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Long hair doesn't fool anyone: This kid's all boy


May 26, 2007

Malachai Payne, an 11-year-old fifth-grader who attends gifted classes at Rover Elementary School, has taken some ribbing from his classmates about his mullet haircut. Mistaking him for a girl, waitresses regularly ask his mom what her “daughter” would like to order.

But this Little League baseball player and red belt in karate hasn’t let a little teasing stop him from his goal: growing his hair long for a good cause.

Malachai is supporting Locks of Love, an organization that makes wigs for children who have lost their hair due to a medical condition.

When he first made his decision to let his hair grow long, however, it wasn’t because of his desire to help others.

“I started growing it so I could have a ponytail like Anakin Skywalker,” said Malachai, a fan of the original Star Wars trilogy in which Skywalker is the recurring protagonist.

But when he heard about Locks of Love, he decided to keep growing his hair so he could donate it to another young person.

“I thought it would be pretty cool,” he said.

Julie Hooker, owner of Julie’s Hairtailors at The Lakes in Tempe, volunteered to cut Malachai’s hair at no cost, as she does for any donor whose hair matches Locks of Love’s criteria.

“I respect the kids that take this initiative,” Hooker said. “I’m always happy to do their cut; I enjoy knowing young people who care enough to do something for others.”

Locks of Love provides recipients with a custom, vacuum-fitted hairpiece made entirely from donated human hair. The process is designed for children who have experienced a total loss of scalp hair and does not require the use of tape or glue.

Most of the applicants suffer from an auto-immune condition called alopecia areata, for which there is no known cause or cure. Others have suffered severe burns or received radiation treatment to the brain stem, in addition to a number of other dermatological conditions that result in permanent hair loss.

Malachai says he felt sympathetic toward kids experiencing hair loss and decided to get a buzz cut in order to donate the longest ponytail possible. He chose May 23 for his haircut because it was the day before school let out for the summer.

After wearing his long hair all year, he said he thought walking into school on the last day with a buzz cut might cause, well, a buzz.

As he prepared for that moment, Malachai said:

“My teacher will probably say, ‘Who are you?’”



Photo by Gwen Henson


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