Ayanna Pressley publicly reveals struggle with alopecia for first time in powerful video
By Danielle Garrand
/ CBS News
Representative Ayanna Pressley opened up about her struggle with alopecia in a video interview published Thursday with the website The Root. The Massachusetts Democrat also revealed her bald head on camera for the first time.
The lawmaker, one of the four freshman progressive women in Congress known as "The Squad," said she first realized she had "some patches" in her hair last fall — as she was having her hair re-twisted, reported The Root.
"From there, it accelerated very quickly. I had been waking up every morning to sinkfulls of hair. Every night I was employing all the tools that I had been schooled and trained throughout all my life as a black woman, because I thought that I could stop this," the congresswoman told the outlet. "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."
As the year continued, so did her hair loss — and "the last little bit" of her hair fell out on the eve of President Trump's impeachment.
"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," she said. "And so I didn't have the luxury of mourning what felt like the loss of a limb."
She had a custom wig made just hours before she was slotted to deliver her vote on impeaching President Trump and was able to be a part of the historic moment. But she told the outlet that she left the House floor as quickly as she could, and hid in a bathroom stall.
"I felt naked, exposed, vulnerable, I felt embarrassed, I felt ashamed, I felt betrayed," she explained. "And then 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, who take selfies with me #twistnation."
She explained she knew she was going to eventually go public, because she felt as if she "owed all those little girls an explanation."
Pressley's signature twists became famous during her campaign and since she has taken office — inspiring black women and girls to be proud of their natural hair.
In the video, the lawmaker appears in a new shirt and without her wig, revealing her bald head to the public for the first time in an emotional moment.
"I am making peace with having alopeceia," she said, visibly emotional. "I am very early in my alopecia journey, but I am making progress every day."
The lawmaker tweeted the video interview on Thursday afternoon: "As a Black woman, the personal is political. My hair story is no exception. Sharing a very personal story today to create space for others."
Alopecia areata is a autoimmune skin disease, which causes hair loss on the face, scalp and sometimes other areas of the body, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
The disease impacts up to 6.8 million people in America. Individuals of any age, sex or ethnic group can develop the disease, but it does often first appear during childhood, according to the foundation.
First published on January 16, 2020 / 6:57 PM
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