No one should have to go through the treatment required to battle cancer. It can be painful, exhausting and rob you of certain features you’ve grown accustomed to having…like beautiful hair to brush and style. While it may not sound like much to some, for many battling cancer, losing their hair takes away something personal that is hard to live without. The daily reminder in the mirror leads many to seek wigs or other types of head coverings to feel a little bit more like their old selves again, but many wigs available are just not good enough…that’s where Christal Schanes hopes to make a difference!
“I studied visual arts at Illinois State University and double majored in costume design,” said Schanes. “In the costume shop is where I became exposed to hair and makeup. I graduated with my master’s degree in wig and makeup design at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) in 2003. I began teaching full time at UNCSA in 2012 while remaining a great part of the entertainment industry. I teach classes in entertainment wig building and more recently added a medical wig building class. With great support from the Dean of the School of Production & Design, Michael Kelley, I developed my Medical Wig Class in partnership with the Derrick L. Davis Cancer Center. I pair up their clients with my wig builders and, together, we build custom, highly realistic wigs for the medical clients.”
Quality wigs are extremely expensive and time-consuming to make, so finding a realistic wig at a price the average person can afford is nearly, if not completely, impossible. Christal knows what a truly quality wig is from her work as an Emmy-winning hairstylist in the hair department of “Saturday Night Live.” She knew she could help others using her experience by starting what she calls MEDwig, a UNCSA-affiliated business. “I am dedicated to finding a pathway of sustainability for providing cancer clients free, realistic custom wigs, so they can feel like themselves again in hopes to have a strong recovery. For many women, their hair is a key to what makes them feel like themselves. Being able to provide an extremely realistic, full custom wig allows them the privacy to deal with hair loss at their own pace. My wigs are entertainment style fully hand-tied wigs, redesigned to suit the needs of the medical client. My wigs cost $3,500 within the entertainment market and take 70-100 hours to build; every hair tied by hand. I have never felt comfortable charging a medical client knowing what a physical and financial burden the treatment alone is. This is the drive behind my mission to provide medical clients FREE custom wigs at the production quality of an expensive entertainment wig.”
Beyond the time and customized style of each wig, Christal is able to incorporate the patient’s own hair into them. “I fit each client with a temporary wig the day of the first consultation and make alterations for fit, cut and style,” said Schanes.
While the endeavor to create MEDwig is a big undertaking, Christal is confident that she has the right people around her to make it all work! “MEDwig is modeled after my classroom experience,” said Schanes. “I am able to provide job opportunities for my students and community members to better the quality of life for the well-being of those who suffer from cancer. I intend to incorporate a ready-to-wear wig, hairpiece and toupee line, as well as making readily available, extremely high quality, raw virgin hair through an e-shop and storefront here in Winston-Salem. Medical prosthetics will be integrated by year two and the integration of technology to refine the accuracy of both medical wigs and prosthetics by year three. At MEDwig.org, you can read up on the background of the business and who I am. I also have a section on a MEDwig program called ARTgather which is an artist awareness fundraising campaign. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or inquiries.”
Because MEDwig will rely on the generosity of others, as well as the dedication of Christal and her team, fundraising is essential. It is the only way MEDwig will be able to provide these entertainment-quality wigs completely free to their clients. Donations are encouraged to help Christal help others through this selfless work. Christal plans to open a brick and mortar location in January of 2019. Until then, please visit MEDwig.org or email Christal at email@example.com for more information.