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BALD IS BEAUTIFUL: MY JOURNEY TO BECOMING
You may remember Jodi Pliszka from the notorious moment in which she pulled her wig off on the new ABC show "American Inventor." Out of 100,000 contestants to audition for the show, the Muskego resident made it to the final round.
Her invention? HEADLINE IT! a thin disposable liner made from high tech wick wear that affixes securely inside any wig, hard hat, baseball cap or headwear item. The liner keeps the head cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter and is a SAFETY PRODUCT by stopping sweat from rolling into the eyes. The back layer on the liner absorbs oils, salts and odors and traps them in the liner, increasing the health and hygiene or any headwear item. HEADLINE IT! was patented in March 2005. It is a solution to a problem that strikes cancer patients, soldiers, firemen and anyone else who wears something for long periods of time on their heads, including Pliszka who is permanently bald. "I do wear ‘hair’ to blend in," she admits. "But I know firsthand how uncomfortable and hot wigs can be."
Wigs trap sweat and oil and can be scratchy, particularly if you work out like Pliszka does. Currently the best make-do item on the market to alleviate the problem is a sanitary panty liner, which Pliszka notes is not the most dignified item to stick on your head. "People don’t really think about this problem because, as a general rule, you don’t wear a wig when you’re healthy," she says.
About nine years ago, she started playing with the idea that there had to be something better for bald people. She curved the liner, made it bigger, gave it a thin adhesive and made it out high tech wick wear, similar to Under Armor material. Now, HEADLINE IT! is being sold in eleven different countries as the number one accessory for WIGS, HARD HATS, BASEBALL CAPS, MOTORCYCLE HELMETS, and any headwear item. HEADLINE IT! is being sold to our US MARINES, ARMY and AIRFORCE troops and was used in the 2008 BEIJING OLYMPICS by four time Olympian, Sheila Taormina, who endorses the product highly.
But the American Inventor is not her first time in the national spotlight. She’s also appeared bald on the Montel Williams Show, Mike and Maty Show, Jane Whitney Show, and recently on Real Milwaukee, Fox Sports, NBC, ABC, CBS news and many other shows, internationally. Lifetime TV’s HEALTH CORNER did Jodi’s informative story on Alopecia and can be seen on the WALGREEN’S website, as well.
If you haven’t seen her on TV, perhaps you recognize her from her stint as a model, sans hair, or saw her signing books at Barnes and Noble as an award winning author.
How you should remember Jodi Pliszka is the way she’s taken a proverbial bushel full of life’s lemons and made one fantastic batch of lemonade. "I started losing my hair at age 13," she says. "We found a bald spot while braiding my hair. I looked like a cancer patient losing hair from chemotherapy. But I wasn’t sick at all."
Pliszka’s mother took her from doctor to doctor, and then from doctor to doctor again. "They had no idea what was wrong with me," she remembers. "I had every allergy test, every solution applied and then they started injecting my scalp with cortisone, which worked. I seemed to be fine; I thought that maybe I’d outgrown it."
Until her 20th birthday, when she was in a car accident. She walked away with a number of serious injuries, but the worst was yet to happen.
"My hair started falling out in clumps," she says. "My eyelashes fell out all at once, like a big spider. Within a few weeks, I only had a few tufts left. Within a month, all my hair was gone."
The car accident itself didn’t cause her alopecia universalis, but the trauma likely jump-started the condition, which left Pliszka without a single hair on her body, not even in her nose. It’s not an inherited condition, but there is some link to other disorders such as allergies, hypothyroidism (which Pliszka also has) and psoriasis.
Alopecia universalis is an autoimmune disorder. Only one percent of the entire alopecia population has universalis. People with alopecia universalis produce too many white blood cells.
"My body thinks that the hair is an infection, so it kills off the hair cells," she explains. "However, because I overproduce white blood cells, I have a super woman-like immune system."
That, of course, didn’t make the condition any easier to deal with for Pliszka, who was attending UW-Oshkosh at the time. "I’d always been an overachiever in high school and very busy," she says. "I really hadn’t taken the time to be ‘feminine’ until I was in college. I had just ‘discovered’ I was a girl and then I lost my hair. Girls aren’t bald! It was a very black phase for me."
