Search icon


02nd Apr 2014

The Courageous And Brave Story Behind This #NoMakeUpSelfie

Emer Molloy has been hiding a secret for 10 years.

Emer Molloy has been hiding a secret for 10 years and just last week she decided to give friends a “heads” up and reveal her true identity. 

The mum-of-three has suffered with alopecia universalis since the age of 21 after developing it during pregnancy. Emer’s father also had the same condition and died just over five years ago from throat cancer, having never smoked.

One major regret her father had was that he never embraced his baldness and got rid of his “carpet” sooner. In a way his daughter followed in his footsteps which meant that, until last week, Emer’s husband had never seen her without hair.

It was only when she was nominated by a friend to complete the #NoMakeUpSelfie campaign in aid of the Irish Cancer Society that she decided to stop hiding behind a wig and uploaded an image to Facebook that received a phenomenal response from friends.

An avid listener to The Ray D’Arcy Show, Emer sent in her heart-warming story to Today FM and let’s just say, the email left us a little choked up.

Emer Molloy you’re one incredible lady.


Dear Ray,

I appreciate your time is precious so I will try to keep this email as brief as the story allows but I believe I need to thank you for being part of a journey that last week came to a “head” in quite a fantastic way. Please enjoy the read keeping in mind its a ten year story so this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Last Friday, March 13th I woke up to a “nomakeupselfie” nomination to which I had been secretly dreading, so much so I hardly slept a wink on Thursday night knowing it was coming. It wasn’t the fact of wearing no make up and posting it on facebook for all to see and judge, afterall it was for the Irish cancer society and has since raised an incredible amount of money. Also let me just stress if I could go without makeup and have my hair tossed up in a messy bun on a daily basis that is the type of cailín I would be. Problem was I have been suffering with alopecia universalis for the past 10 years, this fact known only by my very close family and friends. Losing it first when I was pregnant at the age of 21 and ranging in its fascinating appearance of a mohican and bald sides to a year later having a bald top and tuffs of hair on the sides of my head,sporting one eyebrow with half an eyelash on the opposite side. Random I know and almost laughable now when I am writing this but then there was the complete loss of all hair 5 years ago. Don’t get me wrong it has it’s advantages but unfortunately they don’t outweigh the disadvantages.

My father died on Christmas eve morning 2008 in St.Francis hospice Raheny, from throat cancer,he never smoked. I went from having my eyebrows and eyelashes and 3/4 a head of hair to having no hair whatsoever on the day he was buried, 3 days later, on the December 27th. He to had alopecia universalis and never had the courage to go without his “carpet” until he was getting treatment for the cancer and I know this was one of his regrets. I also know now after speaking to my mum that the alopecia killed him on the inside, changed him into an angry man, who lost himself and hid away from the world, sometimes still in bed when I would get home for lunch from secondary school. He couldn’t deal with it, he was a great looking man, fit and healty, even played for Dublin in Croke park back in the day. I could never understand his anger as a child, now I appreciate the stuggle he had with himself.

I married my childhood sweet heart, John, 8 months later,walkin down the same aisle my father had been carried up not long before. Until last week he too had never seen me without my hair.

The next few years were difficult as I struggled to come to terms with having no hair at all and no sign of any regrowth. At times I would go as far as saying it was torture. It was celtic tiger time, beautiful girls and guys my age flaunting their fabulously confident selves and just too quick to judge and comment on everything and everyone. I felt I always looked the same. You know your bald when your getting dressed for a night out and there is only one way you can do your hair!

I had two little munchkins at this stage and was working part time. On my days off if it was raining after I dropped the kids to school, I would go back to bed,feeling sad/angry and looking back now following in my fathers footsteps. Only difference was I was a totally different person when I was with my kids, they brought me so much joy and kept me too busy to concentrate on this ONE negative thing in my life that had such a massive hold on me.

Being from a family of two i was more then happy with my boy and girl, both in school and i was working part-time. I could never have imagined having more children then my mom, she was a legend and worked so hard for us. My husband however came from a family of 5 and “convinced” me to have the magic 3rd child which thankfully I was lucky enough to be able to have and we both decided I would stay at home as the almighty-full “crash” had happened, work was scarce & I became an at home mom with 3 kids when i was 30. A lot of our friends and family had emigrated and we spoke of moving to New Zealand for a couple of years but thankfully John has been able to keep business trucking his way, although he was away a lot and I spent quite some time on my own.

