Last year, many were left empowered when Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) openly shared her struggles with hair loss due to alopecia. Now, the representative—and her “Squad” of progressives—are hoping to help others struggling with hair loss by re-introducing the Wigs as Durable Medical Equipment Act, a legislation that aims to help individuals affected by alopecia areata and chemotherapy get financial support for hair replacement.
In the heartfelt and captivating video, Pressley stated in an interview with The Root, “When you feel like your body is betraying you and you feel less like yourself—that’s already challenging.”
Pressley continued, “To be bald as a woman really does disrupt conventional and societal norms of what is appropriate, what is professional, what is attractive, what is feminine. It’s so much more than cosmetic…. It takes a real toll.”
If you’re not familiar with alopecia, let us enlighten you: it is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks healthy hair follicles, ultimately causing hair loss. Nearly seven million people are living with alopecia with no known cure. According to the Mayo Clinic, alopecia can be caused by a number of reasons, including “heredity, hormonal changes, medical conditions or a normal part of aging.”
On the last day of Alopecia Awareness Month (September), Pressley along with Rep. James McGovern reintroduced the bill requiring Medicare to pay for wigs for those experiencing hair loss due to medical treatments or disease.
“Alopecia areata disproportionately affects Black Americans and particularly Black women, for whom the personal is political,” Pressley conveyed to ESSENCE exclusively. “Since I first revealed my alopecia diagnosis, I’ve been intentional about creating space and creating a community for those of us who have medical conditions that impact our hair— and this bill is a continuation of those efforts.”
McGovern, the ranking member of the House Rules Committee, introduced the bill in 2018 before Pressley took office as Massachusetts’s first African American woman to be elected to Congress.
“Every person living with alopecia, battling cancer, or facing another medical condition that leads to hair loss, should be able to access wigs and other head coverings. Our bill is responsive and sends a powerful message to these communities: we see you, you belong, and you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” shared Pressley.
Many private insurance plans may cover the cost of wigs, but Medicare does not. The reintroduced bill would recategorize cranial prosthetics as durable medical equipment covered under the Social Security Act. “This is about basic human dignity and respect,” McGovern said. Pressley added, “It’s a simple legislative fix, and I think it’ll have a profound impact.”
We applaud Rep. Pressley in her diligent efforts to make a difference for people who have experienced hair loss and honestly hope that this bill is accepted very soon.
In the meantime, we find it important to note how people from all walks of life are affected by hair loss—even celebrities. In case you missed it, many stars have openly shared their experience with hair loss. Below, see what some of your favorite stars shared candidly about their journey.
Jada Pinkett Smith “And I’ll tell you it was terrifying when it first started,” she revealed on an episode of Red Table Talk. “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?’”
Viola Davis: “I woke up one day and it looked like I had a Mohawk. Big splash of bald on the top of my head,” she tells Vulture. “I was like, ‘What is this?’ Until I found out it was stress-related.”
Tyra Banks: “I got a little alopecia from the stress,” she confessed to Wall Street Journal when she was promoting her book, Modelland in 2011.
Naomi Campbell: “I do take more care of my hair now because I lost all of it with extensions,” she told ES Magazine. “I am more careful and I do different things.”
Marlo Hampton: “It [Traction Alopecia] happens in our community a lot because we are raised on ponytails, rubberbands, braids, and other styles that represent our beautiful culture,” she tells Essence. “I’m just excited to share this journey so people know it happens to all of us.”