But a few years later, she made what she called a "survivor’s decision" that really directed the rest of her life. "I moved to Ohio," she says. "I had to get away." Of course, it wasn’t possible to leave her baldness behind, but the move also brought her to an epiphany. "One day after crying my eyes out, I decided to give it all up and just live my life with what I’d been given," she says. "It was like God had said, ‘Hey, girl, this isn’t so bad.’ I was humbled and that was what helped me to open up."
She believes that suffering brings understanding, particularly when it comes to understanding yourself. "I always felt that God had something in mind for me and I went through all of this so I could show people that bald can be beautiful. When I viewed it that way, I realized that my whole life was being directed from above."
The direction actually fit in with what Pliszka had in mind for herself from the beginning. She’d initially attended college as a psychology major with a goal of becoming a therapist. Ultimately, she would earn a master’s degree and start her work on a Ph.D.
But beyond the academic training and the ability to use it in her career, she started to focus on what she could do in her daily life to change people’s perceptions. "I started doing little things on the news," she says. "I did some modeling. I knew that education reduces prejudice so that was my focus. I became an advocate for bald women."
The former self-described high school overachiever kept overachieving. Now, Pliszka holds the titles of Award winning Author and Inventor, Company President/CEO, Professional Speaker, The world’s leading SOLUTIONOLOGIST (a leader in taking challenges and turning them into opportunities.), Triathlete, Black Belt in TKD and busy single MOM ( her favorite title yet!)
Pliszka’s journey into the literary world began with her daughter’s infatuation with Animal Planet. "We happened to catch a show that featured a Hairless Sphynx Cat and I thought, ‘God has a sense of humor because he makes bald cats,’" she laughs. "I also realized that there was no better pairing than a bald woman with a bald cat."
Ultimately, Pliszka and her daughter ended up sharing their home with two Sphynx cats, Gizmo and Bella. The two charming cats inadvertently became the stars of her two books as well as a comfortable jumping off point to discuss baldness with her own daughter.
In 2005, Pliszka wrote, illustrated and published two award-winning books, "Bella and Gizmo’s Adventure — the Hairless Sphynx Cats" and "Bella Gets a New Sweater." The books aim to help children understand the differences in people and the world, as well as to undo stereotypes. Pliszka uses her own books as a tool when working with children from the Look Good Feel Better Group of the American Cancer Society, at the Alopecia Support Group and at her daughter’s own school.
She went on to design, develop and produce accompanying stuffed cats, which resemble the original Bella and Gizmo.
The project has earned Pliszka the 2005 Parent-to-Parent Adding Wisdom Award for best children’s books and dolls. "The more children learn about being different, the more prejudice will be eliminated. My goal is to educate people about alopecia and try to break the Barbie-doll stereotype that children get slammed with daily in media campaigns."
Jodi is the celebrated host on RIPLEY'S BELIEVE IT OR NOT radio, hosting WEIRD MEDICAL MALADIES MINUTE and writing a column for The National Hair Journal, as the Solutionolgist, as well.
She expands her message to include people of all ages. "I want to encourage children and adults with issues that make them feel different that — through my experiences I want to teach people that — who you are is the most important thing in the world, not what you look like. GOD gave me a shiny bald head, an education and a voice to make a difference in this world. Losing my hair helped me find WHO I AM!” Jodi is a Key note Motivational Speaker and works as THE WORLD’S LEADING SOLUTIONOLOGIST- a person that takes life’s challenges and turns them into opportunities. “Anything can be fixed with a roll of duct tape. A ‘positive attitude’ is duct tape for the soul.”
Despite her books and her business ventures, as well as her professional accomplishments, Pliszka remains humble. "I think success waited until I was at this point, where I could get excited about a cause and do something about it," she says. "I’m happy because I now know who I am and, most importantly, when I leave this earth I know I’ve made a difference to other people." For more information on Jodi Pliszka or to order her books or HEADLINE IT! product please visit her Web site at www.HeadlineIt.info or www.TheSolutionologist.com. Jodi is currently booking speaking engagements. For more information please write to Jodi@HeadlineIt.info