Chloe's Story: A Video, a Girl, an Impact
By Lauren Beader
A blond young girl holds up a piece of paper. "Hi people! My name is Chloe," it says, the "i"s dotted with circles and a big smiley face underneath. Quiet, emotional soft rock plays in the background, "Skin" by SIXX:A.M. The girl flips to the next piece of paper. "I look like a normal 12-year-old, right? Well, I'm not…" Lips pursed, she holds up the next page: "I have mental disorder called Trichotillomania." She sits up and pulls off what we now realize is a blond wig, and reveals her completely bald head. "It makes me pull out my hair." She demonstrates silently, and then flips the page again. "I can't control it. AT ALL."
With over 130,000 views and thousands of comments, this girl's video has affected many lives, including her own. Chloe McCarty is a 12-year-old girl from Blaine, Minnesota, who made a simple YouTube video, with just some paper, a marker, and a webcam, to spread awareness of Trichotillomania and bullying, and to encourage people to "let your haters be your motivators."
In her video, My Story by Chloe McCarty Skin by Sixx:A.M, Chloe goes on to describe the cruel rumors her classmates spread about her. She rolls her eyes, "I can't walk down the hall at school without sticking out or feeling super alone." Then, she smiles and flips the page again: "Don't worry, though—this is supposed to be a happy video." Chloe gives encouraging words and ends her video saying, "You are beautiful."
The 12-year-old's boldness shocked her family and schoolmates, along with the rest of the country. "When I first saw [the video], I was watching a hockey game and it popped up on Facebook. I was wondering what it was, so I watched it," says Jason McCarty, Chloe's father. "Jennifer [Chloe's mother] then called and said to please take it down. I told her, 'No, you have to see it first.'" After watching their daughter express herself and give such a positive message so publicly and so maturely, Chloe's parents say they were both left sobbing and proud.
Chloe has struggled with Trichotillomania for a little over two years. Trichotillomania, according to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia, is an impulse control disorder that causes "hair loss from repeated urges to pull or twist the hair until it breaks off." People with this disorder pull hair from their head, eyebrows, eyelashes, or anywhere else on the body. The impulses are hard to control. "It's incredibly hard to not do anything you're thinking about…If you try to not think of a hippopotamus, it comes right into your mind," explains Trichotillomania specialist Dr. Ted Grossbart.
Symptoms usually begin before age 17 and range from an uneven appearance to the hair, constant touching of the hair, a sense of relief or pleasure after the pulling, denial, and anxiety. Along with all this comes the shame and humiliation of pulling one's own hair out, which causes the person to feel isolated and alone. Trichotillomania affects as much as 4% of the population. "It's not a huge percentage," Dr. Grossbart explains," but that's still a lot of people." Females are more prone to the disorder than males.
There are no known causes for the disorder, although it is directly related to hormonal changes and begins in many pre-teens during puberty. Dr. Ted Grossbart helps his patients look back to find out what triggered the disorder. "Sometimes, people aren't clear why it started, but often, looking back, people tend to put it together one way or another," he says.
In Chloe's case, she and her family aren't quite sure how it began. "I still think it was a result of her trying on some new mascara I had gotten," explains her mother. "Clumps the lashes and makes them easy to pull, and it never stopped. She doesn't seem to think that was it, but I do." Chloe pulls from her head, eyebrows, and eyelashes. She started pulling out her eyelashes in December of the fifth grade. "It got really bad about that summer, when I started pulling out my hair at summer camp," she says. That's when they knew Chloe needed some help.
There are many options for treatment, including therapy and hypnosis, but they do not usually completely work. "It's kind of like the good news bad news jokes. The bad news is that there really isn't a thing that works, but if you come up with ten things that work 10 percent, that could do the job," says Dr. Ted Grossbart. "It may not be the same for everybody, so you've kind of got to come up with your own cure for yourself."
