While the viral moment of actor Will Smith slapping comedian Chris Rock at the 94th Academy Awards has been highly ballyhooed, less attention has been garnered by the struggle Jada Pinkett Smith, 50, has endured that led to the ill-favored joke at her expense.
As Rock was delivering his presentation for the best documentary feature, he turned to the Smiths and remarked, “Jada, I love you. G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see ya.” This joke caused the actress to visibly cringe and led to her husband storming the stage and assaulting Rock for the offense as reported.
While Rock had previously ragged on the couple at the 2016 Academy Awards after they declared they would not attend in light of Smith’s performance in “Concussion” being passed for nomination by the Academy, it is unclear if he was aware of the background that drove Pinkett Smith to shave her head.
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“Now at this point I can only laugh and y’all know I’ve been struggling with alopecia, and just all of a sudden one day,” Pinkett Smith said in an Instagram post as she pointed to a balding line on her shaved scalp, “look at this line right here. Look at that.”
“And so it just showed up like that and this is gonna be a little more difficult for me to hide,” she added before suggesting she’d attempt to cope with the development by studding the bald spot with rhinestones to make a crown.
Pinkett Smith’s personal attempts to jest do not belie her challenges to cope with the autoimmune disorder that has no known cure, as the Daily Mail reported. “For some reason, the body’s immune system begins to attack its own hair follicles,” Marilyn Sherlock, chair of the Institute of Trichologists said.
“Special white blood cells in the body, known as T-lymphocytes,” she explained, “cause the hair to stop growing.” However, it does not mean that hair will not potentially regrow for those who have the incredibly rare condition that affects between 0.1 and 0.2 percent of the population.
The actress first detailed her diagnosis in 2018 during her “Red Table Talk” program online.
“I’ve been having issues with hair loss,” she said while trying to maintain her composure.
“It was terrifying when it first started. 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?'” Pinkett Smith recounted. “I’ve gotten every kind of test. They don’t know why. People say stress.”
“The higher power takes so much from people. People are out here who have cancer, people who have sick children,” she expressed at the time, grounding her experience. “I watch the higher power take things every day and, by golly, if the higher power wants to take your hair, ‘That’s it? God, do you want my hair?'”
“When I looked at it from that perspective, it really did settle me,” stated the actress.
This led her to shave her head in July 2021 with encouragement from her daughter. “Willow made me do it because it was time to let go BUT … my 50’s are bout to be Divinely lit with this shed,” she wrote on social media and later expressed that made her feel connected to “the great Divine in a special way.”
Other notable figures who have been diagnosed with alopecia include actress Viola Davis, actor Anthony Carrigan, who co-starred with Pinkett Smith on the show “Gotham,” and conservative podcaster Dave Rubin as well as Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
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