After Jada Pinkett Smith's alopecia was the butt of one of Chris Rock's jokes at the 2022 Oscars, she gave a sense of how she felt about it when cameras caught her rolling her eyes. Moments later, her husband, Will Smith, was on stage, striking the comedian.
The couple faced a firestorm of criticism after the incident, with some even accusing Pinkett Smith of all but goading her husband into slapping Rock because of the eye roll, since Smith was seen chuckling at his quips not long before.
Pinkett Smith explained in a recent interview with TODAY's Hoda Kotb that she didn't intend for the "King Richard" star to hurt Rock, as she didn't even believe Smith had actually made contact at first. She also shared that when she rolled her eyes, her feelings about her own hair loss weren't what was racing through her head.
"I did that eye roll not so much for me — and I think this is really important — but the fact that there could be a jab at alopecia, and I was thinking about everyone else that suffers ... in shame, that it was going to be OK to make a joke about a condition that ... you don't have any control over," she told Hoda. "So, I rolled my eyes like, 'Here we go again.'"
The "A Different World" star also elaborated on her thought process in her new memoir, Worthy, on shelves Oct. 17.
"The rolling of my eyes. Might I explain?" she wrote. "When Chris came out to present an award, made some jokes, got lots of laughs, and, like comics do, decided to milk his time onstage, he saw me and my bald head and ad-libbed, 'Jada, I love ya. G.I. Jane 2, can't wait to see it.' Just like I'd thought, he wasn't able to help himself, and I rolled my eyes."
"It was not because of the jab at my alopecia but, honestly, about the people I had met whose condition was far worse than mine," she continued. "That was indeed a very light joke, as many expressed, but it was not about me. I was frustrated that the majority of folks can't seem to understand how devastating alopecia can be. My heart broke for the many who live in shame. ... And now the Oscars, in all its political correctness, was telling the world it was okay to make jokes at the expense of a woman suffering from alopecia?"
"It was disheartening, and I didn't take personal offense. I took offense because the condition of alopecia was being mocked. I was going to be fine. This was just another day in the salt mines of the world we inhabited."
Alopecia is a disease that causes hair loss because the immune system attacks the hair follicles, according to the National Institutes of Health. It's most common on the head and face. For some people, the hair grows back; for others, it grows back and falls out again. Alopecia has no cure, but there are treatments available.
Pinkett Smith opened up about accepting that she has alopecia in her memoir.
"I shaved my head and, surprisingly, felt all the more lovable, all the more worthy," she wrote. "There were millions of people around the world, women and men, suffering, bullied and even considering suicide as the result of much, much worse cases of alopecia than mine."
"If sharing my story could empower them to bring their struggles to light, then I wanted to do that," she added. "In fact, I was welcomed into a new community with love and acceptance that I could give in return."