Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley Of Massachusetts Says She Has Alopecia And Has Lost All Her Hair
Rep. Ayanna Pressley said her braids have become a defining part of her political identity as the first black woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress.
“I got these Senegalese twists, and I feel like I met myself fully for the first time,” Pressley told The Root in an interview published Thursday. “You know, I sort of looked in the mirror and I said, ‘Oh, there I am.’ And it felt good.”
Her hairstyle also became a political statement to some who saw them as an expression of racial pride. While the former Boston, Massachusetts city councilor has said she had been advised against the hairstyle early in her career, it became a source of affirmation, not only for herself, but for black women across the country. Pressley said she received supportive letters from “all over the globe” and that she met little girls in the 7th District wearing shirts that said “my Congresswoman wears braids.”
All that made what happened next even more difficult, she said.
In her interview with The Root, Pressley revealed that she has been living with alopecia. While the term can refer to any kind of hair loss, alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that results in varying degrees of baldness. It affects an estimated 1.7 percent of Americans, but researchers have found it disproportionately affects African Americans. A 2016 Boston University study found that 47.6 percent of nearly 5,600 surveyed African American women reported hair loss.
(Song: “Running From The Rain”, by Folami)