Rep. Ayanna Pressley, the Democratic congresswoman who became the FIRST Black woman elected to Congress in Massachusetts, has opened up about her struggles with alopecia, an auto-immune disease in which hair is lost from some or all areas of the body. Known for her Senegalese twists, Pressley became a poster-child for #BlackHairStylesAtWork, unapologetically. Through her hair, she gave hope and inspiration to many black girls and women who feel shamed at school, work, and places of business for sporting various natural hairstyles. This bond, and pressure was place on her, and most Black women thanks to Western society’s demonetization of Black hair.
As someone “known” for their specific look, Pressley had to come to grips with the reality that she was losing her hair, noticing hair loss after getting her her hair retwisted, and what that means moving forward. In a brave and bold move, Pressley debuted her bald head for the first time publicly in a touching interview with The Root.
“I was missing her. I was mourning my hair. I was mourning the state of our democracy. I was mourning my mentor, Chairman Elijah Cummings,” she said.
The stresses of working on Capitol Hill, coupled with being a black woman in America, began to weigh on Pressley as she was trying to find creative ways to hide her rapid hair loss. She wore a wig to cast her vote to impeach President Pumpkin Spice and then ran and hid in a bathroom stall immediately after, feeling “exposed, vulnerable, and embarrassed. It was at that point that she remembered those same little girls looking up to her—and decided that when she was ready, she’d go public with her condition.”
“I want to be freed from the secret and the shame that that secret carries with it,” Pressley said.
Salute to Rep. Ayanna Pressley for being so transparent. She is not alone is her struggles. The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology “found that African Americans experience alopecia areata at a higher rate than other racial groups. There was even a survey conducted at Boston University of over 5,500 black women that revealed that nearly 48 percent of them dealt with hair loss.”.
Hopefully Pressley’s story can help others find confidence, beauty, and resources to make them feel as comfortable without hair as they did with it.
A Black woman’s hair journey is never-ending, even when our ability to grow hair has! You are not your hair. You are beautiful…regardless!