“This is my official public revealing. I’ve only been bald in the privacy of my home and in the company of close friends,” starts Ayanna Pressley’s video in which she reveals she has alopecia. The Massachusetts Congresswoman (and member of “The Squad”) filmed the reveal with The Root this week to great support from her millions of fans around the country. This is especially true for those also suffering from alopecia areata and all types of hair loss.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune skin disease that causes hair loss. Rep. Pressley first saw signs of it 4-5 years ago when she was getting her signature Senegalese twists for the first time. From then on, she was waking up with sink fulls of hair every day. She tried everything she could to minimize the damage. “I wore a bonnet, I slept on a silk pillowcase,” she says. These twists were bigger than just a hairstyle. They were a bit of a movement.
“I was not prepared for what was the glorious gift and blessing of the acceptance and the community and the affirmation,” she continues, speaking about what this hairstyle means to her and the community. “Now I walk into rooms and little girls are wearing T-shirts that say ‘my congresswoman wears braids‘ and we receive letters from all over the globe of women who talk about their own emancipation, that they feel that I’ve given them permission. My twists have become such a synonymous and conflated part of not only my personal identity and how I show up in the world.”
She says she needed to be transparent about her journey with alopecia, as she felt she was “participating in a cultural betrayal.” She also wanted to be free of the “secret and the shame.” She’s currently making peace with having alopecia.
Although Rep. Pressley says she early in her Alopecia journey, she’s making progress with feeling comfortable without hair. That doesn’t mean she’s not going to play around with wigs, ones she names FLOTUS and The OG. Watch her powerful video, above.