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Television

Ricki Lake opens up about the ‘quiet hell’ of her decades-long hair loss

Ricki Lake
Actress Ricki Lake revealed Wednesday on social media that she’s suffered from hair loss for almost 30 years.
(Rich Polk / Getty Images)

Ricki Lake started off the new year with a revelation: For 30 years, she has been losing her hair. And it’s been a really rough ride.

The “Hairspray” actress posted a series of photos on her Instagram on Wednesday with a closely cropped new hairdo and a personal story about her new look.

“First things first, I am not sick. (THANK GOD.) I am not having a mid-life crisis. nor am I having a mental breakdown, though I have been suffering. Suffering mostly in silence off and on for almost 30 years. AND I am finally ready to share my secret,” she wrote before publicly disclosing the news.

“I have been struggling with hair loss for most of my adult life. It has been debilitating, embarrassing, painful, scary, depressing, lonely, all the things,” she continued, admitting that she sometimes felt “suicidal” and that almost no one knew of “the deep pain and trauma” she was going through. Not even her therapist.

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Liberated and Free, Me. First things first, I am not sick. (THANK GOD.) I am not having a mid-life crisis. nor am I having a mental breakdown, though I have been suffering. Suffering mostly in silence off and on for almost 30 years. AND I am finally ready to share my secret. Deep breath Ricki…. Here goes….. I have been struggling with hair loss for most of my adult life. It has been debilitating, embarrassing, painful, scary, depressing, lonely, all the things. There have been a few times where I have even felt suicidal over it. Almost no one in my life knew the level of deep pain and trauma I was experiencing. Not even my therapist/s over the years knew my truth. I know that by sharing my truth, I will be striking a chord with so so many women and men. I am not alone in this and my goal is to help others while at the same time unshackle myself from this quiet hell I have been living in. Ever since I played Tracy Turnblad in the original Hairspray back in 1988 and they triple-processed and teased my then healthy virgin hair every 2 weeks during filming, my hair was never the same. (Yes, that was all my own hair in the film.) From Hairspray to Hairless. :( In my case, I believe my hair loss was due to many factors, yo-yo dieting, hormonal birth control, radical weight fluctuations over the years, my pregnancies, genetics, stress, and hair dyes and extensions. Working as talent on various shows and movies, whether DWTS or my talk show, also took its toll on my fine hair. I got used to wearing extensions, really just over the last decade. All different kinds, tried them all, the ones that are glued on, the tape-ins, the clip ins, and then into a total hair system that I hated, and finally to a unique solution that really did work pretty well for me for the last 4 or 5 years. I tried wigs on a few occasions but never could get used to them. It all felt fake and I was super self-conscious and uncomfortable. I’ve been to many doctors, gotten steroid shots in my head, taking all the supplements and then some. My hair would recover and then shed again. It was maddening. To read more: please go to my Facebook page. ❤️

A post shared by Ricki Lake (@rickilake) on

But Lake, 51, realized that she wasn’t alone. She wanted to help others by sharing her truth “while at the same time unshackle myself from this quiet hell I have been living in.”

The former talk show host said she thinks the hair loss began in 1988 when she starred in her breakout role as Tracy Turnblad in the original “Hairspray.”

“They triple-processed and teased my then healthy virgin hair every 2 weeks during filming,” she wrote. “My hair was never the same. (Yes, that was all my own hair in the film.) From Hairspray to Hairless. :(“

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She believes other things could’ve played a role too, including “yo-yo dieting, hormonal birth control, radical weight fluctuations over the years, my pregnancies, genetics, stress, and hair dyes and extensions.”

Over the years, Lake said, she tried dozens of remedies.

“I got used to wearing extensions, really just over the last decade. All different kinds, tried them all, the ones that are glued on, the tape-ins, the clip ins, and then into a total hair system that I hated, and finally to a unique solution that really did work pretty well for me for the last 4 or 5 years,” she wrote.

“I tried wigs on a few occasions but never could get used to them. It all felt fake and I was super self-conscious and uncomfortable. I’ve been to many doctors, gotten steroid shots in my head, taking all the supplements and then some. My hair would recover and then shed again. It was maddening.”

Her fans responded on social media with an outpouring of support; some called her “courageous” and “beautiful” and others simply posted heart emojis.

With her truth finally out in the world, Lake said she is starting the decade feeling “liberated and free.”


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