In a world of more than 50 million Americans living with autoimmune diseases, the stories of discrimination against them are all too common. This is the tale of Julia Apodaca-Lane, a woman battling not only psoriatic arthritis but also the stigma attached to her condition.
Psoriatic arthritis is a daily struggle for Julia. It comes with the added burden of psoriasis, a condition where skin cells build up, leading to itchy, dry patches. The most critical fact to remember about psoriasis is that it is neither rare nor contagious, but unfortunately, ignorance sometimes fuels discrimination.
Why One Hairstylist Refused to Give Customer a Haircut
Julia decided to share her recent encounter with discrimination when she went to her local SmartStyle salon in Tuscaloosa for a simple haircut. She recounted the painful moment when the stylist, instead of welcoming her, asked, “Are you contagious?” The hurt in her voice was evident as she explained, “I’ve got some psoriasis on my forehead, that you can see. It’s on my scalp. I have psoriatic arthritis. So it’s just psoriasis.”
It’s disheartening that some people remain unaware of the nature of psoriasis and the fact that it poses no risk to others. It’s a condition that shouldn’t interfere with something as basic as a haircut.
While Lataya Aaron, from the Alabama Board of Cosmetology, clarified that stylists have the right to refuse service if they believe their health is at risk, it’s crucial to emphasize that compassion should always be part of the equation. She noted, “A kind word goes a long way. It should have been personal and private. […] I feel that because you want to treat people like you would want to be treated.”
For Julia, the experience at SmartStyle was far from compassionate, and although the stylist was within her rights to refuse service, the emotional toll on Julia was undeniable. As she recalled the incident, tears welled up in her eyes: “I got to the car and I just sat there and sobbed. Just cried and cried and cried. I mean, like, ugly, heaving sobbing.”
What made it worse was the heightened self-consciousness Julia felt: “I’m paranoid about it. About people looking at me and not knowing what it is. And she made me feel self-conscious. She made me feel like I had done something wrong. That there was something wrong with me. And while I know that these things aren’t true, it doesn’t mean that you’re not going to think them.”
Why a Woman Highlights the Importance of Speaking Kindly
Julia’s story doesn’t end with her struggle; it’s also about finding strength and solidarity in a support group for people with psoriatic arthritis. She found encouragement and perspective, understanding that judgments are often passed without knowing the battles others are fighting.
In Julia’s words: “You don’t know that about the person, so be kind. You know, whether they have something wrong with them or not, you should be able to give them the best service that you can.”
The good news is that Julia’s story caught the attention of SmartStyle’s District Manager, Jason Emerson, who has taken corrective measures to prevent future incidents with that stylist. Moreover, he’s turned this unfortunate event into an opportunity for the company.
SmartStyle will provide continuing education for all its employees at salons across the state to raise awareness about autoimmune diseases and to ensure that no one else feels the pain Julia experienced.
Julia’s story reminds us that compassion, empathy, and education are powerful tools against discrimination. It’s a story of resilience and a call for a kinder, more understanding world.
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