Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley revealed Thursday that she is living with alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss on certain parts of the face and body.
In a powerful video for the Root, Pressley recounted suddenly losing the hair on her head, beginning last fall. She spoke about her decision to go public about the condition and revealed her bald head in the video.
"The reality is that I'm black. And I'm a black woman. And I'm a black woman in politics. Everything I do is political," she said in the video. "So I'm trying to find my way here. And I do believe going public will help."
Pressley was unavailable to speak with BuzzFeed News, but in the video she spoke about how she chose to maintain her Senegalese twist after getting the hairstyle years ago, despite knowing that it could be "filtered and interpreted by some as a political statement that was militant."
Throughout her campaign for the House up until last month, Pressley kept the hairstyle; she has won praise and admiration for it from young black girls in her district and people all over the world who have written her letters.
In the fall, when she started noticing patches of baldness on her head, Pressley said, she tried every method she knew to try to stem the hair loss.
"I had been waking up every morning to sinkfuls of hair," she said. "Every night I was employing all the tools that I had been schooled and trained in all my life as a black woman because I thought that I could stop this. I wrapped my hair, I wore a bonnet, I slept on a silk pillowcase."
She began to dread going to sleep, she said, because she didn't want to wake up to more hair loss and look in the mirror at someone "who increasingly felt like a stranger to me."
The last of her hair fell out the day before the House impeachment vote in December.
"I was completely bald, and in a matter of hours was going to have to walk into the floor, the House chamber ... and cast a vote in support of articles of impeachment," she said. "I didn't have the luxury of mourning what felt like the loss of a limb. It was a moment of transformation not of my choosing."
In the video, Pressley suggested she's still coming to terms with living with alopecia, but she felt ready to reveal her condition publicly.
"I am ready now because I want to be freed from the secret and the shame that that secret carries with it, and because I'm not here just to occupy space. I'm here to create it," she said. "I am making peace with having alopecia. I have not arrived there; I am very early in my alopecia journey. But I'm making progress every day. It's about self-agency, it's about power, it's about self-acceptance."