It is no secret that congresswoman Ayanna Pressley is a history-maker and disrupter since becoming Massachusetts’ first black woman elected to the House of Representatives in 2018. With 2020 just underway, Pressley has already begun making waves after opening up about her struggles with hair loss and even debuting her newly bald head.
Sitting down with The Root on Thursday, the freshman congresswoman revealed that she has alopecia, which is an auto-immune disease where the body attacks its own hair follicles, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. The amount of hair loss is unique to the individual, and in Pressley’s case, it caused her to lose all of her hair, which had inadvertently become a political statement during her 2018 campaign.
In addition to opening up about her alopecia, Pressley also revealed her now bald head.
“I’ve only been bald in the privacy of my own home and the company of close friends,” she began.
Pressley went on to describe the impact of her famous braids.
“Now I walk into rooms and little girls wear t-shirts saying, ‘My congresswoman wears braids,’ she described. “And we receive letters from all over the globe of women who talk about their own emancipation that they feel I’ve given them permission [to have]. My twists have become such a synonymous and conflated part of not only my personal identity and how I show up in the world, but my political brand.”
The congresswoman went on to reveal that she was made aware of bald patches on her scalp when she went to get her braids redone; from there, the hair loss quickly increased to the point where she would wake up and find a sink filled with hair. Pressley admitted that she tried different methods to stop the hair loss, but it was to no avail.
She shared that she faced every morning with “dread,” saying, “because I did not want the morning to come where I would remove this bonnet and my wrap, and be met with more hair in the sink, and an image in the mirror, the mirror of a person who increasingly felt like a stranger to me,” she continued.
Pressley admitted that she went completely bald the eve of the impeachment vote and was tasked with braving her new reality on the House floor where she would go on to vote in support the articles of impeachment. She described going bald as making her feel “vulnerable,” “naked,” “embarrassed,” and “ashamed.” Yet she knew that when the time came, she needed to go public with her experience not only to come to terms with her condition, but to be open with the little girls who looked up to her.
“I also felt that I was participating in a cultural betrayal because of all the little girls who write me letters, who come up to me and take selfies with me #twistNation. And I thought of those t-shirts and I just kept revisiting that,” she said. “And I immediately knew that I was going to want to, when I felt ready, go public because I felt like I owed all those little girls an explanation.”
The congresswoman known for her braids and bold red lipstick finally took off her wig to reveal her bald head, a moment she hoped would free her from feelings of shame and secrecy.
“I'm not just here to occupy space. I'm here to create it and I want to be free,” Pressley proudly proclaimed.
Pressley received an outpouring of support from the likes of Joy Reid, fellow congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and more, along with countless others who have been touched by her moving story.
.@AyannaPressley was already an incredible inspiration and among the most brilliant, fierce and dynamic members of really the most impressive freshman congressional class since 1992. But this? Beautiful beyond words. Kudos to the Rep and @TheRoot https://t.co/KWnXx12TVx— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) January 16, 2020
So very proud of you, @AyannaPressley, for having the courage to share your story. It will indeed create space for other women to come forward and do the same.— Valerie Jarrett (@ValerieJarrett) January 16, 2020
Could you imagine losing all your hair on the eve of an enormously public day? And then turning that intensely intimate ordeal to make space for others?— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 16, 2020
Ayanna, you are a living blessing.
Everyone, please take a moment out of your day to watch @AyannaPressley’s #BlackHairStory. https://t.co/0G9NCaPmuG
With or without hair you’re still a Queen to us Rep @AyannaPressley. Thank you for being so brave in sharing your hair story with the world. We have your back 👑 https://t.co/nJG26mp5CW pic.twitter.com/SZ48hySqpA— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) January 16, 2020
This is so powerful. @AyannaPressley -— Isn’t All It Seems (@IsntAllItSeems) January 16, 2020
Your comments in the video transcend the issue with your hair loss. You speak to concentrating on how we present ourselves every day in the space we occupy. Keeping our power. Being here to create. Thank you!
Oh my god I love you. You are beautiful inside and out. Bless you.— L Hudd (@Huddlehouse55) January 16, 2020
She is beautiful! Without hair, she is stunningly beautiful.— Wiley (@66Wiley) January 16, 2020
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