What is Alopecia? Will Smith Slaps Chris Rock Over a Joke About His Wife Jada's Condition
Will Smith defended his wife, Jada, who was recovering from her alopecia, by slapping comedian Chris Rock on the stage . Although this autoimmune disease does not hurt physically, it cannot be treated and can cause significant mental health struggles.
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"One day, while showering, I held tufts of hair in my hands and asked myself if I, for God's sake, was starting to go bald. It was one of the moments when I literally shivered from fear," Jada Pinkett Smith describes her first experience with hair loss.
It was not an innocent tuft of hair falling out by accident, but the onset of a condition called alopecia, which affects millions of people around the world. That's why actor Will Smith jumped out of his chair at this year's Oscars and slapped comedian Chris Rock, who was joking about his wife's current appearance.
The insensitive joke of a well-known comedian made the audience laugh at first, but it was clear from the actor's wife's face that her remark had offended her. Despite the fact that she has been openly talking about her diagnosis for several years, living with alopecia is often more difficult mentally than physically.
What is alopecia, the condition affecting Jada Pinkett Smith?
Jada Pinkett Smith suffers from an autoimmune disease called Alopecia areata. What looks like hair loss to the average layman's eye is, in fact, a condition that causes the body's immunity to attack its own hair follicles, which in turn, causes tissue inflammation and hair loss.
Alopecia is an unpredictable disease with which it is, in most cases, impossible to predict what damage it will do. Some patients experience hair loss only on certain parts of the head, while with others, the disease can cause hair to fall out completely, explains Yale Medicine.
In the case of Will Smith's wife, alopecia began with occasional hair loss, but over time, more and more and more baldness developed on her head. The onset of the disease resulted in her decision to shave her head, so she has been cutting her hair completely, since last summer.
Anyone can suffer from alopecia
Although anyone can get alopecia, studies have shown a greater risk of developing this condition in people with a genetic predisposition, who have someone suffering from alopecia in their family, or in people suffering from asthma, atopic eczema, hay fever, vitiligo or Down's syndrome.
The American Academy of Dermatology makes it clear on its website that alopecia usually first appears before the age of 30, and even more so, many people experience it as a child or in adolescence.
However, this is not the rule, as confirmed by the case of Jada Pinkett Smith, in whom alopecia fully developed, shortly before her 50th birthday.
Dermatologists warn that although alopecia causes hair follicles to be attacked by the body's own immune system, which causes hair loss, it rarely completely destroys the follicles. This is one of the reasons why many patients have a chance that their hair will start to grow back, or it is sometimes possible to kickstart the hair growth with medication.
It took years to accept the shaved hair image
At present, although the well-known actress does not shy away from spotlight, accepting her new image after the outbreak of alopecia took a long time. When she publicly named her diagnosis at the Red Table Talk, she confirmed she tried to reverse or at least slow down the progression of the disease.
She described the initial stages of the disease as terrifying, as she could not come to terms with the fact that one day she might have to say goodbye to her hair. She tried corticosteroids, which were injected into her body to stop hair loss, but to no avail. "It looks like they help, but they don't cure ... But I'm also open to other ideas," she confided to her fans in 2018, writes People.
The American Academy of Dermatology points out that alopecia cannot be cured. "It cannot be cured, but hair regrowth is possible. People with hair regrowth may later experience hair loss. Some people experience cycles of hair loss and hair regrowth,” explains the organisation.
Impact on mental health
"I can only laugh at this point," Jada Pinkett Smith said last December, when she released a video on Instagram capturing a new area of her head, where her hair had fallen out.
"You know I'm battling alopecia, and one day out of nowhere, this strip appeared on my head. Look at it," says the actress in the video, pointing to a new piece of skull without any hair.
She emphasises, that alopecia does not cause physical pain, but this diagnosis can have a significant impact on the patient's mental health. The National Institute of Mental Health in the United States states that people with chronic health problems, such as alopecia, face an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and interpersonal contact phobias.
It's time to enjoy the crazy life in your fifties
Jada Pinkett Smith handles the difficult diagnosis with grace, which she said was inspired by her daughter Willow. Thanks to her, the actress realised that she has no reason to hide anything after her 50th birthday, and instead of constantly trying to kickstart her hair growth again and again, she prefers to accept her new image and help inspire patients who suffer from alopecia as well, writes Prevention.
"Willow made me shave my head, saying, that it's time to let it go," the actress explained on account of her freshly shaved hair. In addition to taking a selfie with her daughter, which she posted on Instagram last summer, she immediately smiled, saying that with a new haircut, her life after the age of 50 would be really crazy.
She seems to have managed to get her relationship with alopecia under control over time, but the diagnosis is still a sensitive issue. "Mamma will have to cut her hair to the skull so that no one thinks she has undergone brain surgery," the actress laughed under a video from December 2021, where she shows people her new hairless strip. "Alopecia and I will be friends. And that is that! ” she concluded.
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