A North East woman is proud to be representing the region as an official baton bearer for the 16th official Queen’s Baton Relay ahead of the Commonwealth Games this summer. This is a particularly poignant honour for Nicola Wood, who set up The Wonderful Wig Company as a second business after being diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2016, when she was 36.
Although she’d already experienced hair loss due to the side effects of medication for rheumatoid arthritis, Nicola, from Sunderland, was dismayed at the lack of services available to the hundreds of women she came across whilst undergoing cancer treatment. So, to support people before, during and after medical hair loss, including through alopecia, Nicola set up The Wonderful Wig Company.
She explained: “I feel so very honoured to be representing the hair loss community on this incredible occasion. Following my own diagnosis, I know the positive difference and confidence our services give back to women, and hope that as a baton bearer I’ll be able to inspire other business owners to take action and create a positive impact for their community.”
An experienced hairdresser of 25 years, Nicola expanded the floor space of her Sunderland-based salon Kitui, which offers wig cutting and styling in addition to other hairdressing services, to create a purpose-built support studio for clients with hair loss. She has since supported more than 10,000 people and the company now employs 11 staff, having secured national contracts with the NHS to support those with hair loss all over the country.
The team now has their own range of wigs specific to the needs of its clients, and production will soon be moving from abroad to Newcastle. Nicola has also expanded her company’s remit, providing wigs and positive body image support for the LGBTQIA+ community, in addition to other wellness events and workshops that are held both online and in person.
Her company is the recipient of host of awards including Best Wig Supplier UK, and the salon is among 17 globally to be ranked gold standard by The Little Princess Trust. She has also set up a not-for-profit company, the Inclusion Hair Network, whose mission is to provide and promote inclusion for all within the hair and beauty sector.
Nicola, who is one of only nine individuals to be invited by a selection panel to bear the baton in its final stages in the lead up to the Commonwealth Games, said: “I’m a hairdresser for one day a week and spend the rest of the week trying to change the world for people with cancer and hair loss. My journey with the baton is symbolic of women’s medical hair loss journeys and a reminder that no one needs to do it alone.”
In addition to her salon work, Nicola visits hospitals and hospices to deliver talks on wellbeing to those who are vulnerable and sick. She copes with ongoing health difficulties by studying during moments when she can’t physically work or mobility is difficult, and will this year qualify as a trichologist – a scalp and hair specialist.
Nicola will carry the baton at the very end of its 90,000-mile worldwide trip, representing the whole of the North East on Thursday, 14 July. The baton itself has an enclosed written message from Her Majesty The Queen, which will be read aloud by her upon its arrival at the games’ opening ceremony.
This year is set to be one of the most memorable games yet. Hosted at the new Alexander Stadium in Birmingham, there will be 19 sports with eight para events integrated into the programme – the biggest Commonwealth para sports programme ever.
The baton is currently in the Caribbean after already visiting four other continents. Over the course of the relay, it will travel to more than 72 nations and be held by more than 4,500 athletes before arriving back to the UK on 4 July for the last leg of its tour.