The Bald Mermaid: A Memoir

by Kay Bourne

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday January 15, 2014

The Bald Mermaid: A Memoir

Sheila Bridges, a commercially successful and prominent interior designer, whose elegantly laid out penthouse apartments are seen in high end magazines, goes interior in "The Bald Mermaid."

Bridges' revealing memoir of a personal hell, that her survivor instinct eventually helped her reframe into a paradise, was jumpstarted by her hairdresser. It was the first hint of some really bad news that over the next weeks and months and years would send the celebrity into a tail spin: There were two small bald spots in her otherwise lush head of hair.

Bridges' was diagnosed with alopecia, an autoimmune disorder for which there is not yet a cure (or even much of an understanding by the medical profession). The remedy for the baldness that eventually ensued was wigs, which Bridges loathed for being as scratchy as a wool sweater. She chose to shave her head.

Her lavishly illustrated memoir is a witty, edgy, self-probing reminiscence going back to a privileged childhood in Philadelphia, where her special gifts in art first took hold and her confrontational personality began to bloom (she plagued the golfers on the course which abutted her home - a club whose rules didn't permit membership for African Americans). Her book, by the way, is very much a loving take on her role as a daughter within a tight family circle, as well as a meditation on the businesswoman side of things.

Interestingly, Bridges' self-awareness also takes into account an intense shyness, which battles with her single-mindedness to succeed in a high stakes, competitive business world, whose distaff side is usually composed of socially well-fixed white women or men. She's a prickly person whose demure exterior and fun manner belie the lambasting her tormentors may well take on the chin.

And yet, she more than makes it in the business world. You have probably seen her interior decoration for such luminaries as music mogul Andre Harrell, best-selling novelist Tom Clancy, and her headline grabbing Harlem office decoration for Bill Clinton. Time magazine hailed her as one of America's best talents.

For any woman (and double that for African American women who have issues about hair dating back to slavery), hair loss carries a profound psychological impact, because it changes how society now views you.

Bridges delves into this cultural friction as it applies to everything from her TV career (she loses her highly-rated TV show and is no longer invited on other people's shows as a guest), to hair care in childhood and its impact on her personality, to relationships with high-powered black men she dates, and on to the greater world, which tends to assume that her baldness is an indication that she is undergoing cancer treatments.

"The Bald Mermaid"

Pointed Leaf Press, LLC.