It’s the last week of Alopecia Awareness Month, a time period devoted to shining light on an autoimmune disorder affecting 6.8 million Americans and 147 million people globally. Learning what we have over time through pop culture or more personal relationships, we wanted to switch it up and do something different. For the first time-ever, our Editor, Richardine Bartee, and friend, Neil “Ill Trill Neil” Harris, went on record to discuss the incurable condition, how it has changed his life, and all the incredible things he’s achieved since his diagnosis many years ago.
GRUNGECAKE: There are many misconceptions about alopecia totalis, so if you will, I want you to unpack those things with me for an educated audience, but one that may not understand what it is. Before that, I want people to know how special you are and your recent accomplishments. After that, please tell them how we met.
Greetings world. My name is Neil Harris, also known as Ill Trill Neil, a renaissance man and alopecian (which is an individual who has any form of alopecia), actor, artist, Legislative Liaison for NAAF (National Alopecia Areata Foundation), music/film producer, songwriter and a father of two beautiful daughters.
There are three different types of conditions pertaining to alopecia itself, as having no hair in general. First, you have alopecia areata, which is patchy hair loss. Second, is alopecia totalis which is complete hair loss of the scalp. And lastly, you have alopecia universalis, which is complete body baldness, and that is the condition that I have.
Richardine and I met through my business partner Shaheed Suliaman of TriHorzon Ent. As we were looking for a great PR for my debut single titled ‘Trillin Man’, which did over 100k views independently and counting. We vibed out instantly. We have a lot in common, and now I have a lifetime friend of my soul family!
GRUNGECAKE: So now that your achievement list has grown, you may feel a sense of pride. What are some things you wish would happen to make life easier for you and others with your condition?
Growing up through this transformation made me realise that more awareness is needed for this condition. Some individuals may misdiagnose you based on just looks alone. Show empathy and inquire, if not sure. Environmental wise, getting rid of fossil fuels and finding healthier ways to “go green” the Earth, we intake a lot of smog and pollution that is in the atmosphere.
GRUNGECAKE: A few famous people with alopecia—which should. In your words, can you tell us what it is and walk us through your journey?
One day, I asked God to be different, physically and spiritually, this is what came about. I was heading in a direction of no return mentally. I had to to get to a righteous path. I have a saying, ”Champions don’t complain we’re too busy getting better.” Alot of blood, sweat, tears, years and shedding fears. I learned to embrace everything and be grateful for each day on this Earth.
GRUNGECAKE: How has alopecia changed your life? What are some of the things you face daily?
Alopecia has changed my life dramatically. It was a slow transformation from having hair to not having hair. I have to be very careful of what lotions, soaps and colognes that I buy. It may break out my skin into rashes. Making sure to keep my eyes covered as anything feels like glass in them.
GRUNGECAKE: Are you feeling any physical pain during inflammation? If you can describe it, how does it feel?
The only physical pain that I may endure is that when its too hot or too cold, the airs dryness can make my nose bleed. Being from Florida, I love the beach and getting sand in my eyes can be very painful and annoying.
GRUNGECAKE: What’s next for you?
I will be going to Washington DC as a Legislative Liaison for NAAF, to advocate for two bills H.R. 5430 and 1922, which re-designates wigs as durable medical equipment eligible for medicare coverage. I also have a book titled “The Hairless Gene” in the works, which talks about my mental health journey and experiences throughout my life, living with alopecia universalis. I will be continuing to create music and produce more films. At this point in time, I have fifteen movies total and counting, with four out now: ‘Gutter’ (3 million views), ‘Platinum’ (2 million views), ’10 Reasons Why Men Cheat’ (2.5 million views), and ‘Double Kill’ (2.5 million views), which are on streaming platforms such NBC Peacock, Tubi, Amazon Prime and Vudu.
If you or anyone in your close circle are dealing with this condition alone, encourage them to join this community for support. On September 30, in Houston, Texas, Mr Harris is hosting a fundraiser. Will you be in town, and are you interested in participating? Learn more about the walk via this link.