Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley bore it all Thursday in a powerful interview in which she opened up about her struggle with alopecia for the very first time, debuting her bald head.
“My twists have become such a synonymous & a conflated part of not only my personal identity & how I show up in the world, but my political brand,” the freshman Democrat told The Root. “And that’s why I think it’s important I’m transparent about this new normal & living with alopecia.”
Pressley recently learned she had the autoimmune skin disease, which can cause hair loss and affects as many as 6.8 million people across the U.S. The congresswoman said she first started noticing patches in her hair last fall.
“When I was getting my hair retwisted, is the first time that I was made aware that I had some patches,” she explained. “From there, it accelerated very quickly.”
Pressley is now completely bald, and admits she’s struggled to accept her new normal.
Fellow Democrats, constituents, supporters and the like aren’t letting her get down on herself, however, and have taken to social media to praise the lawmaker for her bravery. Minnesota congresswoman and fellow member of “The Squad” Rep. Ilhan Omar was among those who offered Pressley a heartfelt message of love and encouragement.
“You are stunningly gorgeous and a magnificent black queen,” Omar said in a tweet. “I know women and young girls around the world will wear their crowns more proudly today because of you.”
“Your courage is inspiring and I am so proud to be your sister in service,” she added.
Several other notable Black women also chimed in, including MSNBC’s Joy Reid, Valerie Jarrett and award-winning actress Viola Davis.
“Thank you for ‘showing up’ and daring courageously to live authentically,” the “How to Get Away with Murder” star wrote. “I continue to be inspired by you. Love you sis.”
Black Lives Matter co-creator Alicia Garza added: “I didn’t think I could love her more but oh my heart. I wanna be like her when I grow up. @AyannaPressley thank you for being as unapologetic as they come.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez described her dear friend as a “living blessing,” as Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib praised Pressley’s “queen” behavior.
“Your courage in sharing your story is what makes you so incredibly special @AyannaPressley,” Tlaib added.
In her interview, Pressley recalled waking up to “sinkfuls of hair” each morning despite employing “all the tools that I had been schooled and trained in throughout my life as a Black woman.” She wrapped her hair nightly and made sure to sleep on a silk pillowcase in hopes of stopping the progression of the disease.
“And yet and still every morning, which I faced with dread, I did not want to go to sleep because I did not want the morning to come where I would 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,” Pressley said.
The congresswoman would lose her last bit of hair the day before the U.S. House voted to impeach President Donald Trump.
“I felt naked, exposed, vulnerable,” she said. “I felt embarrassed. I felt ashamed. I felt betrayed.”
Pressley told The Root she’s since gotten to a place where she’s “making peace” with her condition, though there’s still some work to be done.
“I’m very early in my alopecia journey,” she said. “It’s about self agency. It’s about power. It’s about acceptance. It’s so interesting to me that right now on this journey, what I feel the most unlike myself is when I am wearing a wig. So I think that means I’m on my way.”