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Jada Pinkett Smith’s history with alopecia – the autoimmune disorder that caused her to lose hair

The most shocking moment of the 94th Oscars has its roots in an autoimmune disorder known as alopecia, which has caused actress Jada Pinkett Smith to lose her hair.

The 50-year-old actress was the butt of a joke by Oscar presenter Chris Rock, who looked to Pinkett Smith and joked that he, ‘can’t wait for G.I. Jane 2,’ mocking her lack of hair somewhat reminiscent of Demi Moore in the 1997 film G.I. Jane.

This lead to her 53-year-old husband Will Smith to walk on stage and slap Rock, later yelling at him from his seat to ‘Keep my wife’s name out your f***ing mouth.’

Shocking: The most shocking moment of the 94th Oscars has its roots in an autoimmune disorder known as alopecia, which has caused actress Jada Pinkett Smith to lose her hair

Joke: The 50-year-old actress was the butt of a joke by Oscar presenter Chris Rock, who looked to Pinkett Smith and joked that he, 'can't wait for G.I. Jane 2,' mocking her lack of hair somewhat reminiscent of Demi Moore in the 1997 film G.I. Jane

Joke: The 50-year-old actress was the butt of a joke by Oscar presenter Chris Rock, who looked to Pinkett Smith and joked that he, ‘can’t wait for G.I. Jane 2,’ mocking her lack of hair somewhat reminiscent of Demi Moore in the 1997 film G.I. Jane

It’s unclear if Rock was aware of Pinkett Smith’s history with alopecia before making the joke at the Dolby Theater on Sunday evening.

Pinkett Smith first opened up about dealing with alopecia during a 2018 episode of her Facebook Watch show Red Table Talk.

‘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?”‘ she shared on the program.

Opening up: Pinkett Smith first opened up about dealing with alopecia during a 2018 episode of her Facebook Watch show Red Table Talk

Opening up: Pinkett Smith first opened up about dealing with alopecia during a 2018 episode of her Facebook Watch show Red Table Talk

She added that she found a treatment to slow the hair loss, but added she was open to, ‘other ideas.’

“I’m getting my little steroid injections, and they seem to be helping, but not curing, but they seem to be helping, but I’m open to other ideas,” she said.

‘I just want to say a thank you to everyone for all the outreach, from all the doctors and all the holistic practitioners, who have been reaching out to me for this head of mine, I appreciate it so much,’ she continued.

Other ideas: She added that she found a treatment to slow the hair loss, but added she was open to, 'other ideas'

Other ideas: She added that she found a treatment to slow the hair loss, but added she was open to, ‘other ideas’

‘And I’m taking into a lot of consideration all the recommendations that are coming my way,’ she said.

Pinkett Smith decided to shave her head in July 2021, sharing an Instagram photo with her and daughter Willow, who inspired the cut with her own shorter hair.

‘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 said on her Instagram post. 

Shaved: Pinkett Smith decided to shave her head in July 2021, sharing an Instagram photo with her and daughter Willow, who inspired the cut with her own shorter hair

Shaved: Pinkett Smith decided to shave her head in July 2021, sharing an Instagram photo with her and daughter Willow, who inspired the cut with her own shorter hair

Willow: '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 said on her Instagram post

Willow: ‘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 said on her Instagram post

Consideration: 'And I'm taking into a lot of consideration all the recommendations that are coming my way,' she said

Consideration: ‘And I’m taking into a lot of consideration all the recommendations that are coming my way,’ she said

She also spoke about her journey with alopecia on a September 2021 episode of Red Table Talk with Tiffany Haddish and Yvonne Orji, telling the the decision to shave her head came from, ‘that kind of expression and release.”

The actress said shaving her head gave her a sense of, ‘freedown,’ that made her more connected to, ‘the great Divine in a special way.’

‘It was a huge relief. It was that moment, I was just like, “I’m done. I’m done with the worry, I’m done with the care. I’m just done,”‘ she added.

