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The congresswoman appear she has alopecia in a video for The Root.

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AP Photo/Steven Senne

Since her accession in Washington, Ayanna Pressley’s beard has fabricated headlines. The aboriginal atramentous woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress, she sported her now-signature long, blubbery Senegalese twists on her advance posters and on her commencement day. Some, she recalled aback in 2018, alleged the attending unpolished, too ethnic, and too urban. But for abounding added women and girls, seeing a atramentous woman embrace her beard on the House attic acquainted like a promise—that the representation they had been cat-and-mouse for had assuredly arrived.

But those braids accept been missing lately. In contempo months, Pressley has alone her signature attending for lace-front wigs—and in a video acquaint by The Root on Thursday, she explained why.

“I’m Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, and this is a chat about why my atramentous beard adventure is both claimed and political,” she begins.

In the six-and-a-half minute video, Pressley reveals about for the aboriginal time that she has alopecia, an autoimmune ataxia that causes the anatomy to advance its own beard follicles, consistent in beard loss. Pressley aboriginal noticed that she was address “sinkfuls of hair” aftermost fall, and on the eve of the House’s vote on Donald Trump’s impeachment, the adumbrative absent her final hair.

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“I didn’t accept the affluence of aching what acquainted like the accident of a limb,” Pressley says, account how, on the day of the vote, she larboard the attic as bound as accessible and hid in a bath stall. “It was a moment of transformation not of my choosing.”

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Since accident her hair, Pressley says, she has alone been baldheaded in the aloofness of her own home and in the aggregation of her abutting friends. However, that afflicted when, at the end of her video, Pressley appears afterwards her wig on camera for the aboriginal time. She says that cerebration of all the adolescent women who were aggressive by her twists assertive her to go public: “I acquainted like I owed all those little girls an explanation.”

As the affecting video has fabricated the rounds, adolescent Massachusetts admiral accept accurate their abutment for Pressley’s bravery.

It’s no abruptness to me – or anyone – that @AyannaPressley is administration this acutely claimed adventure with grace, appearance and passion. It’s aloof who she is and why she creates so abundant amplitude for others to be their accurate selves. https://t.co/fbjG4Wn5Ez

— Maura Healey (@maura_healey) January 16, 2020

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Thank you Congresswoman @RepPressley for administration your able adventure and for assuming the apple what it agency to embrace our own identities with adroitness and courage. https://t.co/tDZuyFgJuc

— Mayor Marty Walsh (@marty_walsh) January 16, 2020

The adventuresomeness of @AyannaPressley sets such a able example. Proud to calculation her as a friend, animated so abounding in the abutting bearing accept her as a role model, and achievement some added in this bearing arouse alike a little bit of Ayanna in the decisions they make. https://t.co/k6CnNUW5hc

— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) January 16, 2020

Pressley doesn’t shy abroad from how adverse the action of accident her beard has been. She says she faced mornings with dread, abashed to bare her beard and watch strands abatement to the sink. She didn’t appetite to attending in the mirror and see addition who “increasingly acquainted like a drifter to me.” To carelessness her signature hairstyle, she says, acquainted like “cultural betrayal.”

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When a woman adventures beard loss, well-meaning parties ability say that it’s “just hair,” attempting to put the bearings in perspective. But the cast ancillary of that bulletin is that caring about your beard is superficial—and the confusion a woman ability feel afterwards accident her beard is unjustified.

But through her apparent vulnerability, Pressley alien a new narrative: That, while beard is associated with beauty, it’s additionally acutely circuitous with identity. Beard is never “just hair,” and Pressley has, back the alpha of her advance for Congress, showed how beard represents power, race, and gender. Her twists set her afar as new and confusing in a allowance abounding of short-haired, graying macho heads. They drew the absorption of girls and women who had never apparent braids like endemic on advance posters and on the House floor. They symbolized, like Rashida Tlaib’s swearing-in throbe and Ilhan Omar’s hijab, the long-awaited accession of new activity and representation. It’s a accuracy that’s afflictive to recognize—because back beard isn’t “just hair,” the accident of it assets renewed, affecting significance.

There’s a allurement to anatomy this video as a “you go, girl” moment for Pressley; to bless her positivity in the face of a challenge, her alacrity to move forward, and the advance she has fabricated in accepting her medical condition. But to attending accomplished Pressley’s affliction is to avoid her bravest statement—that beard accident is acutely claimed and aces of grief, abnormally for a woman of color.

“I’m a atramentous woman in politics,” Pressley says simply.  “And aggregate I do is political.”

Pressley knows that her anatomy will always be scrutinized. She knows that her beard was never “just hair,” and that address it will not accomplish it any easier for her to move through the apple as a atramentous woman. She has gone through a real, aching loss—and is accommodating to acquaintance belly anguish in acknowledgment to it on a accessible stage. That, I think, is awfully courageous.

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