In an interview with “The Root” squad member Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) revealed she’s actually bald with Alopecia for the first time.
Ayanna Pressley loves playing with her hair. Before she became a Massachusetts Congresswoman (and a high-profile member of “The Squad”), Pressley would experiment with different hairstyles and textures, getting a weave and even cutting her own hair. Lately, she’s been experimenting with lace-front wigs.
“One I call ‘FLOTUS’ because it feels very Michelle Obama to me, [and another] I call ‘Tracee,’ because it feels very Tracee Ellis Ross to me,” Pressley told me in an exclusive interview with The Root earlier this week.
But the wigs are a noticeable departure from her signature Senegalese and bomb twists, which have become synonymous with her political brand and made her the hero of little black girls across the country. Now, the congresswoman has decided to go public as to her reason why: She has alopecia.
“I think it’s important that I’m transparent about this new normal,” Pressley said.
The American Academy of Dermatology refers to alopecia as the official medical term for baldness. And according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, the autoimmune disorder alopecia areata makes the body attack its own healthy hair follicles, “causing them to become much smaller and drastically slow down production to the point that hair growth may stop.”
Three of the most common ways alopecia areata presents itself are in the form of patches of baldness (alopecia areata), no hair on the head (alopecia totalis), and complete hair loss on a person’s entire body (alopecia universalis). These types of alopecia differ from traction alopecia, which happens when hair is stressed at the roots.
And despite limited scientific research about racial disparities in experiencing alopecia, a July 2019 study from the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that African Americans experience alopecia areata at a higher rate than other racial groups. There was even a survey conducted at Boston University of over 5,500 black women that revealed that nearly 48 percent of them dealt with hair loss.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley first became aware of her hair loss last fall while getting her hair retwisted. Very soon afterward, she was waking up every morning to total hair loss across the scalp.
The hair loss created additional challenges in an already-demanding Capitol Hill schedule, requiring Pressley to creatively conceal her growing baldness in the middle of getting votes, attending committee meetings, and giving press conferences.