Rep. Ayanna Pressley's hair story is both personal and political
January 18, 2020 7:42 AM   Subscribe

Rep. Ayanna Pressley Reveals Beautiful Bald Head. Ayanna Pressley has been wearing wigs lately, 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.
posted by vespabelle (14 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
I work with someone who has alopecia, and know a few more. It's a rough condition I think especially for women because of the pressures around hair and femininity, and even more for black women. So I really appreciate Rep. Pressley coming forward with this, and taking the step to normalize autoimmune disease.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:55 AM on January 18 [16 favorites]

It's a rough condition I think especially for women because of the pressures around hair and femininity, and even more for black women.

I know someone who developed alopecia later in life, and beyond the hair loss, she is really struggling with how much it bothers her; she is upset at how upset she is about it because she’s afraid it means she’s shallow or more caught up in looks than she thought. Like it’s rewriting not just how she looks but also who she is, and then it just compounds. She was afraid not to wear a wig but afraid of what it said about her that she thought she needed one. Rep. Pressley’s openness about both her hair and her feelings will help a lot of women.
posted by sallybrown at 8:12 AM on January 18 [32 favorites]

Cool to see this on the blue. I've had alopecia nearly 30 years. It's not great. It gets better when you get older. In some contexts, like work and family, it makes almost not difference at all. In other context, like dating, it can really hurt your self confidence.

A common assumption is that younger people without any other visible differences than hairloss have cancer. And my indignant reply is, no no, it's just cosmetic, don't make assumptions. But that brings this guilt of, how vain can you be to stress out over just a cosmetic thing, when other people are coping with disability or life threatening disease where appearance is the least of worries? So at the same time it makes me thankful and resentful, why me? Over time what I've learned is, it's a random universe and random things happen, and you play the hand you are dealt.
posted by mattiv at 9:18 AM on January 18 [23 favorites]

my older brother developed alopecia as he hit puberty. We also moved across town at pretty much the same time. Needless to say, it was brutal for him. Kids are just not nice at that age, particularly when it's a new school, a new neighborhood. It was brutal for me because all that frustration and rage he was feeling had to get directed somewhere and I was the nearest "safe" target.

Long story short. We worked it out over time. He worked it out over time. He made new friends etc and got on with his life. He never tried to hide it with wigs or hats. He was a pretty serious athlete so all that was out of the question. And overall his life has worked out well indeed. One upside about enduring such a "trial" at a young age -- it gives you a perspective most folks don't get until much later in life, if ever. You just don't sweat the small stuff. You certainly don't judge people by their appearances. Is it a coincidence that he ended up building a career out of helping immigrant children get settled in their new community? I doubt it.
posted by philip-random at 9:44 AM on January 18 [9 favorites]

She's so beautiful and brave. I really respect everything she does.
posted by limeonaire at 10:39 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]

common assumption is that younger people without any other visible differences than hairloss have cancer

I’ve had massage therapists need multiple assurances I’m not “sick” when I say I’m going to take off my wig and that I have alopecia not cancer.

That’s so fun bc it makes me wonder just how awful I look without my wig and I haven’t been on a date in like 2 years bc I’m afraid of having someone I develop feelings for look at me like that.
posted by affectionateborg at 10:41 AM on January 18 [5 favorites]

I feel very lucky to have her representing me in congress.
posted by ChuraChura at 10:41 AM on January 18 [10 favorites]

From the interviewer: Interviewing Ayanna Pressley About Her Alopecia Encouraged Me to Go Public With Mine (Jessica Moulite, The Root)
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:46 AM on January 18 [12 favorites]

I feel very lucky to have her representing me in congress.

That was not luck. You elected her. Good on you!
posted by sjswitzer at 10:57 AM on January 18 [17 favorites]

I think I was watching an interview of Jessica Moulite on BBC World News about this earlier, talking about how widespread the attention has been beyond what she'd initially expected for the story.
posted by XMLicious at 11:35 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]

taking the step to normalize autoimmune disease.

perhaps the thinking has changed over time, but back when I was a kid, it was made very clear to me that alopecia was not a disease. Because there was nothing about it that specifically threatened one's health/life. You just lost all your hair. I seem to recall my mom referring to it as a "condition". Though a google search reveals that disease and condition tend to get conflated a fair bit, so who knows?

Either way, don't go mentioning to my brother that he's suffering from a "disease".
posted by philip-random at 11:44 AM on January 18

As an individual and as a woman, good on her for handling this on her own terms and with grace. As a constituent, I continue to not give any fucks at all about her personal hair choices and continue to judge her on her legislative efforts and other work as a Congresswoman. I wasn't very familiar with her before the primary (I voted for Captain America's uncle in the primary), but I've been very pleased with her so far.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:02 AM on January 20

I loved getting to hear Ayanna Pressley tell her stories (hair and alopecia). She's an amazing speaker.
posted by Margalo Epps at 6:21 PM on January 20

I'm reading a book first published in 1997, No Lye! The African-American Woman's Guide to Natural Hair Care by Tulani Kinard. It hits some of the same notes that Ayanna Pressley did in her video, including the shouldn't-be-true-but-is breakdown of how black women are judged by (and justifiably worried about) their hair and its effect on the way they are perceived. Even now people can be kind of loudly dumb about black people's hair. It's something that even the U.S. Supreme Court doesn't seem to be all that consistent about.

Anyway, Representative Pressley certainly seems to have the courage of her convictions. I'll have to remember to throw my support her way however I can.
posted by tyro urge at 5:15 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]

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