Pressley opened up about her condition for the first time Thursday, in a powerful, personal interview with The Root, appearing first with a wig, and then with a bald head for the first time. She said she felt it was important to free herself from her “secret,” come to terms with her diagnosis, and feel comfortable moving forward.
On Sunday, she took another step forward, sharing a wig-free selfie, using hashtags for “bald squad,” “bald baddies” and “bald is beautiful.”
She thanked her fellow alopecia sufferers for the “warm welcome,” adding “New year. New decade. New truths. New swag.”
Alopecia is an autoimmune disease that prompts the immune system to attack hair follicles in people who are typically otherwise healthy, causing hair loss on the scalp and other parts of the body. According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, it affects as many as 6.8 million people in the U.S. of all ages, sexes and ethnic groups.
In revealing her condition, Pressley said she also hopes to reduce stigma around hair loss and tackle the scrutiny of how women wear their hair. On MSNBC on Sunday morning, host Joy Reid said the congresswoman had “won the week” for her brave revelation.
“As a woman and a woman in politics, and certainly as a black woman, everything is political,” Pressley told Reid in an interview. “This is not shocking. I mean, I’ve introduced legislation to guard against the fact that black girls are pushed out of the classroom for how they wear their hair. I have colleagues who have been pressured by supporters and donors alike not to allow their hair to go gray, colleagues who have been told that they should straighten their hair and not wear it curly. And so hair is political.”
As far as who “won the week,” Pressley told Reid it wasn’t her, but the “millions of those in this country who are living with the trauma and stigma of hair loss.” Navigating the world bald, she said, challenges “conventional norms and societal standards of what is beautiful, or what is handsome.”
She thanked and shouted out “bald nation” and her “fellow alopecians” for the messages she’s received since her announcement. “I am grateful that I have a platform to shine a light on this issue,” she said.
Pressley received a rush of support and solidarity in response to her first bald selfie. Her fellow congressional “Squad” member Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) gushed over her new look, while many of her fellow “bald nation” members shared their own #baldisbeautiful selfies.