Pinkett Smith has opened up to her fans about her experience with alopecia.
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Jada Pinkett Smith attends the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 27, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California
Credit: Getty Images

Dealing with hair loss is no laughing matter, but that didn't stop Chris Rock from making a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith's appearance while on stage during the 2022 Academy Awards. 

"Jada, I love ya. G.I. Jane 2, can't wait to see ya," said the comedian, clearly referencing her buzz cut. While Will Smith and Pinkett Smith seemed to initially laugh off the comment, Smith — who soon after won the award for Best Actor — ultimately walked on stage and slapped Rock across the face.

Since the jaw-dropping moment Sunday evening, the internet has become inundated with a slew of memes depicting the altercation and reactions from the star-studded audience. But the incident has also brought attention to Pinkett Smith's experience with alopecia, an autoimmune skin disease that, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, affects nearly 7 million people in the U.S.

Just a few days before Sunday's Oscars, Pinkett Smith posted a video on TikTok about her #hairjourney. In the clip, she discusses the pressure she felt to style her hair in ways that met society's expectations early in her career, saying, "Being a Black woman and dealing with hair in Hollywood, in the era I came up in, having your hair look as European as possible was always the thing, and that was really challenging." (See also: How Eurocentric Beauty Standards Harm Black Women)

Despite liking her hair "out wild and curly," the actress "always had to do [her] hair in ways that didn't feel natural to me because of trying to play the game." And while this left her with "hair regrets" over the years, specifically when it came to posing for magazine covers, these experiences forced Pinkett Smith to, in her words, "learn to get the courage to just go, 'Nah, I'm not doing that.'"

Now Pinkett Smith has no problem embracing her looks — and rightfully so. "I don't give two craps what people think of this bald head of mine. Because guess what? I love it," she concludes in the TikTok video, three days prior to Rock's inappropriate jab.

Ever since revealing in 2018 that she'd begun experiencing hair loss due to alopecia, Pinkett Smith has been open about how "terrifying" it is to suddenly start losing your hair. In a December 2021 post on Instagram, though, she reflects on the changes to her scalp, joking that she's going to "put some rhinestones" along a visible line on her scalp (which appeared as a result of her condition) and make "a little crown."

"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 wrote in her caption. (Related: This Bride Embraced Her Alopecia on Her Wedding Day)

In the clip, the Matrix Resurrections star traces her fingers across the line on her scalp. "Now at this point, I can only laugh," she says. "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."

Pinkett Smith ends the video by explaining why she decided to address her hair loss publicly. "So it just showed up like that and this is going to be a little bit more difficult for me to hide," she says. "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. That's what mama's going to do." (Related: This Runner Wants You to Rethink What the Word 'Suffer' Really Means)

Of course, Pinkett Smith's candor will no doubt help others who have been affected by alopecia. They may feel a little less alone in what they might have experienced due to the condition. Alopecia is a general word for hair loss and there are multiple types of alopecia. Some include alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition; cicatricial alopecia, aka "scarring alopecia" wherein inflammation causes scar tissue to form; and traction alopecia, which is caused by tight hairstyles; according to NYU Langone Health.

It's unclear which type of alopecia Pinkett Smith has, but she has shared that her hair loss came on suddenly, causing her distress. In a 2018 episode of Red Table Talk, she tells her co-hosts, daughter Willow Smith and mom Adrienne Banfield-Norris, that she'd been getting questions about why she was wearing turbans. "I have been having issues with hair loss, and I'm going to tell you it was terrifying when it first started," she shares, revealing that "handfuls of hair" fell out one day in the shower. "It was one of those times in my life that I was literally shaking with fear."

Previously, she'd had "a lot of [thick] hair," she notes in the episode. Caring for it was a "beautiful ritual" to her — though she was ultimately able to put her hair loss "in a spiritual perspective," realizing that her hair loss wasn't as devastating as suffering from cancer or losing a child.

Since the Red Table Talk episode, Pinkett Smith has been candid about her relationship to her changing scalp, sharing in a since-deleted Instagram video that she'd begun steroid injections, noting that "they seem to be helping, but not curing," and thanking "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." (Related: This Is Why You're Losing Your Hair During Quarantine)

Back in July, after experimenting with different styles, wraps, and turbans, she debuted a shaved head in an Instagram photo. "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 in the photo's caption.

With this attitude, Pinkett Smith surely isn't letting Rock or anyone else get her down.