Chloe, like many who suffer from Trichotillomania, has tried nearly everything to overcome the disorder, but she says nothing seemed to work. Chloe has taken to social media as her form of therapy. She makes YouTube videos and posts on Facebook and Twitter. She also listens to rock music to cope. The main thing that has helped her, however, is her strength and her positive attitude.
By the time Chloe started middle school, she had pulled out so much hair that she was partly bald and her hair was patchy. Her family had planned on just keeping her disorder a secret, but her hair got so bad that they had to shave it all off and get her a wig. "I remember watching them cut off what was left of her long, beautiful, blond hair, as tears rolled down my face," says her mother. "I told her, 'I am sorry, so sorry' and cried, and she said, 'Don't be sorry. It was my dumb fault.'"
Once Chloe shaved her head, classmates began to bully her and start rumors. She was left feeling alone, victimized, and very upset. "There were a few nights I worried if my daughter would still be alive when I woke up," her mother explains. A few days after she became bald and started being bullied, Chloe went onto Facebook and posted a status explaining what Trichotillomania is and telling her bullies they should at least say things to her face, ending boldly with, "If you don't like me for who I am, then you can just fuck off." Jennifer adds, "I couldn't even get mad about that because I was proud of her bravery."
Chloe had gone from being popular to being an outcast. She began to hate herself and everyone around her. "When her popular friends fell away, the "freaks and geeks" and special-ed stood by her," explains her mother. "She was their champion cause she would fight for them against people she had previously been friends with."
Chloe was fed up with the bullying and constant judging. She had recently seen the YouTube video that Jonah Mowry, a homosexual teen, made to express his despair about being bullied, which was criticized for being faked. "I said, if it was fake, I'd show them what's really happening," says Chloe.
So, Chloe made her video. The first person to watch it told her, "You better go tell your parents you made this because this is going to go viral," and the family was shocked that this prediction came true. "My mom woke me up at like 5 A.M. because she couldn't wait any more to tell me [how popular it got]!" explains Chloe.
The response to her video was overwhelmingly positive. Her parents were worried that the video would just give kids another reason to bully her. But, to their surprise, everyone instead posted it all over Facebook with apologies and words of encouragement. Fox Houston even did an entire 46-minute segment on her in relation to both Trichotillomania and to bullying. She also had a live interview scheduled on MSNBC, but got bumped for the president's declaration of the end of the Iraq War. "Not too many 12-year-olds can say that!" Jennifer laughs.
Chloe feels overwhelmed by this response to her video. Many of the comments on it are from others who suffer from Trichotillomania, giving their contact information for anyone who wants to talk about it and offering support. One woman even shaved her head to show her support for Chloe. "Thanks for all the love I now believe I am the HAPPIEST girl ever," she added to her video's description on YouTube.
Being into the whole "rocker clothes thing," as her mother describes it, Chloe's favorite musical artists are James Michael and Nikki Sixx the lead singer and bass guitarist of Motley Crue and Sixx:A.M. "You see," says Jennifer, "Sixx:A.M.'s music is another thing that turned her life around for her."
Chloe posted her video on James Michael's Facebook wall, and he actually watched it. "He said he watched it five times and was crying before he actually realized it was his song playing in the background," Jennifer says. Michael publically send it to Nikki Sixx and DJ Ashba of Sixx:A.M., saying "I think we found our 'Skin' video," and posted it on Facebook and Twitter. "I was just scrolling through [on Facebook] one night, and I saw the video, and I was in tears," Nikki Sixx said in an interview with Fox News. "It was just like the sky had opened up, and I felt like this was why I wrote the song in the first place...I think that we've all been changed for the better."
Inspired, Nikki Sixx wanted to speak with Chloe. The band's management set up a four-way call between Chloe in Minnesota, Nikki in Europe, James Michael in Los Angeles, and DJ Ashba in Indiana. "To this day, I don't know much of what they talked about. [Chloe] was so beside herself, she can't remember," says Jennifer.
