This is the first piece in my “Lessons To Learn” series: A collection of posts which includes alopecians I admire and how they handle hair loss. But it’ll also include celebs and “regular” people who’ve overcome other forms of physical adversity, body image issues and internal struggles to empower others. Happy learning! 😉
There’s more to this lady than being Will Smith’s wife. First of all, she’s a fairly big celebrity in her own right. Second of all, the stunning 46-year-old actress has a lot of life lessons to teach us – especially those of us suddenly faced with an appearance-changing condition like alopecia areata.
Take a quick look at part of her “confession” below, or read on for the full story.
In May 2019, Jada opened up about her hair loss on the Facebook show Red Table Talk – a series that she co-hosts with her mother, Adrienne and her daughter, Willow Smith. (Who, thankfully, didn’t boast about her ability to whip her own hair back ‘n’ forth. Phew.)
(Psst… Watch the entire body image episode here, or skip to 2.44 for the hairy stuff.)
When I watched the episode, Jada’s honest words about discovering her alopecia for the first time really struck a chord with me.
She describes the shock of “losing handfuls of hair” in the shower one day as being “terrifying”. She goes on to say how she was “literally shaking with fear.” And she’s very candid about her initial response – not pretending she was able to shrug it off, but being completely truthful about how horrified she felt in that moment.
I was living in Edinburgh, studying for my Masters Degree, when all of a sudden I started losing clumps of hair. I remember seeing it on my pillow first, then in the shower drain, then scattered around my floor and finally in my fingers when I’d tentatively check on my remaining curls.
Like Jada, I wore turbans and headscarves for a while before I felt like I could properly open up about my alopecia. And I still use them occasionally – not just to protect me from the heat in Vietnam, but for times when I can’t be bothered to deal with stares and comments.
Just like I understand why she turned to corticosteroid injections in the scalp for a quick fix. (After all, it’s what I did when I was 16 and desperate!)
But even though these steroid injections worked for a little while, eventually I grew immune to their effects. And instead of making my hair grow back, they thinned the skin of my scalp while probably causing more damage to my immune system than I know.
LA Says: Personally, I wouldn’t recommend little steroid injections as a treatment for alopecia – and even Jada admits that “they seem to be helping – not curing”. Which is a key point. These injections might ease the symptoms, but they don’t resolve the root problem.
What I really admire about Jada Pinkett Smith’s reaction to hair loss was that she was able to see the bigger picture. In her own words, it went a little like this:
I really had to put it in a spiritual perspective… The higher power takes so much from people. People are out here who have cancer, people who have sick children. I watch the higher power take things every day. And by golly, if the higher power wants to take your hair? That’s it?!… When I looked at it from that perspective, it really did settle me.
The Red Table Talk episode then cuts to her trying out a few headscarf styles… which are FIERCE, btw – and I’ll definitely be trying them out using my own headscarves. 😉
Here’s what else I learned…
Jada acknowledged that sure, she was scared at first… but she quickly copped on how much worse it could be. This realisation was her first step towards acceptance.
LA Says: I used to throw many a pity party for myself. I still do, sometimes! But mostly, I’m incredibly thankful for all of life’s gifts – even my alopecia, which has taught me so much. I know how lucky I am.
Revealing her alopecia to her mother and daughter on that talk show – and of course, to the rest of the world – was no doubt a scary experience for Jada. But I’m sure that it was pretty liberating, too. It definitely was for me!
Because since learning to talk frankly about my alopecia, I’ve met so many brave people who’ve been moved to share their story, too. And there’s solace to be found in each other’s support.
Even if you can’t “fix” what’s going on… talking about it is a massive help.
FYI: I never call alopecia a “disease”. Just like I never say that I “suffer” from it. Why? Because it makes me feel like a victim. And I let alopecia run my life for too long – until I decided to take back over. To own my condition. And to find some gratitude, some lessons, even some humour in my baldness!
I notice that Jada does, too. In the video, she remarks that she “feels like a queen” in her head wraps – before joking with mum and daughter about her scarf being like long hair she can toss over her shoulder.
For me, this willingness to laugh about something that can be so serious is really important. And a big part of the acceptance process, too.
Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair loss revelations revealed some valuable lessons, too.
Lessons from which a lot of people can benefit, whether they’re self-conscious about alopecia, acne or academic performance.
Even just thinking of – or better yet, writing down – what we’re grateful for can be a massively rewarding exercise. As can telling a loved one how you feel, or refusing to let whatever’s bringing you down do so for one more minute.
It isn’t always easy, of course. And there’ll be times when the unfairness of it all will weigh heavily upon your shoulders.
But know that this too will pass. And that you’ll soon feel like a queen – or a king – once more. 😉