Alopecia: Black Women Celebrities Who Have Opened Up On Their Hair Loss

by Duke Magazine

People were shocked when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on stage at the Oscars on Sunday night. On stage to present the award for best documentary feature, comedian Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s alopecia, which she suffers from (a broad term that refers to any form of hair loss).

“I can’t wait for GI Jane 2,” Rock stated. Smith came up to the stage and performed Rock before returning to his seat and yelling, “Keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth!”

Since then, the incident has raised public awareness of Pinkett Smith’s alopecia areata disease. According to WebMD, alopecia areata is an autoimmune illness that causes hair to fall out in clumps the size and shape of a quarter. Some people simply lose a few strands of hair, while others lose a lot. Hair can regrow and then fall out again in the future. Others, on the other hand, see their hair regrow completely.

There are other forms of alopecia, but the most prevalent is alopecia areata, which affects one in every 500 to 1,000 people in the United States.

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“It’s an autoimmune disorder of the hair follicle — any hair follicle, by the way,” said Dr. Elise Olsen, a dermatologist with Duke Health. “It commonly manifests on the scalp, but it can be elsewhere,” she added. “It can affect anyone of any age, color, or sex, and often begins in childhood, but it can also occur as an adult.”

Doctors aren’t sure what causes alopecia areata, but they think it might have a genetic component. If a family member has alopecia, one is more likely to develop it. Vitiligo, asthma, Down syndrome, thyroid disorders, and iron deficiency are all conditions that can lead to alopecia areata.

Stressful occurrences can also contribute to the ailment. According to Dr. Angela Lamb, a board-certified dermatologist at Mount Sinai, some people, particularly men, lose scalp hair as they age owing to changes in hormones known as androgens, which is considered a form of alopecia.

On a 2018 episode of her show “Red Table Talk,” Pinkett Smith first revealed her alopecia diagnosis.

“When it initially started, it was terrifying.” “I was in the shower one day and just had handfuls of hair in my hands, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, am I going bald?'” she explained. “It was one of those moments in my life when I was terrified.” That’s why I’ve been cutting my hair and will continue to do so.”

She showed the world a completely shaven head in an Instagram video posted in December 2021. “I’m going to be friends with this alopecia,” she declared.

She was praised for being transparent about her illness and forgiving people for having the bravery to shave her head. Losing one’s hair can be frightening and upsetting. Experts estimate that 40% of women experience hair loss by the age of 40.

Living with alopecia (the medical word for hair loss of any kind) can be difficult to discuss, but Pinkett Smith and the following Black women celebrities have done so, demonstrating to others that they are not alone.

Tyra Banks

Tyra Banks

Tyra Banks

While writing her best-selling Young Adult novel Modelland, Tyra Banks Banks experienced hair loss due to stress.

The supermodel and former America’s Next Top Model host told the Wall Street Journal, “Honestly, chilling for me meant eating a meal.” “I couldn’t just stand there and stare at the sea.” In retrospect, that wasn’t a good idea. I’m not sure how I’m going to say this without crying. Because of the stress, I developed a smidgeon of baldness.”

Viola Davis

Viola Davis

Viola Davis

When she was 28, the actress suffered from alopecia, which caused her to lose half of her hair. “One day, I woke up with a Mohawk on my head.” She told Vulture magazine, “I have a big splash of bald on the top of my head.”

“I was like, ‘What is this?'” says the narrator. Until I discovered it was due to stress. That’s how I got it into my head.”

The actor had to learn to accept her physical limitations. “I’m telling you, I’ve spent my entire life not feeling at ease in my flesh. “I’m just not there any longer.” Because of her illness, she said she used to wear wigs. She stated that wearing wigs is now a possibility.

Naomi Campbell

Naomi Campbell

Naomi Campbell

The supermodel had a lot of hair fall out. There were worries in 2012 that she had traction alopecia, which is hair loss induced by the use of extensions. She told the Evening Standard that she had “lost everything.”

Her hair has mostly grown back after then. “Now that I’ve lost all of my hair due to extensions, I take better care of it,” she remarked. “I’m more cautious, and I try new things.”

“Wigs are worn by everyone on the planet.” It’s no longer relevant. “I do what I want or what the work requires.”

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