Ella the Enchanted Princess is just like any other children’s book princess. She wears a crown, a pretty dress, and has animal friends to join her on adventures. But unlike other princesses, Ella is bald, and that’s exactly how author Rosaria Calafati envisioned her.
A mother of six children and a breast cancer survivor, Calafati created the character of Ella two years ago. Knowing what it felt like watching people look at her differently when she was bald, the Jackson, N.J., resident and full-time nanny decided to write a children’s book to combat that “othering” narrative. Her protagonist? None other than Ella, a bald princess.
“My experience with children and my experience [with cancer] is what started it all,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
In Who Are You?, the first book from the Ella the Enchanted Princess book series, Ella faces a huge problem. To get anywhere in the castle, she needs to pass a hallway of mirrors. She’s ashamed to look at herself at first, so she wears disguises. But with the help of Molly the mirror, she soon realizes the best way to pass by the mirrors is to show her true self. The princess learns that who she is and what she looks like is enough — a message that Calafati wants kids who read her book to learn.
“I want them to know their self-worth,” says Calafati, who underwent a lumpectomy and chemotherapy in 1997, resulting in her own hair loss. “I want them to know just because they like science or math or they don’t have hair, whatever it is, any kind of handicap, they’re just as beautiful and just as deserving.”
Calafati self-published the book on Amazon this October, but just announced her partnership with the Baldie Movement, a nonprofit organization that serves bald women and children who experience hair loss from cancer or alopecia, to help put the book in the hands of children who’d relate the most. It’s asking for donations to help send out holiday packages with the book to children experiencing hair loss.
“This year over 40,000 young girls and boys will lose their hair to chemotherapy treatments and autoimmune diseases such as Alopecia,” the site explains. “Our goal is to send a Little Baldie Love to 50 boys and girls.”
Good Morning My Bald Beauties, I have some awesome news I'd like to share with you. Rosaria Calafati, author of Ella…
Posted by The Baldie Movement on Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Ideas of beauty play a huge role in a kids’ self-esteem and even their mental state. Studies have linked hair loss from diseases like alopecia to mental health issues like depression and poor self-image.
For this reason, psychologist Vivian Diller tells Yahoo Lifestyle that norm-challenging books like Ella are vital to positively influence children’s ideas about the world and themselves early on.
“You can instill ideas in the minds of children that may later get more sticks,” she says. “The opportunity through books is to expand their thinking: A character with a lack of hair; it exposes young children to [an idea that doesn’t associate] baldness with illness. [That] association will grow over time and based on experience.”
Diller explains that self-esteem may be wrapped up in hair because it has almost always symbolized youth, health, and beauty.
“[A main character with] a lack of hair is one of the ways to expand that definition,” she says.
Calafati reveals she already has four more Ella stories waiting in the wings, including one that tackles bullying using an ugly Christmas tree.
“Every book, there’s something to be learned,” she says. Adults included.