After her husband Will Smith seemed to punch comedian Chris Rock in reaction to a joke he made about her shaved head, Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair loss became the subject of an unanticipated controversy at the Oscars on Sunday night.
While social media fans were split on the “King Richard” star’s enraged response, Pinkett Smith, who has previously spoken out about her difficulties with alopecia, received overwhelming support.
One user said, “Jada is a CURRENT inspiration for SO many individuals that live with the same or comparable subtype of her ailment.” In the meanwhile, writer Roxane Gay remarked that while she didn’t believe the joke about Pinkett Smith’s alopecia warranted violence, she could see how it “might send someone over the line.”
Pinkett Smith revealed her illness in 2018 and has since spoken out about the disease, which has no known treatment. She remembered the “terrifying” moment she first discovered she was losing “handfuls of hair” in the shower on an episode of her talk programme, Red Table Talk.
She described it as “one of those occasions in my life when I was genuinely shivering with panic.” “That’s why I started cutting my hair and kept cutting it.”
In recent years, the actress has frequently worn short, cut hair or turbans and headwraps to functions. She unveiled her entirely shorn head in July of last year, uploading a photo of herself with her daughter, Willow, on Instagram.
“Willow forced me to do it because it was time to let go,” she captioned the photo. “BUT… with this shed (shaved head), my 50s are about to be wonderfully lighted.”
Last December, Pinkett Smith shared an update on her “battle” with alopecia on Instagram, saying she was coming to grips with the ailment and that “me and my alopecia are going to be friends… period!”
“Mama’s going to have to remove it down to the scalp so nobody thinks she had brain surgery or something,” she said in the post, which was accompanied by a video showing a fresh region of hair loss that would be “more harder to disguise.” She went on to say that she was going to “create me a tiny crown” with “some rhinestones.”
Pinkett Smith has worn her new look to a number of award shows and premieres since then. She wore a diamond-encrusted headgear at the Critics’ Choice Awards earlier this month.
According to Harvard Medical School, over a third of women may experience hair loss at some point in their life. In addition, according to a peer-reviewed research released in 2018, Black and Hispanic women in the United States had a “far larger” likelihood of acquiring alopecia areata, the medical name for the autoimmune illness Pinkett Smith suffers, in their lifetime than White women.
Following the event, alopecia activists and people who suffer from the illness rushed to social media, with one awareness organisation, The Bald Girls Do Lunch, tweeting: “It’s never okay to make jokes about @jadapsmith or any other lady with #alopecia #alopeciaareata. Period.”
Another Twitter user, who also has the disease, remarked, “It took Jada a lot of guts to come out in public,” adding, “Shame on you Chris Rock.”
Meanwhile, Charlie Villanueva, a former NBA player and self-described “alopecia ambassador,” took to social media to express his support for individuals suffering with the disorder: “Keep in mind that you have alopecia, not alopecia has you.”