Mugambi Nthiga is a man of many talents.
Celebrated for his role in the award-winning Kenyan film, Nairobi Half Life, Nthiga is also an accomplished director, thespian and screenplay writer.
Though he has been in the media numerous times for his professional accomplishments, Nthiga is making waves online for a different reason altogether: his hair, or more aptly the lack of it.
Joining an online body love campaign dubbed Flawnt It, the actor opened up about losing his hair in his early 20’s.
“People don’t believe this now, but I had a generous mane once. I even relaxed and gelled it when that was vogue. But now, there’s a very, very distinct bald spot forming and relentlessly spreading from the front of my head to the middle,” read the intro on his blog post.
At 22, Nthiga rocked a lush thick afro, but when he was 24-years-old his hairline begun to recede significantly.
This prompted him to see what could be done to maintain his mane: “I did the research. To be honest, I even considered getting the anti-balding treatment. But the cost of such products is prohibitively high. Additionally, none of them restore your hair-they just keep it from falling out for as long as you continue to use the product.”
It’s not news when a middle aged man’s hairline begins to recede. When you are young, it’s a whole different ballgame. Often, that shiny spot on the top of your head becomes the subject of discussion and comicality.
So how does Nthiga deal with Mzee Kipara jests?
“I find that I have an arsenal of quips or self-deprecating jokes handy in order to beat anyone to it. It’s a defense mechanism. At my most honest, my baldness is something I think on more than I should. I am skittish and self-conscious when the sparse, uneven blackness starts to show on the shiny brown head,” says Nthiga.
Jokes aside, male pattern baldness is a real issue-particularly if you work in an image conscious profession like Nthiga does.
“When you are bald in this industry, it restricts you to one look. Whereas other actors can change hairstyles to suite different characters, I’m stuck with my bald head,” tells Nthiga in an interview with Citizen Digital.
Renowned Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie once said that hair is political.
“Hair is hair – yet also about larger questions: self-acceptance, insecurity and what the world tells you is beautiful. For many black women, the idea of wearing their hair naturally is unbearable,” said Adichie in an interview with UK TV show, Channel 4 News.
Though her comments were more centered on women, the perceptions attached to hairstyles affect men as well. For Mugash, as he’s affectionately called by his friends, balding heads are not sexy.
“I don’t think a balding head is attractive in any way…Dreadlocks and afros on the other hand, are depicted as attractive or exotic or non-conformist. We objectify hair, and decide what looks beautiful or sexually attractive. Balding heads don’t count,” confesses Mugash.
So to keep his half-covered head from showing, Nthiga has had to make weekly trips to the barber shop since 2001. Though he has come to terms with his upara, the seasoned actor looks forward to a time when he will fully embrace his “flaw”.
“Maybe I’ll be that guy who makes half-covered heads sexy, I don’t know. I’ll just say that I look forward to the day where it’s normal for me and not something to consider in any negative light. Because these so called “flaws” are all in our heads,” concludes Nthiga.
Flawnt It is an online body love campaign that encourages people to accept and flaunt the things that they consider as flaws. Every week, the campaign shares story of different individuals, the various “flaws” that they have struggled with and how they dealing with them.
Photos courtesy of Kombo Mutuku Muoka, Urbantu Media.