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28th Mar 2022

Jada Pinkett Smith on her “terrifying” years-long struggle with alopecia hair loss

Laura Grainger

She first revealed she was suffering from hair loss in 2018.

The most talked-about moment of this year’s Oscars was undoubtedly Will Smith smacking Chris Rock on-air after the comedian made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head.

Whilst presenting, Chris addressed the couple in the audience and joked, “Jada, I love ya. Can’t wait for GI Jane Two”, at which she rolled her eyes.

Her husband stormed the stage moments later and hit the comedian with an open hand, which, judging by the laughs in the room, many of those in attendance perceived to be a scripted gag.

It was only when Will returned to his seat and roared “keep my wife’s name out of your f**king mouth” did the realisation that his anger was real dawn on many watching both in the audience and at home.

While the slap shocked viewers and drew plenty of criticism in the media and online, many have empathised with Will’s reaction to the joke due to Jada’s years-long struggle with alopecia.

The actress has openly spoken of her “terrifying” experience with the hair loss condition for several years, first revealing she was suffering from it in 2018.

“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 said at the time on an episode of her Facebook series, Red Table Talk.

“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 continued. “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.”

Alopecia is an auto-immune condition in which hair follicles are attacked, leading to bald patches and hair loss.

Though Jada found her hair loss difficult to deal with, putting things in perspective helped “settle” her. “People are out here with cancer. People have sick children,” she said in the episode, referring to the difference in health reasons for her hair loss.

Later that same year, Jada revealed she was trying steroids as part of her treatment.

“I’m getting my little steroid injections, and they seem to be helping, but not curing,” she said in an Instagram video. “They seem to be helping, but I’m open to other ideas… I’m taking into a lot of consideration all the recommendations that are coming my way.”

In July 2021, the actress debuted her completely shaved head for the first time as it was “time to let go” of maintaining her hair amidst the condition’s shedding.

Crediting her and Will’s daughter for encouraging her to go bald, Jada wrote in an Instagram post: “Willow made me do it because it was time to let go BUT… my 50s are bout to be Divinely lit with this shed.”

The Girls Trip star took to Instagram to show another patch in her already-shaved head again in December 2021.

“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,” she said in a video post, running her finger along a bald line across the top of her head.

“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.

“But you know, mama’s going to put some rhinestones in there. I’m going to make me a little crown,” she finished, adding in the caption: “Mama’s gonna have to take it down to the scalp so nobody thinks she got brain surgery or something. Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… period!”

Given Jada’s years-long struggle with the condition and the self-esteem issues that come with it, Chris’ ‘GI Jane’ joke clearly stuck a nerve with both the actress and her husband.

Or it might have added salt to an open wound, as this actually isn’t the first Oscars ceremony in which Chris has taken a jibe at the actress.

Hosting in 2016 during the height of the ‘Oscars So White’ movement, Chris mocked Jada’s decision to protest and not attend the ceremony for its largely-white list of nominees in the main categories.

“Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited,” he quipped in his opening monologue that year.

A source told People that “Will was still mad about that” when Chris again took aim at his wife on Sunday night.

Will went on to win Best Actor for his performance in King Richard. While he apologised to the Academy and his fellow nominees in his acceptance speech, he made no mention of the comedian.

“I am a fierce defender of my family… Art imitates life, I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams,” he said, referring to his role. “But love will make you do crazy things.”