On top of that, the band might even use Chloe's song as their official video for "Skin." In a follow-up video she calls "An Impromptu Thank You :)," Chloe thanks the band for posting her video. "You guys are, like, amazing. I can't even believe you posted it," she says. "I'm freaking out, man, I'm freaking out."
The only real negative response Chloe received for her video was actually from her own school's principal. The school had recently received a lot of bad press from its policies on homosexuality because at least nine kids had killed themselves in just two years, and the principal was nervous that the video would get him into more trouble. "He ended up getting me on the phone and reducing me to tears by the end of the conversation," says Jennifer. "He had spoken with Chloe and her teachers and felt she had never been bullied and because she had never reported it…apparently, if a kid takes care of it themselves or holds it in, it doesn't exist." But Chloe doesn't let that get to her. She tells the truth and, even though her own principal will not acknowledge her video, others across the country have by showing it to their students.
Twelve-year-old Chloe McCarty is just one of many who, before putting herself out there through social media, felt isolated. Her video received hundreds of comments from people saying how much less alone they alone they feel, how they didn't know it was an actual disorder, and how they actually know someone else with Trichotillomania. One of Chloe's teachers even sent her a card thanking her because her daughter also pulls out her hair.
"I think the whole 'public education' part of it is really cool…because a sense of shame is part of [Trichotillomania]," says Dr. Grossbart. "People feel very alone and responsible, like they're doing it to themselves and that sort of thing. So, I think the more information and support that's available…is just hugely useful."
Chloe and her family were shocked to find out that others they knew had either never realized they had the disorder or never came out about it until they saw Chloe's video. "It gave a lot of people knowledge and courage," says Chloe's mom, Jennifer.
Chloe is now heavily involved with the Bald Barbie Campaign, a campaign to make available bald Barbie dolls to help young girls who suffer from hair loss due to cancer treatments, Alopecia or Trichotillomania feel beautiful. She was one of the first 200 of 158,000 members and is close with the founder, Jane Bingham. She continues to make YouTube videos to advocate what she believes in. She is also a spokesperson for the Dreamcatchers Club, which is all about kids helping other kids, and is working on an expose. "She is an empowered young woman who has been very blessed with new opportunities in her life…Her whole anti-bullying crusade is yet to begin, I think," says Jennifer.
Chloe also has a page that she shares with her family on Facebook called "Rock On," a place for people to come together about Trichotillomania and their love for music, and a place for Chloe to spread awareness about her other causes, like the Bald Barbie Campaign. Chloe's Facebook page became a place for people to talk about their other problems, as well. A 20-year-old man was actually so inspired by her video and her old, deactivated Facebook page that he actually gave up snorting heroin.
12-year-old Chloe has made such an impact with her boldness, mature attitude, and advanced perspective, and continues to do so. She has both taught and learned so much from making just a simple video. "I think I've learned that I can make a difference if I tried hard enough, and I did! I have always, but I put it to the test," she says. "You don't have to apologize for your flaws. Embrace them and be your own person."
A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. "Trichotillomania." New York Times Health Guide. New York
Times. Web. 30 Apr. 2012.
An Impromptu Thank You :). Chloe McCarty. YouTube. 7 Dec. 2011. Web. 30 Apr. 2012.
Chloe's Story. Melissa Wilson and Nikki Sixx. Fox 26 Houston, 2012. TV Interview. YouTube.
Chloe McCarty, 22 Feb. 2012. Web. 30 Apr. 2012.
Grossbart, Dr. Ted. Phone interview. 19 Apr. 2012. Contact: (617)536-0480, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
McCarty, Chloe, Jennifer McCarty, and Jason McCarty. Online interview, via Facebook.
14 Apr. 2012. Contact: < https://www.facebook.com/rockerchicchloe>
My Story by Chloe McCarty Skin by Sixx:A.M. Chloe McCarty. YouTube. 5 Dec. 2011. Web. 30