Utah Girl Who Suddenly Lost Her Hair to Alopecia Wins Her School's 'Crazy Hair Day' Contest with Style: 'Now I Love Being Bald'

"I'm thinking now it might be fun to decorate my head with some sparkly butterflies and flowers," Gianessa Wride tells PEOPLE

Photo: Daniella Wride

It was on New Year’s Day of this year that 7-year-old Gianessa Wride’s hair first started falling out in quarter-sized clumps as her mom brushed through her tangles in the morning.

Twenty days later, when her long, dark locks were completely gone, the Salem, Utah, first-grader and her family learned that she had the autoimmune disease alopecia and that her hair and eyebrows would likely never grow back.

“It was upsetting to her,” Gianessa’s mother, Daniella Wride, tells PEOPLE, “and it was hard for me as well, but not because of what she looks like. I was more upset thinking that somebody might bully my daughter and I didn’t want her to ever feel less beautiful than she is.”

Daniella Wride

So when Daniella learned that Gianessa’s school was holding a “Crazy Hair Day” competition during Spirit Week last month, she came up with a brilliant idea: Since her daughter hated wigs, and scarves didn’t stay wrapped around her head very well, why not simply decorate her head and celebrate her baldness?

While walking through the scrapbooking department at a local discount store, Daniella, 29, came across a large selection of adhesive jewels — the perfect way for a glitter-loving girl with no hair to participate in Crazy Hair Day.

Daniella Wride

Although Gianessa was nervous at first that her Salem Elementary schoolmates might find her bejeweled head a bit odd, her worries subsided as soon as she walked into the classroom. Everyone not only loved her new look, they awarded her first place in the craziest hair competition.

Now that photos of Gianessa’s new look are going viral, she’s hoping to come up with some additional ways to highlight her bald head.

“I was sad at first when I lost all my hair,” she tells PEOPLE, “but now I love being bald. I can do things to my head that other kids can’t. I’m thinking now it might be fun to decorate my head with some sparkly butterflies and flowers.”

Gianessa has always loved anything “sparkly, shiny or glittery” and hopes to become a fashion designer one day, says Daniella, who works as a registered nurse and has two other children, Liam, 3, and Killian, 1, with her husband, Tyler, 30.

Daniella Wride

“So putting stick-on jewels on her head really is a good fit for her personality,” she says. “And it adds some fun to what could be a stressful time for a girl with no hair. It’s my hope that she’ll continue to want to be herself and express herself in any way she feels comfortable, as she grows older.”

Daniella is hoping that the overwhelming positive response Gianessa has received will help raise awareness about alopecia and inspire others to be more accepting of people without hair. She believes that her daughter’s hair loss may have been triggered by stress brought on after the death of her grandmother.

Daniella Wride

“Your hair doesn’t make who you are — it’s what inside that counts,” she tells PEOPLE. “That’s what we tell Gianessa. People feel inspired by her, and that’s wonderful. We’re hopeful that she’ll show other bald kids that they can also embrace their baldness and can rock any look they want, in any way they can.”

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