‘It was terrifying’: All the things Jada Smith Pinkett has said about her alopecia

Actor first spoke out about her hair loss condition in 2018

Joanna Whitehead,Meredith Clark
Monday 30 October 2023 21:34 GMT

Related: Jada Pickett Smith says Oscar’s slap was moment she decided to stand by Will

Jada Pinkett Smith has been very open with her fans about her journey with alopecia.

The 52-year-old actor - who recently released her bombshell memoir, Worthy - has spoken candidly about her struggle with hair loss, also known as alopecia.

While the term “alopecia” is commonly known as hair loss, there are nine different types of alopecia people can develop, according to Alopecia UK. However, the most common are androgenetic alopecia and alopecia areata - an autoimmune disease that occurs when the immune system attacks its own hair follicles.

Pinkett Smith first revealed that she had alopecia in 2018, describing the sudden hair loss she experienced as “terrifying”. Speaking to her mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, and her daughter, Willow Smith, on an episode of Red Table Talk at the time, she recalled losing “handfuls of hair” in the shower one day. Pinkett Smith then explained how her condition prompted her to cut all her hair off.

“I’ve been getting lots of questions about why I’ve been wearing this turban,” she said. “Well, I’ve been having issues with hair loss.

“And I’ll tell you it was terrifying when it first started. I was in the shower one day and then just handfuls of hair, just in my hands, and I was like: ‘Oh my God, am I going bald?’ It was one of those times in my life when I was literally shaking with fear.”

The Girls Trip star explained that maintaining a sense of perspective has helped her cope with her alopecia. “People are out here with cancer, with sick children… I watch the higher power take things every day and if the higher power wants to take my hair? That’s it? God, you want my hair?

“When I looked at it from that perspective it did settle me,” Pinkett Smith added, before she credited turbans for helping her feel empowered as a result of her hair loss. “When my hair is wrapped, I feel like a queen,” she said.

In July 2021, fans praised Pinkett Smith after she debuted a new buzz cut, saying it was “time to let go” after her struggle with hair loss. The actor posted about the new style on her Instagram, where she uploaded a short video of herself posing against a backdrop of flowers and revealed that her daughter had been the one to encourage her to cut off her hair.

“Willow made me do it because it was time to let go BUT… my 50s are bout to be Divinely lit with this shed,” she captioned the video.

In December that year, the Matrix Resurrections star shared a video to Instagram, in which she pointed out a line on her scalp that had developed as a result of the condition. “Now at this point, I can only laugh,” she said at the start of the video. “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.”

“So it just showed up like that and this is going to be a little bit more difficult for me to hide. So I thought I’d just share it so y’all are not asking any questions,” Pinkett Smith said. However, she remained optimistic about her alopecia struggle. “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.”

She jokingly captioned the video: “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!”

Pinkett Smith gave fans an update on her alopecia journey in August 2023, as she celebrated her hair growth process with a two selfies posted to Instagram. In the first snap, her head was shaved and the second photo showed that her blonde hair had started to grow in.

“This here hair is act’n like it’s try’n a make a come back. Still have some trouble spots but - we’ll see… Slide 1: Past. Slide 2: Present,” she wrote in the caption.

Her alopecia made headlines in March 2022, when comedian Chris Rock compared Pinkett Smith to GI Jane - who has a shaved head - while on stage at the Academy Awards. Rock was presenting the award for Best Documentary when he made a joke about Pinkett Smith’s appearance. “Jada, I love you. GI Jane 2, can’t wait to see you,” he quipped, in an apparent reference to the actor’s shaved head.

While Pinkett Smith appeared to roll her eyes at the comment, her husband Will Smith walked onstage and struck the comedian, yelling: “Keep my wife’s name out your f***ing mouth”.

In an interview with The Guardian, which was published nearly one year after the Oscars “slap” incident, Pinkett Smith opened about what she’s learned about the autoimmune disease. “I learned a lot about detachment. And I learned a deeper beauty within myself, being able to let my hair go,” she said.

Pinkett Smith explained that her alopecia diagnosis had been a “great teacher” for her, adding: “It’s been a hard one, a scary one – because specifically as Black women, we identify so much of ourselves with our hair. And it was scary. I had to really dig deep and see the beauty of myself beyond my aesthetics.”

According to the NHS, alopecia is fairly common. It’s estimated that around 40 per cent of women aged 70 years or over experience female-pattern baldness – the most common type of hair loss, which is thought to be inherited.

Hair loss can be genetic, or as a result of extreme stress, a medical condition or treatment. It’s also common for women to lose more hair than usual up to three months after they’ve given birth.

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