Ali Lambert Voron on How to Celebrate the Beauty of What Differentiates Us
Ali Lambert Voron of Briarcliff Manor is many things. She is a voiceover actress, motivational speaker, blogger, entrepreneur, philanthropist and a mother. She also happens to be bald. Yet, instead of allowing that single attribute to define her, Voron flipped the narrative and is redefining society’s views of “normal.” Through optimism, humor and a steadfast decision to be happy, she harnesses every challenge life presents, transforming them into opportunities.
Lean and long, with bright eyes and a warm smile, Voron’s captivating presence radiates both inner and outer beauty. From a young age, she found joy in spreading happiness and light, saying, “My mom always strived to make others smile, especially if she sensed they were in a bad mood. I inherited that. I had an amazing childhood. Then, I lost my hair.”
At the age of 16, Voron began noticing bald patches in her head. Those discoveries prompted a confusing journey of misdiagnoses including hair-pulling disorders, depression and the potential of lupus. Voron recalls, “I felt happy and didn’t think I was stressed, but then I began second guessing myself. When a dermatologist finally diagnosed me with alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that results in hair loss everywhere on the body, it was almost a relief.”
With the support of her family, Voron met the diagnosis with what would become her trademark optimism. A variety of treatments including serums and topical injections were used that produced hair regrowth, but only temporarily. “The most insecure part for me,” she says, “was that I never actually imagined being bald. I thought I’d have patches, but that it would come back. I never foresaw what actually happened and over a period of a year, my hair got thinner and thinner until it eventually all fell out.”
Initially, Voron bought a wig, but that didn’t last long and she emerged from the experience stronger than she thought possible. She explains, “Wearing a wig just wasn’t me and it didn’t take long before I whipped it off for good. I realized that I wanted to be myself regardless of whether that broke social norms. Strangely, I almost viewed myself as lucky for having learned this valuable lesson early on.”
A Sense of Humor Helps
Losing her hair at such a formative time was not without challenges. The headmaster of the private school Voron attended encouraged her to run for president of the school, a recommendation Voron credits as a “true gift.” With guidance from her “very funny” parents, she launched into campaign mode and put together a slideshow of bald leaders who she hoped to emulate including Mahatma Gandhi, President Eisenhower and Mr. Clean since he is the “leader of household cleaning products.” She won the election and gained a valuable platform to prove that although she was different, she remained the same, explaining, “As president, you make speeches in front of existing and prospective students, alumni and parents regularly. I got to show my community and myself that I was okay–different, but normal and even a leader–and, I got that opportunity over and over again.”
A Cycle of Kindness
Her story gained traction and Jennifer Saltiel, a family friend and aspiring writer (coincidentally, also a current Chappaqua resident) reached out. The resulting article, No-Hair Day, was published in “Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul” as well as “Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul.” Voron began receiving letters in droves from people undergoing cancer treatment who were inspired to forgo their wigs to teenagers who were encouraged to look past their own insecurities. Voron says, “Those letters inspired me to realize how much we can help one another. I helped them and their outreach helped me. It was an amazing cycle.”
Years later, a chance meeting at the New Orleans’ Jazz Fest, introduced Voron to her husband. A fellow Philadelphia native, they had been orbiting one another for years, as his mother was even Voron’s second grade Hebrew school teacher. The first years of marriage would also show that they shared a strong sense of resilience. Voron explains, “I got very sick with ulcerative colitis in the beginning of our marriage. Autoimmune diseases like alopecia and colitis are closely genetically linked. I ultimately had my colon removed. Though I have no recollection, my parents reported that when I left the operating room, I raised my fist in the air and said, ‘the monster is out!’ At that same time, my husband’s mom died of brain cancer. Like my alopecia, these traumatic experiences made us stronger and taught us that we will emerge from the bad days to see the good ones.”
The Vorons have extended that philosophy to how they parent their children, ages three and six. Voron explains, “I love that my kids have a mom who looks different because it sends the message that it’s not just okay to be different–it’s cool. If you’re not different, you’re the same and that’s not exciting or special.” So, when Voron learned that a bald Bratz Doll hit the market, she naturally seized the opportunity.
The couple launched a grassroots effort, “Bald Dolls 4 Bald Kids.”
“I understand firsthand how having this doll would be so impactful, so it became my mission to get enough dolls to the National Alopecia Conference, a place where going wigless is the norm,” explained Voron. With only three weeks until the conference, armed with sheer will and energy, the Vorons raised $14K, enough money to provide dolls for every child in attendance at the event. The family maintains a small inventory of the dolls, which they distribute at intervals to children with cancer and alopecia.
A Path of Inspiration
Voron’s experiences have laid the foundation for living a life with a focus on kindness and empathy. “Initially, it bothered me that at least one person would approach me to ask about my hair daily, until my husband pointed that each of these people had their own story to tell. It literally changed my whole perspective. By simply giving them ten minutes, I was giving them an important gift. Now, I go through my day wondering how I can help that random stranger. You can let something destroy you and crumble into a ball or you can make the decision to not allow that. That’s an empowering concept and it’s my privilege to share it.” And, Voron spreads that message, proudly embracing her differences as what makes her special as she inspires everyone in her path to do the same.