I wanted to help by talking to kids my age about it. I feel that it is okay to be different and decided to share my story to help with bullying. Now I go to schools, churches and other groups to talk about bullying.
After I spoke at Franklin Community Middle School, one boy wrote to me and said that he planned to beat up another boy after school that day, but after hearing my speech, he changed his mind. It made me feel good that I was able to help him.
Today I went to Greensburg, Indiana to speak at the Greensburg Jr. High. A few months ago, there was a boy who committed suicide there and I spoke to the entire school. Anne Marie Tiernon of Channel 13 News came and filmed my speech. She is doing a story about it that aired that Friday during the 5:00 – 6:00 hour.
In 2008, my mom and I had the idea to write and produce a music video about alopecia and bullying. We wrote the script but we had no budget (or sponsor) to film and edit the video. We contacted numerous production companies, schools, churches to ask for help with the project. After months of NOs and quotes that ranged from several thousand to thirty-five thousand dollars. We finally got lucky when we contacted IUPUI’s Media Center.
When we contacted Michael Maitzen and told him of our dilemma, he laughed and told us that he had just given his students a class assignment to film/edit a music video. He had a group of students that were in their final year of training that had the talent and experience for this type of project. He put us in touch with them. They completed the project for us and since then we have posted “I Could Be Great!” on YouTube and some other sites.
On a site called Alopecia World, we have been contacted by hundreds of people from all over the world who were inspired by it’s positive message. These are some of my favorites:
Ivonna from Australia wrote: I just watched your video and it brought me to tears for 2 reasons. First it brought back the hell I went through going through school and then the sadness went away half way through the video but the tears persisted, but not from sadness, but from being so inspired by your courage and beauty. I still haven’t gone out in public without my wig since being tormented as a child for looking different, but I honestly think that I will spend the next few weeks wearing myself out of wearing the wig out in public, thanks to you. Thank you so much Olivia!
Kimberly from Ohio wrote: Olivia, I sat & watched this video w/ my 4 yr old daughter, who has AA. My hope is for my daughter to be as self confident & strong as you. You are a wonderful role model and my dad now wishes she could ‘model’ too! You are an amazing person doing wonderful things…keep it up!
Shailender from India wrote: Hi, I saw your video and that is really great and inspiring. In fact I listen to that every morning to keep my mind at peace. I saw that actually are great. Keep going like that.
Camilla from Switzerland wrote: The video is wonderful, I love it. And what a great way to spread the message that it’s okay to be different and that one can be and do great regardless. /Camilla Sabine from Germany wrote: This is what I’m talking about it!!! Great, great, great. I hope for my daughters futures that she do not need a wig because of others, only she want a wig for herself, if she want one!!! You are open the doors for our futures AA Kids and Adults. Be strong, and thanks for how you are.
Kayden from California wrote: Hey Olivia! Thanks for being my friend. I think it’s pretty cool what you’ve done. You have no idea how many people you’ve inspired (including me!). Yesterday I shaved my head (I’m putting pics on my site soon) and today I got my first wig. Later I went out with it on and out of nowhere I decided to just not wear it even though I only have stubble on my head. Thanks for helping me come out of my shell even though I still have to wear my wig to school! Kayden
In the future I hope to continue to inspire others with my story.