Representative Ayana Pressley, a Democrat from the 7th district of Massachusetts, released a video yesterday via The Root’s Twitter revealing that she has alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss.
For Ms. Pressley, she felt as though her hair story was both personal and political. She described her decision to publicly address her condition as “…about acceptance, I hope this starts a conversation about the personal struggles we navigate, and I hope that it creates awareness about how many people are impacted by alopecia”.
Ms. Pressley started the video with how she found a hairstyle – Senegalese twists – that made her feel like herself. She described her twists as “a synonymous and conflated part of not only my personal identity, and how I show up in the world, but my political brand”. When she found out she could no longer where them as her hair fell out, she felt like she was betraying her culture and letting down the little girls who looked up to a congresswoman who wore braids like them. “I felt naked, exposed, vulnerable” Ms. Pressley described.
Ms. Pressley’s Congressional colleagues rallied around her after the announcement. Tweets of encouragement came from the likes of Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and former senator John Kerry (D-MA).
Over six million people in the United States have alopecia. It effects all ages, genders and races. The autoimmune disorder occurs when the immune system attacks healthy hair follicles for unknown reasons. There are several different treatments, but none have proved completely effective.
Ms. Pressley closed her video with the statement “I’m trying to find my way here, and I do think going public will help”.
Sources: Twitter 1/16/20; The New York Times 1/16/20.