Rep. Ayanna Pressley Announced She Has Alopecia. What Is the Condition?

Alopecia is a condition that results in hair loss.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), known to rock Senegalese twists and braids, has revealed she has alopecia. The congresswoman opened up and showed her bald head in a video message about her journey.

The video, published by The Root, opened with her discussing how wearing Senegalese twists had a positive impact on her life.

“I got these Senegalese twists and I felt like I met myself fully for the first time,” Pressley began in her announcement. “What started out as a traditional hairstyle, ultimately became a statement and something that I was very intentional about… Now, I walk into rooms and little girls are wearing t-shirts that say, ‘my congresswoman wears braids.”

Pressley said one day as she was having her hair re-twisted, she noticed she had hair loss patches. Presley said she began waking up each morning to sinks full of hair.

“I did not want to go to sleep because I didn’t want the morning to come, where I would remove this bonnet and my wrap, and be with more hair in the sink and an image in the mirror of a person who increasingly felt like a stranger to me.”

She was eventually diagnosed with alopecia, a condition that results in hair loss. Pressley also said she lost the last bit of her hair the night before she had to show up on the House floor to vote on Donald Trump’s articles of impeachment. 

“I exited the floor as soon as I could and I hid in a bathroom stall. I felt naked, exposed, vulnerable. I felt embarrassed. I felt ashamed,” she said. 

“I am making peace with having alopecia. I have not arrived there. I am very early in my alopecia journey,” Pressley added.

What is alopecia?

“Alopecia is a general term that just signifies any disorder in which there is hair loss. So, alopecia is more of a finding than a disease,” Dr. Angelo Landriscina told “In one entity in particular, called alopecia aureate, you can get anything from just small patches of hair loss to alopecia universalis, which means that all of the hair on the body is affected.”

Landriscina, who provides evidence-based skincare advice on his website, DermAngelo,  also said that certain types of alopecia, like alopecia areata, can affect all groups, while others types predominately affect a certain group of people. 

“For instance, one called central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia preferentially affects black women, and for the longest time it was really understudied and misunderstood because it occurred mostly in a population that is underserved,” Landriscina said. “We're learning more and more about it now.”

Types of Alopecia

Alopecia totalis causes a person to lose all the hair on their body. 

Androgenetic alopecia is also known as male-pattern baldness, but can happen in men and women. 

Alopecia Totalis starts with losing patches of hair before going completely bald. 

Diffuse alopecia usually affects younger women and the hair loss is sudden. 

Postpartum alopecia causes women who have just given birth to experience some hair loss temporarily.

Traction Alopecia is hair loss caused when someone pulls the hair follicle too tight, destroying their hair shafts.

Some types of alopecia are permanent, while in other cases, the hair can grow back.

Other Celebrities Who Have It

Some celebrities have been vocal about their alopecia. Tyra Banks opened up in a 2011 interview saying that after she wrote her book, “Modelland,” she got alopecia.

“How can I say this without tearing up? I got a little alopecia from the stress,” Banks told the Wall Street Journal.

Viola Davis has also discussed how she battled with alopecia in her 20s.

"I woke up one day and it looked like I had a Mohawk. Big splash of bald on the top of my head," Davis told Vulture Magazine. "I was like, ‘What is this?’ Until I found out it was stress related. That's how I internalized it.”

Jada Pinkett Smith also recently talked about her alopecia on her popular Facebook series, “Red Table Talk.”

She called the experience “terrifying.”

“I was in the shower one day and then just handfuls of hair, just in my hands, and I was like ‘oh my God am I going bald?’” Pinkett Smith said.

Pinkett Smith said she wears turbans often, which have helped her to feel “empowered.”

“When my hair is wrapped, I feel like a queen,” she added.

Landriscina said having alopecia can have a big impact on people.

“The fact that hair for so many of us isn't a physical feature, but is socially important and serves a sort of cultural purpose,” he said. “so having an alopecia goes beyond having a physical disease. it affects all part of your life. People with these disorders have a certain amount of psycho-social distress too.”