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Joshua Dobbs, Ellie The Cheerleader Share Alopecia Experience

September highlights awareness for the hair loss disease

Cardinals quarterback Joshua Dobbs (left) and Cardinals cheerleader Ellie (holding her wig) both deal with alopecia, a disease that causes hair loss.
Cardinals quarterback Joshua Dobbs (left) and Cardinals cheerleader Ellie (holding her wig) both deal with alopecia, a disease that causes hair loss.

Ellie was at a dance class in January, working on her moves ahead of tryouts that spring for the Cardinals' cheerleaders squad.

Being a Cardinals cheerleader had been a lifelong dream, but that day changed her life in a different way.

During a sequence when she had to bend down and touch her ankles, her hair flipped over. When she lifted it up, she could tell something was wrong and went to the mirror to investigate the back of her head. She could see her hairline was higher than it should've been, and part of her scalp was bare.

"What is happening?" Ellie remembered thinking.

"That was very traumatic, to say the least," Ellie said.

Ellie's diagnosis was of a disease she didn't know much about: alopecia areata, an autoimmune skin disease that causes hair loss.

September is Alopecia Awareness Month, and Ellie -- who despite her condition indeed fulfilled her goal of becoming a Cardinals Cheerleader -- isn't alone in the organization. Starting quarterback Joshua Dobbs also suffers from the affliction. The two wanted to meet, and did so following a practice ahead of the Cardinals game against the Cowboys.

On the Dignity Health Training Center practice field, Dobbs, and Ellie ( does not use cheerleader's last names) both shared their experiences with alopecia.

Before her cheer audition in May, Ellie decided to shave her head. Despite initially not being confident enough in "an industry where looks play a big part," she wasn't going to let her dream slip away.

"That was a really defining moment," Ellie said. "It forced me to embrace it and I think that was a really empowering moment for me when I just let it go."

"I just remember walking in, and everyone was cheering me on and hyping me up. It was the coolest feeling ever to have that."

Dobbs, 28, was diagnosed when he was in the third grade.

"Her journey looks a little different from mine," Dobbs said. "But it'll be really cool now because obviously, we're in the same organization so just to be able to relate stories and be able to support each other through adversity that we might face."

Dobbs faced plenty of adversity through his experience with alopecia. When he was first diagnosed, his hair would occasionally grow back, but ahead of college, he made the choice to "rock the baldy."

"We had a lot of big games (at the University of Tennessee) and of course opposing fans would try to find ways to get in your head, but I took it with the position," Dobbs said. "There's ignorance in the world, but I always use my platform and who I am, and the position I play, to serve as the opportunity to share who I am and what it's like to have alopecia."

The Cardinals quarterback has spoken at alopecia conventions and has been a proud advocate. His goal is to help people of all ages who have been struggling with alopecia for a long time or were recently diagnosed -- like Ellie, who said it was "surreal" meeting Dobbs.

"He hasn't let his condition stop him from chasing his dreams," she said. "And it just reaffirms me and that I shouldn't let it stop me as well."

Whether it's Dobbs bulldozing defenders on his way into the end zone in front of the Bird Gang, or Ellie cheering throughout State Farm Stadium, they're showcasing to the NFL community, and the world, that alopecia won't hinder their dreams.

"Anytime you see people being true to who they are, it's great to see," Dobbs said. "Everyone's going through something. For us, alopecia may be a little more visually visible to outside people looking in, but everyone's going through something."

"I went through a lot of learning to self love through this process and gain confidence and learn that I'm not defined by the hair on my head," Ellie said. "Your alopecia makes you beautiful, and the hair on your head does not define the type of person you are. "

Joshua Dobbs (left) and Ellie talk following a Cardinals practice this week.
Joshua Dobbs (left) and Ellie talk following a Cardinals practice this week.

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