BuzzFeed –When Will Smith slapped Chris Rock live onstage after the comedian joked about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s lack of hair, it caught the world’s attention as a memorable Oscars moment for all the wrong reasons.
However, when Rock compared Pinkett Smith to G.I. Jane, it also struck a nerve in the alopecia community, which 50-year-old Pinkett Smith has publicly been a part of for about four years.
(If you didn’t get the joke, G.I. Jane is a 1997 movie starring Demi Moore as a US Navy SEAL candidate who is, yes, bald.)
For the 6.8 million people in the US with alopecia, it was Pinkett Smith’s face when the joke dropped, not the slap, that was the important part.
Alopecia is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles, triggering a spectrum of hair loss anywhere on the body.
“What happened at last night’s Academy Awards is a teachable moment. For many, alopecia areata is no laughing matter.” – National Alopecia Areata Foundation
It’s unpredictable and can happen to anyone at any time, no matter their age, sex, race, ethnicity, or health status.
Some people’s hair can grow back either fully or in patches, while others may have permanent hair loss.
There’s no cure and researchers don’t yet fully understand what causes it, but they believe both genetic and environmental factors like stress or diet play a role.
Pinkett Smith is one of the few high-profile people who have talked about their experience with alopecia.
Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley raised awareness of the condition when she went public in 2020 and revealed her bald head in a powerful and moving video.
Alopecia-related hair loss can be devastating
During a 2018 episode of her Facebook Watch series Red Table Talk, Pinkett Smith said “it was terrifying” when she first started losing her hair … read more.