Two years ago, Wolverhampton model Ricki Hall was deemed as having the most influential hair in Britain. While his bushy beard and extensive tattoos catapulted him in the public eye, he is now harnessing that fame for a fundraising event he’s calling “The Big Beard Shave Off.” His mission? To direct much-needed attention to a cause that hits close to home: fighting mesothelioma.
In an interview with the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, a proud supporter of the event, Hall discusses his harrowing motivation behind his fundraising efforts. “My late father, John, passed in October of last year from this awful disease,” he explains. “The Big Beard Shave Off is my way of stripping myself bare to raise awareness and as much money as possible for this cause.”
The 29-year-old’s modeling career began when he was 23, and he’s been growing and grooming his beard ever since. “The beard plays a big part in my career and identity,” Hall says. “I’ve had it for six years; it’s what I’m best known for, so for me to shave it off — it had to be for something I’m very passionate about.”
Hall describes his father as being “a very dignified man [who] built his motorcycle business up from scratch in the 70s.” He was exposed to asbestos, the only proven cause of mesothelioma, in the 1960s when working in an industrial factory. “Knowledge was limited back then to how dangerous this substance is,” Hall said.
Like so many others, Hall was unaware of mesothelioma or its cause before his father was diagnosed. “It’s a shame that only when yourself or someone close to you has to deal with this illness is when you become aware. I want to spread education and awareness about this disease that affects so many people and families.”
While asbestos is banned in the UK, it has yet to be banned in the United States, a grim fact that too many people remain unaware of. As a country, Hall says we must “spread the correct knowledge and awareness through as many platforms as possible. Knowledge is power.” Hall hopes to leverage his impressive social media following as a way to share his father’s story and help others.
In addition to raising money that will help propel mesothelioma research, prevention, and education forward, Hall hopes his event will be a “catalyst that encourages other people to set up their own fundraising events.”
Hall also told MCA he plans on continuing his efforts beyond The Big Beard Shave Off. “Hopefully this will be a success and become an ongoing project that’s close to my heart.”
As for shaving his beard and worrying that people will no longer recognize him, “I’m more worried about not recognising myself!” [Laughs]
On July 23rd, Hall’s beard will be shaved off by renowned barber Frank Rimer. In a photo caption on his Twitter, Hall writes, “We will be shaving my beard off for Mesothelioma Cancer Charity, this awful cancer is what took my dear Father’s life in October of last year. Frank will be the man who will be wet shaving me, gonna be a big one. Any donation will be greatly appreciated. No matter how small. Love. X.”
To learn more about Ricki Hall and his fundraiser, visit www.rickisamhall.com