During a hair appointment last fall while having her signature Senagalese twists installed, Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley was informed that she “had some patches.”
“From there, it accelerated very quickly,” Pressley told The Root. “I had been waking up every morning to sinks full of hair.”
Initially, the Ohio native thought that she could stop the alopecia by resorting to staple Black hair care practices such as wearing a bonnet to bed or wrapping her hair at night, but nothing helped.
“I did not want to go to sleep because I did not want to wake up, remove this bonnet and my wrap and be met with more hair in the sink and an image in the mirror of a person who increasingly felt like a stranger to me.”
The last of Pressley’s hair fell out on impeachment eve and she was tasked with speaking publicly the very next day.
“I was completely bald and in a matter of hours, I was going to have to walk into the floor in the House chambers and cast a vote in favor of articles of impeachment. So I didn’t have the luxury of mourning what felt like the loss of a limb.”
Pressley admits that as soon as she could, she left the floor and hid inside of a bathroom stall.
“I felt naked, exposed, vulnerable. I felt embarrassed. I felt ashamed. I felt betrayed,” she said. “And then I also felt that I was participating in a cultural betrayal because of all of the little girls who look up to me, take selfies with me, and hashtag ‘twist nation'”
For this reason, Pressley says that she always knew that when the time was right, she would speak her truth and reveal that she was living with alopecia.
“I felt like I owed all of those little girls an explanation,” she said. “My husband says that I don’t and that everything doesn’t have to be political, but the reality is that I’m Black and I’m a Black woman and I’m a Black woman in politics. Everything that I do is political.”
Additionally, she admits that she did not want to feel like she was living in secret.
“I want to be free from the secret and the shame that secret carries with it,” she said. “I am making peace with having alopecia.”
Last year, a study published by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology revealed that African-Americans experience alopecia areata at a higher rate than other racial groups. We commend Congresswoman Pressley for speaking her truth and wish her well in her journey to acceptance of her new normal.
Watch Rep. Pressley’s full interview and reveal below.