Once renowned for her Senegalese twists, the Congresswoman representing Massachusetts's 7th district lost her last locks of her hair on the eve of Dec. 17, 2019, just a day before the impeachment of President Donald Trump began.
So, why is Ayanna Pressley bald?
"This is my official public revealing. I've only been bald in the privacy of my home and in the company of close friends," Rep. Pressley explained in an exclusive interview with The Root.
"About four-five years ago, I decided to get Senegalese twists all the way down to my waist. [...] I felt like I met myself fully for the first time. [...] I [...] looked in the mirror and I said, 'Oh, there I am.' And it felt good," she added.
"What started out as a transitional hair style ultimately became a statement and something that I was very intentional about. I was very aware that this hair style [...] would be interpreted by some as a political statement that was militant," she said.
Rep. Pressley's hair first started falling out in the fall of 2019. By December that year, the condition became more and move evolved, leaving her with no choice but to start testing out different wigs.
As she emphasized in a previous interview with Rolling Stone, the unexpected change had a political and a personal taint. Rep. Pressley went bald around the same time the impeachment of President Trump began.
The health crisis came just a few months after her mentor, former U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, passed away. She was spending more and more time thinking about her late mother, tenancy rights activist Sandra Pressley, who died in July 2011.
"I was missing her. I was mourning my hair. I was mourning the state of our democracy. I was mourning my mentor, Chairman Elijah Cummings," Rep. Pressley told Rolling Stone.
About one-third of Black women are affected by a specific type of alopecia known as traction alopecia, a 2018 study published by the Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology shows.
As a leaflet by the British Association of Dermatologists prompts, women who prefer hairstyles that involve pulling the hair too tightly at the roots are more likely to show symptoms.
Could you imagine losing all your hair on the eve of an enormously public day? And then turning that intensely intimate ordeal to make space for others?— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 16, 2020
Ayanna, you are a living blessing.
Everyone, please take a moment out of your day to watch @AyannaPressley’s #BlackHairStory. https://t.co/0G9NCaPmuG
Those who prefer tighter ponytails or buns, weaves, braids, or hair extensions are more likely to develop traction alopecia at some point in their lives.
However, the risks of experiencing symptoms dramatically increases among those who rely on certain chemical relaxation procedures and those who continue wearing the same hairstyle for prolonged time.
Braids should be removed every three months, while extensions and weaves can only stay on the head for up to eight weeks, an article by Johns Hopkins Medicine warns.
Looser braids or dreadlocks can also help prevent the condition, while the use of heat styling products such as hair dryers, flat irons, or curling irons should be avoided.
Unlike traction alopecia, alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that can develop regardless of external factors.