Journey: She also spoke about her journey with alopecia on a September 2021 episode of Red Table Talk with Tiffany Haddish and Yvonne Orji, telling the the decision to shave her head came from, 'that kind of expression and release"'

Journey: She also spoke about her journey with alopecia on a September 2021 episode of Red Table Talk with Tiffany Haddish and Yvonne Orji, telling the the decision to shave her head came from, ‘that kind of expression and release”‘

She most recently spoke about alopecia in a late December 2021 video, where she showed off her freshly shaved head.

‘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!’

She said in the video, ‘Now at this point, I can only laugh. Trying to live with alopecia and just all of a sudden one day, look at this line right here,’ she said, pointing to a line on her scalp.

Divine: The actress said shaving her head gave her a sense of, 'freedown,' that made her more connected to, 'the great Divine in a special way.

Divine: The actress said shaving her head gave her a sense of, ‘freedown,’ that made her more connected to, ‘the great Divine in a special way.

Line: She said in the video, 'Now at this point, I can only laugh. Trying to live with alopecia and just all of a sudden one day, look at this line right here,' she said, pointing to a line on her scalp

Line: She said in the video, ‘Now at this point, I can only laugh. Trying to live with alopecia and just all of a sudden one day, look at this line right here,’ she said, pointing to a line on her scalp

‘So it just showed up like that, so this is gonna be a little more difficult for me to hide, so I thought I’d just share it so you all are not asking any questions,’ she said.

She added she was going to put some rhinestones in there and, ‘make me a little crown, that’s what momma’s gonna do.’

Alopecia is a condition that affects both males and females equally, though it is incredibly rare, affecting just 0.1% to 0.2% of the population. 

Share: 'So it just showed up like that, so this is gonna be a little more difficult for me to hide, so I thought I'd just share it so you all are not asking any questions,' she said

Share: ‘So it just showed up like that, so this is gonna be a little more difficult for me to hide, so I thought I’d just share it so you all are not asking any questions,’ she said

The disorder does not alter life expectancy, though no cure for alopecia is currently known.

Notable people who have alopecia include Viola Davis, Barry star Anthony Carrigan, Friday the 13th star Derek Mears, American Ninja Warrior star Kevin Bull.

Actor Christopher Reeve was also diagnosed with alopecia after his paralysis.

Not alter: The disorder does not alter life expectancy, though no cure for alopecia is currently known

Not alter: The disorder does not alter life expectancy, though no cure for alopecia is currently known

Notable: Notable people who have alopecia include Viola Davis, Barry star Anthony Carrigan, Friday the 13th star Derek Mears, American Ninja Warrior star Kevin Bull

Notable: Notable people who have alopecia include Viola Davis, Barry star Anthony Carrigan, Friday the 13th star Derek Mears, American Ninja Warrior star Kevin Bull

WHAT IS ALOPECIA?

Alopecia, which causes baldness, is thought to be an autoimmune disorder. The immune system – the body’s defense system – turns on itself.

What are the symptoms?

‘Typically, one or more small bald patches, about the size of a 50p piece, appear on the scalp. The hair can start to regrow at one site, while another bald patch develops. Hair may also begin to thin all over the head,’ says Marilyn Sherlock, chairman of the Institute of Trichologists. 

What causes it?

‘For some reason, the body’s immune system begins to attack its own hair follicles. Special white blood cells in the body, known as T-lymphocytes, cause the hair to stop growing,’ she adds.

Can worry make it worse?

Stress has been shown to prolong the problem. 

Is it an inherited condition?

There is strong evidence to suggest that alopecia, like other auto-immune diseases, runs in families. About 25 per cent of patients have a family history of the disorder. 

Who gets it?

Alopecia areata usually affects teenagers and young adults, but it can affect people of any age. It is just as common among men as women. 

Is there a cure?

There is no known cure, although there are various treatments which may be effective for some people.


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