Trigger warning: This story discusses suicide. If you experience active suicidal ideation, meaning your thoughts start turning into plans, please reach out for help. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website for more resources.
By now, you’ve heard – over and over and over – about how Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars after the comedian made an insensitive joke about Jada Pinkett Smith‘s baldness, which is a result of her years-long struggle with alopecia. What we haven’t heard about nearly as much is alopecia itself, a form of hair loss that deserves attention, but not the kind that comes at the expense of those who have it. And in a new episode of Pinkett Smith’s acclaimed Facebook series Red Table Talk, she briefly addresses what happened at the award show, but moves on to educating viewers about not only alopecia but the impact that mean-spirited jokes and bullying can have on those who have the condition.
“This is a really important Red Table Talk on alopecia. 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. I’m using this moment to give our alopecia family an opportunity to talk about what it’s like to have this condition and to inform people about what alopecia actually is,” Pinkett Smith says in a special introduction to the episode, before briefly switching gears. “Now, about Oscar night. My deepest hope is that these two intelligent, capable men have an opportunity to heal, talk this out, and reconcile. The state of the world today – we need ’em 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. Thank you for listening.”
For the rest of the half-hour, Pinkett Smith, daughter Willow Smith, and mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris have an emotional and informative conversation with each other, experts, and others impacted by alopecia, including a woman whose 12-year-old daughter, Rio Allred, died by suicide in March after relentless teasing and bullying by her classmates after she started losing her hair as she entered seventh grade. The devastating story exemplifies just how profoundly ignorance about alopecia can affect those dealing with it, and it also prompted an outpouring of support from others in the alopecia community.