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Her waist-long, abounding Senegalese twists were consistently cool in a altered way. Sometimes bisected of the braids were affianced off her face as the blow cascaded bottomward her amateur or in a low ponytail. In her official Congressional contour photo, she autonomous to accept them pulled aback in a appearance that was half-coiffure, bisected low-twisted bun.
The braids weren’t the alone affair that stood out about Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). She entered Congress in 2019 as allotment of the best assorted bearing of women to access on Capitol Hill: an abundantly arresting Black woman with a able voice, an accessible admiration to actualize change, and a alertness to bandy her political weight abaft what she believes is right.
Yet the beard seemed to be an basic allotment of that visibility. Pressley was one of the few Black women politicians who wore a accustomed hairstyle. She wore it in animosity of added women of blush who said her appearance was “too ethnic,” “too urban” or “wasn’t able enough.” Seeing an adopted official proudly abrasion her beard in braids mattered.
And then, on Thursday, Pressley appear that the braids were gone. In a able video appear by The Root, Pressley appear that she has alopecia areata, an autoimmune ataxia that causes the anatomy to advance advantageous beard follicles and abatement advance to the point that it may stop.
“My twists accept become such a alike and a conflated allotment of not alone my claimed character and how I appearance up in the apple but my political brand,” said Pressley. “And that’s why I anticipate it’s important that I’m cellophane about this new accustomed and active with alopecia.”
Pressley’s adumbration is a attestation to the accent of representation and the able attributes of a Black woman’s beard journey. Her braids stood in affront to a association that actively singles out, disciplines, and asks Black association to cut their beard or, at times, berserk attacks them for cutting braids and locs. Back she initially got the twists bristles years ago, Pressley said it acquainted like she was affair herself for the aboriginal time. They morphed into a claimed and political account she was advised about maintaining—in allotment because of the cardinal of Black women and girls who aboveboard admired her and were empowered by her accommodation to accumulate her beard braided.
Anyone can advance alopecia areata but a abstraction from June 2019, acicular out by The Root, apparent that Black bodies are added likely. And 50 percent of Black women acquaintance some anatomy of beard loss. The aggregate of studies committed accurately to Black women and beard accident (and there isn’t much) appears to centermost about absorption alopecia, which can aftereffect from the astriction of affairs beard too deeply for too continued at the roots. But some advisers accept confused focus to axial centrifugal cicatricial alopecia, changeable arrangement beard accident and stress—all of which accede factors alfresco of administration that comedy a role in beard loss, such as ancestors history.
Hair accident can additionally accompany about animosity of abashment for those who acquaintance it. Pressley said she was fabricated acquainted of her alopecia aftermost abatement as she was accepting her beard retwisted. She absent the aftermost of her beard on the night of the allegation vote. “I didn’t accept the affluence of aching what acquainted like the accident of a limb,” she said in the video. “It was a moment of transformation not of my choosing.” Once she larboard the floor, she hid in a bath stall. Pressley recounts activity “naked, exposed, vulnerable,” “embarrassed” and “ashamed.” She additionally acquainted as if she was accommodating in a cultural betrayal of sorts due to all the little Black girls who are a allotment of #TwistNation. She knew that, back she was ready, she capital to go public.
Watching Pressley acquaint her story, instead of artlessly account about it, evokes a abysmal faculty of joy for Black women who will added see themselves reflected in her image. As she stands there at the end of the video, animated and proud, you can see her truth, her Blackness, emanating. She’s added accretion the chat surrounding the claimed and political aspects of Black women’s hair.
“The absoluteness is that I’m Black, and I’m a Black woman and I’m a Black woman in backroom and aggregate I do is political,” she said.
“I’m not actuality aloof to absorb space,” she added, “I’m actuality to actualize it.”