A winning smile, a beautiful figure... and a shaved head: Meet the Alaskan beauty queen who opts for bald look in aid of cancer research
By Daily Mail Reporter
PUBLISHED: 17:24, 16 March 2012 | UPDATED: 18:19, 16 March 2012
Long locks are part-and-parcel of the image-obsessed world of beauty queens. But one brave young woman has broken from the norm, choosing to sport a shaved head rather than her usual brown, bobbed hairstyle.
Debbe Ebben chose to complete the 'public service' section of her push for the Miss Alaska crown by taking clippers to her mane in aid of cancer research.
The reigning Miss Chugiak-Eagle River has raised more than $4,000 towards children's cancer research for the St Baldrick's Foundation, and last weekend, delivered on a promise to people who pledged by allowing her brown tresses to be buzzed off.
Hair raising: Debbe Ebben may be a beauty queen but she has an unconventional approach to what makes women attractive, choosing to shave her head to help raise money for cancer research
She's proud of raising money, but the underlying message is for children who lose their hair because of cancer treatments.
'You're proving it's OK to be bald regardless of whether you chose to be or not,' Ebben said.
Ebben, 23, stands five-feet-four inches tall, and her official talent is playing the piano. She has been entering pageants affiliated with Miss Alaska since 2007.
She used scholarship money to attend the University of Alaska Fairbanks for four years. She was motivated to get involved with St. Baldrick's by another beauty queen, Miss Virginia 2008 Tara Wheeler.
Near the end of her reign, Wheeler decided to raise $50,000 for St. Baldrick's and pledged to become a 'shavee' if she reached her goal.
'She inspired me to get involved with them,' Ebben said. 'She did it kind of on the side after her reign. I decided to make it my entire personal platform.'
Not your average beauty queen: 23-year-old Ms Ebben sports a shaved head and is raising money towards cancer research
Ebben was looking for a different kind of community project.
'It's my job as a title holder to make a really bold statement, and to be someone that people can look up to, and make an impact on the community. And that was really why I fell in love with it. It was something that was different. It was something that was unique.
'It was something that I could do and accomplish in a community and was something that everyone could get involved with.'
'It's my job as a title holder to make a really bold statement, and to be someone that people can look up to, and make an impact on the community'
Everyone included her mother Julie, who also pledged to shave her head. Debbe Ebben's turn began with auctioning off ponytails of her hair. KTUU-TV in Anchorage reported the shearing.
'It looks like I'm the Who from Whoville,' Ebben said. A barber finished the job.
Ebben has not decided whether to grow her hair out as the Miss Alaska Pageant approaches in June, with the chance to compete in the Miss America Pageant. She may, she said, rock the current hairdo. She doesn't think stubble will hurt her chances.
'I don't see it as anything negative. Girls wear extensions. Girls wear weaves. Girls wear wigs. There's no difference. The true beauty is what you emanate yourself. That's really what the Miss America organization is about. It's not what you look like, it's how you represent and carry yourself.'
Alisa Parrent, director of the Miss Chugiak-Eagle River program, calls Ebben courageous and said the sacrifice of her hair for a cause demonstrates how pageants are more than swimsuit competitions. Parrent also sees how it could affect a child.
Family hair affair: Ms Ebben's parents have joined her in her charitable mission, also taking clippers to their heads
'There's a lot of young girls who are just recently being diagnosed with cancer, that are going to be faced with losing their hair, and maybe they've always dreamed of being Miss America, and the idea of losing their hair is just devastating to them,' Parrent said.
'So to see Debbe, who is a beauty queen, and who says it's OK to beautiful and to be bald, that's just really touching.'
St Baldrick is a combination of 'bald' with 'St. Patrick,' said spokeswoman Traci Shirk by phone from Monrovia, Calif. The organization began on March 17, 2000, when three insurance executives turned a St. Patrick's Day party into a head-shaving event to help children with cancer.
The organization now raises money for childhood cancer research grants and has pulled in nearly $16 million this year. Events are held year-round, but nearly 800 are scheduled for March, Shirk said.
'It's pretty extraordinary when any female does it,' she said of head shaving. 'It's always a bigger stand, just because you know, hair and women. But definitely a beauty queen - someone who's in the spotlight ... we're really honored to have their support.'
Ebben's experience, along with her work with Children's Miracle Network, a Miss America cause, has shaped more than her hair. Instead of engineering, she's now studying to be a 'child life specialist' working with children in hospitals.
'They're kind of the in-between, go-to person to put the kid at ease, describe things to families, and interact with them at the hospital and really be a positive role model for them,' she said. 'You could say that pageants really led me to that career.
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