Bald Miss America Contestant Talks About Having Alopecia

01/15/2011 at 11:30 AM EST

Miss America 2011 Contestant Kayla Martell Talks About Alopecia
Miss Delaware Kayla Martell
Gail Albert Halaban
Kayla Martell may look like any other pretty blonde from a distance, but there's one thing makes her a little different from the other contestants vying for the Miss America crown: she'll be wearing a custom-made wig for the pageant.

The bald beauty, who began losing her hair at the age of 13, suffers from hair loss due to alopecia areata. With the disease as her platform, the current Miss Delaware hopes to educate the public about it.

"I'm still getting used to long hair," says Martell, who typically goes wig-free. "So we'll style it away from my face with big curls."

At home, her collection has grown to include "a Miss Delaware wig, a Miss America wig, a 'soccer mom' wig and a Shirley Temple wig that stays curled" – not to mention a mannequin named Sheila, who wears her wigs on off-days.



The Milford, Del., native has been a fan of the Miss America pageant since long before her struggles with alopecia. "My mom took me on a date to watch the Miss America pageant when I was four years old," she says. "So just being here is a dream come true for me."

The Miss America Pageant, which celebrates its 90th anniversary this year, airs Saturday (9 p.m. ET) on ABC.

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