Miss Delaware Kayla Martell began losing her hair at the age of 13

By Thailan Pham
Updated January 15, 2011 11:30 AM
Credit: Gail Albert Halaban

Kayla Martell may look like any other pretty blonde from a distance, but there’s one thing makes her a little different from the other contestants vying for the Miss America crown: she’ll be wearing a custom-made wig for the pageant.

The bald beauty, who began losing her hair at the age of 13, suffers from hair loss due to alopecia areata. With the disease as her platform, the current Miss Delaware hopes to educate the public about it.

“I’m still getting used to long hair,” says Martell, who typically goes wig-free. “So we’ll style it away from my face with big curls.”

At home, her collection has grown to include “a Miss Delaware wig, a Miss America wig, a ‘soccer mom’ wig and a Shirley Temple wig that stays curled” – not to mention a mannequin named Sheila, who wears her wigs on off-days.

The Milford, Del., native has been a fan of the Miss America pageant since long before her struggles with alopecia. “My mom took me on a date to watch the Miss America pageant when I was four years old,” she says. “So just being here is a dream come true for me.”

The Miss America Pageant, which celebrates its 90th anniversary this year, airs Saturday (9 p.m. ET) on ABC.