LOS ANGELES — Jada Pinkett Smith turned her husband’s Oscar-night blowup into a teachable moment about alopecia areata, the hair-loss disorder affecting her and millions of others that, in some cases, can impact a person’s sense of identity.
“Considering what I’ve been through with my own health and what happened at the Oscars, thousands have reached out to me with their stories,” Pinkett Smith said on Wednesday’s episode of “Red Table Talk.”
The actor said she chose to use “this moment to give our alopecia family an opportunity to talk about what it’s like to have this condition” and what it is. Rio Allred (the mother of Rio), a 12-year-old girl who suffered from hair loss, was bullied and committed suicide. She was joined by a doctor who described the various types.
Pinkett Smith spoke at the Academy Awards on March 27, before addressing the topic. She and husband Will Smith, a best-actor nominee, were in the audience as presenter Chris Rock cracked a joke at Pinkett Smith’s expense.
“Jada, I love you. ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it,” Rock said. Pinkett Smith has previously spoken out about her alopecia. Her hair was similar to Demi Moore’s in 1997.
Smith made a sudden entrance from his seat in front of Rock and began to slap him, shocking both the comedians and the people around him. Smith, who returned to his seat and later accepted the Oscar for “King Richard,” subsequently apologized to Rock but was banned from the ceremony for 10 years by the film academy.
“Now, about Oscar night, my deepest hope is that these two intelligent, capable men have an opportunity to heal, talk this out, and reconcile,” Pinkett Smith said on “Red Table Talk” in an indirect reference to Smith and Rock. “The state of the world today, we need them both, and we all actually need one another more than ever.
“Until then, Will and I are continuing to do what we have done for the last 28 years, and that’s keep figuring out this thing called life together,” said Pinkett Smith, who previously had addressed the incident in a brief Instagram post that read ““This is a season for healing and I’m here for it.”
The actor (“Girls Trip,” “Matrix” films), who hosts the Facebook Watch talk show with her daughter, Willow, and Adrienne Banfield Norris, her mother, said that millions of people are living with alopecia and what she called the “shame” that surrounds it. The condition, particularly for Black women, can affect a person’s perception of themselves and force them to frequently confront others’ perceptions about beauty, hair and race and culture.
Rio’s mother, Nicole Ball, recounted the impact of the Oscar incident, which took place less than two weeks after her daughter’s death.
“What is the universe doing right now? This is crazy,’” Ball recalled thinking. “People are going to be Googling, ‘What is alopecia….What is this that we’ve never heard of?’ It’s not a joke.”
The National Alopecia Areata Foundation states that the condition affects up to 6.8 million Americans of all ages, sexes, and races. There are many symptoms.
“I think the part that makes it most difficult for me is that it comes and goes. You’re going through a spell of something, and you got to shave your head,” Pinkett Smith said.
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