Representative Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts revealed in a video released Thursday that she has alopecia and is now bald, saying that she wanted “to be free.”
In the video, published on The Root, Ms. Pressley detailed her hair journey, from the time she most felt like herself in her signature Senegalese twists to the moment last year that she realized she had alopecia.
“In the fall, when I was getting my hair retwisted, is the first time that I was made aware that I had some patches. From there it accelerated very quickly,” Ms. Pressley said in the video.
Alopecia is an autoimmune skin disease that causes hair to fall out from the scalp, face and other parts of the body. Scientists are not sure what causes the immune system to attack healthy hair follicles and make the hair fall out, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
Over six million people in the United States have alopecia. It can affect people of all ages, sexes and ethnic groups, the foundation said.
In the video, the representative said that she began to wake up to “sinkfuls of hair,” and that she tried different things like wrapping her hair and wearing a bonnet — things black women do to protect their hair while they sleep — to keep her hair from falling out, but they did not work.
“I did not want the morning to come where I will 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,” Ms. Pressley said.
On the day last month when Ms. Pressley was to cast a vote to impeach President Trump, she realized she was completely bald. She wore a wig on the floor because she felt she had to be present, regardless of the state of her hair, she said.
“I felt naked, exposed, vulnerable,” Ms. Pressley said, adding that she also felt that she was participating in cultural betrayal because of all the young girls who looked up to her for being a congresswoman who wears braids.
“I felt like I owed those little girls an explanation,” Ms. Pressley said.
Toward the end of the video, Ms. Pressley removes her wig and reveals her bald head.
After the video was released, her peers showed support for her on Twitter.
“Could you imagine losing all your hair on the eve of an enormously public day? And then turning that intensely intimate ordeal to make space for others? Ayanna, you are a living blessing,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York said on Twitter.
“Proud to count her as a friend, glad so many in the next generation have her as a role model,” former Senator John Kerry said on Twitter.
“I am making peace with having alopecia,” Ms. Pressley said in the video. “I’m making progress every day.”