"And so Impeachment Eve, the last little bit of my hair came out. I was completely bald."

By Christopher Luu
Updated Jan 16, 2020 @ 4:00 pm
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Rep. Ayanna Pressley, opened up for the first time about her experience with alopecia in a personal and revealing interview with The Root. In the Congressmember details how she experimented with wigs and hairpieces before going public with the condition. Hair has always been a part of Pressley's political brand as she proudly wore Senegalese and bomb twists on the House floor. She revealed how this made it even more difficult for her to come forward.

"My twists have become such a synonymous and a conflated part of not only my personal identity and how I show up in the world, but my political brand," Pressley said. "That's why I think it's important that I'm transparent about this new normal and living with alopecia."

Credit: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

According to The Root, a study from the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology "found that African Americans experience alopecia areata at a higher rate than other racial groups." Researchers looked at a sample size of 5,500 black women and found that 48% experienced some sort of hair loss. Pressley found herself in these statistics and, at first, didn't know how to process it. As more and more of her hair fell out, she said, she felt like she was losing more and more of herself.

"I had been waking up every morning to sink-fulls of hair. Every night I was employing all the tools that I had been schooled and trained in throughout my life as a Black woman, because I thought that I could stop this. I wrapped my hair. I wore a bonnet. I slept on a silk pillowcase," she continued. "And yet and still every morning, which I faced with dread, I did not want to go to sleep 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 of a person who increasingly felt like a stranger to me."

Pressley says that the pressures of life on Capital Hill made dealing with her hair loss even harder. She was concealing her growing baldness while the country was reeling and President Donald Trump's impeachment hearings were looming on the horizon. When she wore her twists, she had already been accused of appearing "militant," The Root adds. Pressley felt that her bald head would be seen as an even stronger statement, so she decided to keep it hidden. Jamal Edmonds, known as a "hair caregiver," crafted a wig for her just in time for her to take the floor.

"And so Impeachment Eve, the last little bit of my hair came out. I was completely bald. And in a matter of hours, was going to have to walk into the floor, The House Chamber, House of Representatives and cast a vote in support of articles of impeachment. And so I didn't have the luxury of mourning what felt like the loss of a limb," she added. "It was a moment of transformation, not of my choosing. But I knew the moment demanded that I stand in it and that I lean in. And I exited the floor as soon as I could and I hid in a bathroom stall. I felt naked, exposed, vulnerable. I felt embarrassed. I felt ashamed. I felt betrayed."

Pressley's announcement marks the very first time she's shown herself without hair extensions, a wig, or her trademark twists. While she's still accepting the loss of her hair, she wants anyone dealing with something similar, not just her constituents, to know that they've got an ally — not just a political one — and someone who knows what they're going through.

"I am making peace with having alopecia. I have not arrived there. I'm very early in my alopecia journey. But I'm making progress every day. And that's why I'm doing this today. It's about self agency. It's about power. It's about acceptance," she concluded. "It's so interesting to me that right now on this journey, what I feel the most unlike myself is when I am wearing a wig. So I think that means I'm on my way."