Jada Pinkett Smith was the butt of Chris Rock’s insensitive joke at the Oscars on Sunday. By now, we’re sure you’ve seen the viral footage of Will Smith slapping the comedian for poking fun at Jada’s ongoing battle with Alopecia.
If you missed it, the Spiral actor joked that he was looking forward to seeing the 50-year-old actress star in G.I. Jane 2, obviously referencing the Hey Human founder’s shaved head. At first glance, Will appeared to laugh at the joke as Jada rolled her eyes in dismay. Then the King Richard actor, who had just won his first Oscar for his emotional portrayal of the Williams Sisters’ father, walked up to Rock and struck him on live television.
“Leave my wife’s name out of your f****** mouth!” he shouted after sitting back in his chair.
Alopecia can be a touchy and sensitive subject, and while we don’t condone violence here at Hello Beautiful, Will Smith was right in defending his wife’s condition. It certainly wasn’t nice of Chris Rock to make fun of such a delicate topic on live television in front of millions of viewers. Imagine how embarrassed Jada must have felt? Well, what is Alopecia exactly?
Alopecia or “Alopecia areata” is a common autoimmune skin disease that causes temporary or permanent hair loss on the scalp, face, and sometimes on other areas of the body. According to Mayo Clinic, nearly 6.8 million people in the U.S. experience Alopecia at varying stages throughout life. It can be exacerbated by a number of different factors, including severe stress, heredity, hormonal changes, and medical conditions.
40 Percent Of Women Experience Alopecia
Forty percent of women have visible hair loss by the time they turn 40, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, Web MD notes. Hair loss can have a devastating impact on a woman’s self-image, confidence, and sense of beauty.
The hair loss condition has been linked to high levels of depression and anxiety, according to Dr. Sanam Hafeez, an NYC-based Neuropsychologist who has studied the psychological effects of Alopecia in people. Women often attempt to hide their baldness out of embarrassment, which can directly affect their happiness, attractiveness, and self-worth. It can also impact a women’s social and daily life.
There are different kinds of Alopecia
Different types of Alopecia can cause hair follicles to weaken in all parts of the body. Telogen effluvium, for example, is a form of hair loss in women that can develop when the body is put through extreme stress, such as childbirth, malnutrition, or major surgery. There’s also Alopecia Totalis, another form of the condition that causes an individual to lose all of the hair on their scalp, while Patchy alopecia areata causes hair loss in coin-sized patches. Individuals who suffer from Alopecia Universalis tend to lose all of the hair on their scalp, face, and body, according to The National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF).
Traction alopecia is a form of acquired hair loss that results from prolonged or repetitive tension on the scalp hair.
What Causes Alopecia? Can It Be Cured?
Many complicated factors contribute to Alopecia and its aggressiveness in certain individuals. Scientists are still researching what causes the immune system to attack healthy hair follicles, and they aren’t quite sure if the condition occurs inside the body or outside of the body. Currently, there are two theories; according to the NAAF, some researchers believe the trigger could arise from a virus or a type of bacteria that enters the body, while others believe environmental conditions can bring on Alopecia.
There is no cure for alopecia areata, but luckily, the hair follicles in a person experiencing the condition remain alive, even when the disease is “active” in the body. “This means that your hair can grow back again — even after a long period of time and even if you have more than 50% hair loss,” the organization adds.
Jada has spoken openly about her battles with hair loss
Pinkett-Smith has been very vocal about her challenges with hair loss. The Matrix star first revealed her struggles with the condition in 2018 during an episode of Red Table Talk.
“A lot of people have been asking why I’ve been wearing turbans. Well, I haven’t talked about it. It’s not easy to talk about, but I am going to talk about it,” she shared.
“I was in the shower one day and had just handfuls of hair in my hands and I was just like, ‘Oh my God, am I going bald?'” she added. “It was one of those times in my life where I was literally shaking in fear. That’s why I cut my hair, and why I continue to cut it.”
At one point, Pinkett-Smith told fans that she had been taking “little steroid injections” to help slow down her hair loss.
“They seem to be helping, but not curing … but I’m open to other ideas,” she said in a since-deleted Instagram post, according to PEOPLE.
Last year, the mother of three gave fans an update on her condition, joking in her caption that she and her Alopecia were “going to be friends.”
“Now at this point, I can only laugh,” she told her 11.4 million followers as she pointed to a thin bald patch developing on her scalp. “Y’all know I’ve been struggling with alopecia and just all of a sudden one day, look at this line right here. Look at that.”
Pinkett Smith continued:
“So it just showed up like that and this is going to be a little bit more difficult for me to hide. So I thought I’d just share it so y’all are not asking any questions.”
Despite the challenging condition, Pinkett-Smith hasn’t allowed her hair loss to take control over her life. Back in July, the daytime Emmy Award-nominee rang in her 50th birthday with a “divinely lit” buzzcut inspired by her daughter Willow.
“Willow made me do it because it was time to let go,” she captioned a photo herself alongside her 21-year-old daughter. “BUT … my 50’s are bout to be Divinely lit with this shed,” she added.
There are positive ways to cope with Alopecia
Dealing with Alopecia can be stressful, but you don’t have to go through the experience alone. Dr. Sanam Hafeez suggests finding a support group like the NAAF to speak with other people living with the condition. Remind yourself that hair loss itself is not life-threatening and put your bald spot in perspective, Hafeez notes. While outer appearances certainly do impact our sense of acceptance it’s important to remain focused on taking care of your body on the inside. Remember that your Alopecia does not define you. Take care of yourself and engage in activities that make you feel beautiful and positive.