Interview with writer and photographer Alyscia Cunnngham

Writer and
photographer Alyscia Cunningham joins me
today. We’re talking about her new photography book focused on women’s hair
loss, I Am More Than My Hair: My Outward
Appearance Does Not Define
Me.

During her virtual book tour, Alyscia will be awarding a limited edition 2019
calendar for “I Am More Than My Hair” (US only) to a lucky randomly
drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free
to visit
her other tour stops
and enter there, too!

Bio:
Alyscia Cunningham is an entrepreneur, author, filmmaker and
photographer who has contributed to the Smithsonian, National Geographic,
Discovery Channel and AOL. In September 2013 Alyscia self-published Feminine
Transitions, a photography book encompassed with portraits of raw feminine
beauty. Her recently published photography book and upcoming documentary film,
I Am More Than My Hair, features 138 portraits of 46 females and the stories of
their experience with hair loss as well as females who cut their hair in
solidarity of a loved one. Alyscia creates these, and future projects, with the
consideration of art for social-change.
Alyscia specializes in
promoting our natural beauty because she believes the media does a good job of
focusing on our insecurities by bombarding us with ads proclaiming that their
appearance without enhancements is inadequate or faulty. Her portraits are unaltered
by Photoshop and reveal women as they are naturally, without the façade they
put on for others.
Her work has
been featured on Fox5 News, The Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan, The Washington
Post, APlus, and Proud2BMe.

Welcome, Alyscia. Please share a little
bit about your current release.

I Am More Than My Hair: My Outward Appearance Does
Not Define Me
, is a photography book that features 138
portraits of 46 women and the stories of their experience with hair loss, as
well as women who cut their hair in solidarity of a loved one.

What inspired you to write this book?

I cut my hair in support of a Big Chop for a non-profit organization and was
shocked at the negative responses. In turn I created a project that would
capture portraits of women who’ve experienced hair loss accompanied by their
essays about their personal experiences. My goal was to show society (the
naysayers) that despite the pressure placed on women about hair, without it
we’re still beautiful.

Excerpt from I
Am More than My Hair:
Debbie,
31
Pull-Quote:
My friends and family supported me
Story:
On May 24, 2011, I discovered a large mass in my left breast while
I was doing my self-check. Later that day, I went to the National Cancer
Prevention Institute in Lagos for a breast screening. A nurse screened both my
breasts and my cervix and referred me for sonography, which was done at a local
scanning center. On June 3, 2011, I had a Fine Needle Aspiration Cytology procedure at Me Cure Health
Care Limited to diagnose my condition. I was told that the breast lump was
benign and that the left auxiliary lymph node was negative for malignant cells.
On June 11, 2011, I had my first lumpectomy at a local medical center.
Barely four months later, I discovered another lump slightly above
the previous operation site and had surgery at the same hospital. But this
time, I insisted on further medical investigation to know why the cancer
recurred. That’s when I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma. By April
2012, I was diagnosed with Stage IV carcinoma.
I had withheld the news from my dad because he was hospitalized
for paralysis, but with the latest diagnosis, I couldn’t hold the news any
longer. I told my dad about it on July 31, 2012 hoping he had gained enough
strength to handle the news but, unfortunately for me, he passed on to glory
the following day, which was my birthday, August 1, 2012.
My friends and family supported me and, before I knew what was
happening, all my friends joined a campaign for me on Twitter tagged “walk
against cancer, #savedebbie.” I got the exact amount of money I needed for my
treatment in the United States ($55,000), but I had to start chemotherapy right
away in Nigeria.
I arrived in the United States in October 2012 and started
treatment at Howard University Hospital. I had chemotherapy for 10 months
followed by a bilateral mastectomy in October 2013. To the glory of God, I
survived Stage IV breast cancer, but I am still fighting bone and liver cancer.
Rest in peace, Debbie: August 1, 1984 – April 1, 2016.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m working on the documentary for I Am
More Than My Hair
. It’s in the post-production phase (editing). Once the
editing is finished, the visual graphics, color correction and original score
will be completed. Then I start with the film festival market. I’m super
excited!!!

When did you first consider yourself a
writer?

My love for
writing started when I was about 10 years old. I enjoy writing stories and
poems in English class then began writing it on my own at home. I started as a
writer then and will continue to be one as long as I’m here on Earth.

Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work
day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to
write?

I don’t write full-time. Aside from photography and filmmaking, which are
focused on my passion projects, I own a Home Improvement company (www.UprisingBuilders.com). I know.
You may think it’s the complete opposite of writing but it’s actually very
similar. In certain aspects, both fields allow me the platform to use my
creativity. On another note, I’ve been working on a horror/Sci-Fi script for
several months and looking forward to submitting it to Monkeypaw Productions
(founded by director and producer Jordan Peele) once complete.

What would you say is your interesting
writing quirk?

I’m not sure why my creative juice flows more freely when I’m in an airplane
but strangely enough, it does. I order a mix of vodka (preferably Reyká) and
cranberry juice, open my journal to a blank page (I always travel with my
journal), and start to write. I believe that being confined to my space on an
airplane forces me to focus my time without distraction. I enjoy these moments.

As a child, what did you want to be when
you grew up?

I just knew I’d
be a veterinarian when I grew up. I planned for it throughout all of my
childhood life. I quickly changed my mind after having to dissect a frog in
middle school. The crazy thing is, I used to watch videos on surgery (animals
and humans) and never found is disturbing. But when I had the scalpel and
scissors in my hand to cut the frog open, I thought otherwise. And I never
mustered up the courage to do it. Maybe next lifetime.

Anything additional you want to share
with the readers?
I’m raising funds to help complete my documentary film. If any readers
would like to support, please consider making a tax-deductible donation via my
fiscal sponsor, Docs In Progress – www.docsinprogress.org/hair.

To learn more about Alyscia
and her work, visit
Alyscia.com. Alyscia also
invites you to view her video introductions to
Feminine Transitions, and I Am More Than My Hair.
I Am More Than My Hair is now available on Amazon.
Links:


Thank you for being a guest on my blog!


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