Jada Pinkett Smith took to her popular web series Red Table Talk to address the slapping scandal that occurred at the live televised 2022 Academy Awards between hubby Will Smith and Chris Rock and educate the masses on alopecia.
Wednesday’s episode addressed the slap and the hair loss disorder, alopecia areata, that roughly affects 2.5 million Americans.
Jada opened the dialogue with a disclaimer about the emotional turmoil and trauma many people with alopecia experience.
“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,” the Low Down Dirty Shame actress expressed. “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.”
“It’s so much shame around alopecia and when you go bald, and you don’t have a choice,” the 50-year-old mother and wife continued. “I think the part that makes it the most difficult for me is that it comes and goes. You’re going through a spout of something, and you have to shave your head because it’s falling out.”
Jada’s mom, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, chimed in, adding that her daughter’s alopecia “is always so spotty.”
“Yeah,” Pinkett Smith agreed, “it’s stressful because a patch grows, and then another patch comes out, and that gives me a lot of anxiety. ‘Oh, what’s my hair going to look like today?’”
The half-hour Red Table Talk episode also featured the mother of 12-year-old Rio Allred. Niki Ball shared her daughter’s heartbreaking story with Jada, Willow and Adrienne. Rio committed suicide in March after being incessantly bullied about her hair loss due to having alopecia.
Niki explained that Rio developed the disorder during the pandemic. Her daughter was diagnosed with alopecia areata after losing her mane by the “handful.”
She openly shared Rio’s journey on Facebook. In September, Niki revealed the diagnosis with a heartwarming message to her daughter.
“Rio started [losing] her hair around Christmas last year. Blood draws, steroid creams and injections… this sweet peanut has alopecia. And has handled it like a CHAMP! Today, we took the step and shaved what was left. And this girl is GLOOOOOWING!! September is Alopecia Awareness month.”
“Talk about it. NORMALIZE BALDNESS,” she continued. “And please… pleeeaaase talk to your kids. Rio had her wig pulled off THREE different times at school already. But will be rocking her baldness now. I’m so proud of my girl. She is such an inspiration.”
Initially, the grieving mother disclosed that the pre-teen remained stoic while losing her hair, but the various solutions, including creams and injections, were not working– eventually leaving Rio feeling defeated.
“With the hair loss, she was so strong. She still rocked it even when it was falling out, and she just had these big bald patches. Tried the creams. They made her break out. Tried the injections, she took five of them in one day. But neither of them really did anything.”
Niki shared that Rio decided to go bald.
“Can we just shave my head?” the mom said, recounting the conversation. “And so we did. And she just GLOWED.”
“And then with school coming up, we got her that super cute wig, she loved it, and she glowed then. But at school, within a couple of weeks, she was like, ‘I don’t want to wear it anymore. There’s no point.’ She had it ripped off her head.”
Niki elaborated on Rio’s abuse in school, saying, “She’d get smacked upside on the head walking down the hallway. And that was within the first two weeks, three weeks. It got really bad for her.”
She also revealed that her daughter was also subjected to verbal and emotional abuse.
“The kids at school called Rio a “naked mole rat,” a “bug-eyed alien,” and “Mr. and Mrs. Clean,” Niki recalled as her voice cracked.
Although she advocated for Rio by talking to school administrators and continued to encourage her baby girl, the bullying proved to be too much for the 12-year-old girl. On March 14, 2022, Rio committed suicide, and Niki called it “the worst day of my life.”
“She was so smart. She was just brilliant. And she was funny. She was a great big sister. She loved reading and writing and sketching. She loved being in the band.”