From Blonde, to Bald, to Bold. This is the tagline that Sports Illustrated finalist, Christie Valdiserri, adopted when she slowly lost her hair to her ongoing battle with alopecia. With the world slipping through her fingertips, Christie had to learn to adapt to her new-found situation; by turning her circumstances into a superpower, not a life-halting prognosis. Now, as the first bald model in Sports Illustrated and a Top 6 Finalist, Christie is teaching all women that beauty has no boundaries, as we cannot confine ourselves to the unrealistic norms that society puts on young, impressionable individuals. In this exclusive interview, Christie details her reaction to seeing her first, but certainly not last, Sports Illustrated centerfold, challenges she has endured throughout her career, and what being chosen as the newest SI Rookie would mean to her. Looking for a way to vote for Christie as the newest SI Rookie? Click here to make it happen!
Megan Morgante: Can you give an overview of your life before modeling and how it led you to where you are now?
Christie Valdiserri: I grew up attending a ballet company. I went to Penn State University where I received a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre. After college, I moved to NYC to pursue dance. After being fired from my dream job as a cruise ship dancer, I lost all of my hair and booked a one-way flight to Los Angeles. For an entire year, I hid under a wig and eventually gained the strength and courage to share my truth.
MM: Did anything/anyone, in particular, inspire you to pursue modeling?
CV: After losing my hair, I was inspired to pursue modeling because I was determined to turn my pain into my power.
MM: When you were diagnosed with alopecia, what were your initial thoughts and feelings?
CV: “Okay, I don’t care what it’s called… just tell me how to stop my hair from falling out!”
MM: You’re an inspiration to many struggling with self-confidence, what advice would you give to those learning to fully accept themselves?
CV: My best advice is to be in tune with yourself. To have your own back. When you’re feeling down, allow yourself to feel down, but know that you are going to be okay. Always remember all the things you do have--write what you’re grateful for every single day. Write down the things you do love about yourself. Write, “You are beautiful” on a sticky note on your bathroom mirror. Try your hardest to not compare yourself to all the nonsense you see online. Work every day to learn more about yourself and stay true to who you are. Never give up and always do your best, always give 110%!
MM: How were you initially introduced to Sports Illustrated?
CV: One of my friends submitted a video two years ago and I remember seeing it and thinking, “...Wow, I can’t do that until I grow my hair back…”
MM: And look at you now! You were just a centerfold in the most recent issue of Sports Illustrated! What was your reaction when you first saw yourself in the issue?
CV: AH! I cried, was freaking out, and was so emotionally overwhelmed! There’s a video on my Instagram of live footage of me when I saw the magazine in real life for the first time! I just remember thinking, “...Wow, I really did that! And I want everyone out there to know… when there is a will, there is a way, no matter what!”
MM: What has your experience been like working with Sports Illustrated?
CV: SI has truly taught me that my difference, my “flaw,” is actually my power. SI is one of the best companies I’ve ever worked with. They make me feel heard, understood, loved, and celebrated.
MM: If there was one thing you would want individuals to take away with them after learning of your story, what would it be?
CV: Beauty comes from within and to never, ever give up on yourself.
MM: Have you ever experienced any challenges throughout your career?
CV: I was fired from my first job as a dancer in 2017 because I “stood out.” This was when I had bald patches… that broke me and knocked me down. I also was told by an agent a few years ago to not get bald headshots done… that didn’t sit well with me, which led me to switch agencies. I’ve been told ‘no’ a million times over again; with my wig, without my wig, with bald patches… although, the no’s give you resilience!
MM: Do you have any hobbies you enjoy partaking in when you’re not modeling?
CV: I love to dance, teach dance and workout classes, workout, run, and cook vegan food!
MM: If you weren’t pursuing modeling, what would you aspire to do?
MM: Final, but most important question, what would it mean to you if you were chosen as the newest SI Rookie?
CV: Reading that question gave me chills. Being the newest SI Rookie means that I will be able to continue to spread my powerful message that beauty is not about what you look like on such a bigger platform. It would open up a whole new avenue for bald women to be accepted into society. I want bald women and bald girls to feel like their look is enough and that they never have to explain to anyone why they look the way they do. I want the bald look on women to read as strong; I am so determined to make bald women feel accepted and SI has the platform for exactly that.
Looking for a way to vote for Christie as the newest SI Rookie? Click here to make it happen!