Ricki Lake is freeing herself from three decades of shame — and she looks darn good doing it.
"I am finally ready to share my secret. Deep breath Ricki.... Here goes," the "Hairspray" actress wrote on Instagram this week. "I have been struggling with hair loss for most of my adult life."
After three decades of "suffering in silence," Lake shared a photo of her shaved head and penned a long, revealing message about the "debilitating, embarrassing, painful, scary, depressing, lonely" battle that began in the late 1980s. "There have been a few times where I have even felt suicidal over it," she wrote.
Although she notes there are all sorts of contributing factors — pregnancies, stress, weight fluctuations and genetics among them — Lake believes the root issue traces back to "Hairspray," during which her then-healthy hair was repeatedly processed with harsh chemicals and teased into the now-iconic ultra-teased bouffant. (Today, the character of Tracy Turnblad is typically portrayed by actresses wearing wigs.)
Over time, Lake says she became accustomed to wearing faux hair extensions as she tested all types of growth products and systems, from vitamin supplements to getting steroid shots in her head. Some of the solutions actually worked, but only temporarily: "My hair would recover and then shed again. It was maddening."
Lake, 51, sought both physical and emotional treatment as she hid her hair loss from the public. But in recent weeks, she decided to buzz her hair short and simply come clean. "It is a new year and new decade and a new me," she wrote on Facebook.
She added that she'll sometimes wear faux hair, "but now it is for fun, not because I am hiding anything. I am so done with hiding."
The candid post has already proven resonant with fans, with many commenting that they quietly face identical struggles. "Welcome to the new you without dealing with the stress of hair loss," one wrote alongside a photo of her own shaved head.
"Thank you for living your truth and speaking out," wrote the mom of a child who has alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes sudden hair loss. "You look absolutely beautiful!!"
"Good for you for letting go of all the expectations society puts on us as women!" another said. "I mean, if a man starts to lose his hair he would be told to shave it."
The influx of support isn't lost on Lake: "I am not alone in this," she wrote, "and my goal is to help others while at the same time unshackle myself from this quiet hell I have been living in."
Lake's fresh start comes three years after the suicide of her ex-husband, Christian Evans, which left her devastated. The couple had separated in large part due to his battle with bipolar disorder, but they continued to live together and support each other after the split.