I listened to your show every morning, in the car, in my kitchen- cried at some of the stories, laughed out load at others, sang like I was the “next big thing”, danced with my baby girl, listened and could relate to several stories you covered on depression, mental health issues, eating disorders & I started to run. This very week last year actually, in a pair of converse runners and 3/4 length combats with a hole in the arse and bleach stains on the front. Up portmarnock beach like forest gump, well actually only half a kilometer, stopped and burst into tears, ran again, stop start, stop start through tears and snot all the way to the top, totally forgetting I had to turn around and get back down the beach as well. I looked across at beautiful Ireland’s eye, and remembered what my dads last wish was when he was moving to the hospice. He just wanted to drive by and look out at the beach one last time. He never got that wish as he was too weak when being transferred and only survived 36 hours after he was moved.

I was like a beetroot, steam coming off me and I started screaming, no one was around, it started to rain and looking back down the empty beach I pulled my wig off, turned my head upside down and stuck it under the water. What a feeling , I felt alive by myself for the first time in a long time.

From that day on I decided it was time for change in my life- no more feeling sorry for myself, be greatful for being able to go to the beach and run whenever I wanted, this one place that was my fathers last wish to see and he couldn’t. I stopped my few glasses of vino on a Friday night, getting up to do Malahide parkrun every Saturday I could, getting better every week. I said to myself if I can not work in a “proper job” I will work on myself , my well being, my mind, my body. I was surprised I had found such a great friend- myself. For the first time ever I started appreciating all the great things I could do, running, laughing, dancing, loving. Now when it’s raining, I go for a run.
Instead of waking up to a blank face with no eyebrows or lashes and starting my day off with a negitive vibe, my mam helped me pay to get my eyebrows and eyeliner tattooed on. Even tho I looked like I had been in the ring with Mike Tyson for 3 days , 5 days later I ran the Flora mini marathon, my first 10k and was so delighted my body could do that fairly comfortably & from there I haven’t looked back. I cleared out all the things I didn’t need in my life, items the held bad memories, Facebook “friends” that would walk by me in the shop, de-cluttered my life.

I did my first half marathon in the phoenix park in September and as soon as I could sign up for the Laura Lynn half million half marathon, I did and set up my charity page.

Last week was my biggest, best and most challenging move yet, please see below the picture I posted shaking like a leaf as my “selfie” on Facebook . To say I was shocked by the response would be a complete understatement. The donations/ kind words from people I have known for years and never knew my suituation to complete strangers sending me mails telling me about their situations, honestly has moved me beyond compare. One girl describing when she lost her hair as feeling like “the loneliest person in the world, who hid away and non- stop cried for months”.

Bearing in mind only 4 people had only ever seen my naked head, when I woke up on Friday morning to my “no makeup” nomination I thought f*ck it(excuse my language) just go for it. Alas here I was in my cosy bed, bald and taking a selfie for the first time with no wig or should I say “my mask” on. I could have taken a picture of how i look everyday and i would have stayed stuck in the same unwanted rut I had been in for years. The time just felt right to say to people “this is who I am”, no hair, don’t care, I’m vulnerable but strong, I’m not where I want to be but miles away from where I was. I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders.

Completely taking the piss I raised my fundraising target for Laura Lynn to €3000, saying I would probably be more aerodynamic if I ran wig free & although I never in my wildest dreams expected it to reach even near that amount, I’m scared to tell you Ray, I’m almost there! Over 2 grand raised in just a few days.

Sorry I am finishing now but before I do (for the golden globe bit of the story) I just want to thank everyone from the bottom of my bottom for all the wonderful message, donations and support. To my family who have always supported my weirdness, my pals always by my side, they know who they are & to YOU Ray for helping me to this point by discussing a wide variety of topics on your great show that made me feel, “you know what, it’s ok not to be ok and not your stereotypical “normal” but get it out there so you don’t ever feel alone.
I cannot wait to be in the phoenix park on Good Friday, I’ll hopefully be on your tail if your still aiming to achieve that 1.55, as that would be an awesome PB for me and something I have been training for.

And what can I say about the wonderful charity you have chosen for your amazing event. Laura Lynn has a special place in my heart as a mother to 3 children and also a friend to families who have lost angels way before their time.

I promise this is the “last word” if you are still reading this email, thank you for listening to my words. I have always wanted to write in about different issues but never have the confidence to do so, as you can see I made up for it with this long ass email.

Big Love,
See you in two week, can’t wait


Here is Emer’s courageous Facebook post:

If you would like to make a donation to Emer you can do so here.