Maya: Hair Growth

Maya Baker, San Fransisco:

“My hair was a huge part of my identity. Though there have been many crazy good (and some crazy not so good) haircuts, for most of my adult life it has been very, very, long. Once I was out of college, I never cut more than an inch or so off the ends. I loved my hair. “I will never cut it,” I told people who admired my long chestnut waves of hair.

Imagine my shock when, with two small kids, separated from my husband, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had to get a mastectomy. I had to get chemotherapy. It was a nightmare.

Losing my hair was the hardest part of treatment. I decided not to tell my kids what was happening until it started happening. “Mom is taking some medicine to make sure the bump in my boob never comes back. And if it works, you’ll never believe it- my hair is going to fall out. And guess what? It must be working, because my hair is falling out right now!”

My 5 year old daughter was amazed. She pulled on a lock of hair and out it came. She pulled on another and another, and before we knew it, we were surrounded by my hair. I was bald.

Fast forward 11 years, a reconciliation has happened, and I am cancer free. My hair was long again, very very long. I wanted to donate my hair- give back, support kids or women who have been where I was. I learned that it was harder to donate grey hair, and though my longer hair was still brown, new hair growing was grey. Now was the time. My friend Nicole cut it in her salon, and my kids came with me to the appointment. It was important to me that they be there, to celebrate giving, to celebrate health, to celebrate family.

My intention was to grow it out again, but shorter hair is awfully easy. My identity is my own, hair or no hair.”

A Third

So California became the first state in the US to recognize non-binary people as a real gender identifier. Recently I’ve seen so many people debate non-binary people’s existence and it’s hard not to internalize it and keep quite it about it. This now inspired me to be more brave and unapologetic about my gender that I fought so hard to recognize in myself and advocate for.

I was looking back at old self-portraits and noticed that before I came to myself about my gender I often hid my face and body in self-portraits, never feeling comfortable with my body.  Once I finally had a word to identify who I was, things were crystal clear and I began to find healing from my dysphoria with self-portraits.

Here is a small bit of my journey.


I’m truly living my post grad life to its fullest potential. I am a Camera Assistant (CA), a Photographer’s assistant, and an intern for Fauxnque, a local SF Drag Queen. Post grad is really reflective time for me to figure out who I am as an artist and focus on my long term career goals instead of essays, tests, and a giant thesis hanging over my head. I think the hardest part about post grad is how easy it is to feel aimless and without a plan. It’s both freeing and terrifying at the same time.

These are some photos from my first time in a studio with Brian Brooks, a local SF photographer that I assist shoots for. I really value working with a photographer who works with SO many different types of cameras and uses film to create beautiful portraits.

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