Ayanna Pressley removed her wig in a video revealing her alopecia for the first time, and it’s so powerful
Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley has been living with a secret for months, and she’s finally ready for it to be public: She has alopecia.
Alopecia is an autoimmune disorder that causes progressive hair loss on certain parts of the body, most notably, the head. In a video for The Root, Pressley spoke about living with the condition and keeping it hidden from her colleagues in Congress and the public.
“The reality is that I’m black. And I’m a black woman. And I’m a black woman in politics. Everything I do is political,” she said in the video. “So I’m trying to find my way here. And I do believe going public will help.”
Pressley revealed that she started to notice signs of the disease last fall, when she would see patches of baldness on her head and wake up to actual clumps of her hair falling out into her bathroom sink.
“I had been waking up every morning to sinkfuls of hair,” she explained. “Every night I was employing all the tools that I had been schooled and trained in all 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.”
As the disease progressed, she revealed that she became afraid of going to sleep, because she knew when she woke up, she’d face more signs of her continuing hair loss. With each passing day, she said she looked in the mirror and saw someone “who increasingly felt like a stranger to me.”
Pressley’s alopecia progressed rapidly, and by December, she had lost all the hair on her head. She said the last of it fell out just before the House’s historic vote to impeach President Donald Trump.
“I was completely bald, and in a matter of hours was going to have to walk into the floor, the House chamber … and cast a vote in support of articles of impeachment,” she said. “I didn’t have the luxury of mourning what felt like the loss of a limb. It was a moment of transformation not of my choosing.”
At the end of the video, Pressley removes her wig to reveal her completely bald head. It’s a powerful moment — you can feel her strength from the screen.
“This is my official public revealing,” she says. “I am ready now because I want to be freed from the secret and the shame that that secret carries with it, and because I’m not here just to occupy space. I’m here to create it. I am making peace with having alopecia. I have not arrived there; I am very early in my alopecia journey. But I’m making progress every day. It’s about self-agency, it’s about power, it’s about self-acceptance.”