The Slap Effect

What the Oscars did for Alopecia

Will Smith smacking Chris Rock

It’s one of Hollywood’s most shocking moments. Right up there with Britney shaving her tresses, once again the spotlight was on baldness. And while I can’t commend Will Smith for slapping Chris Rock – because violence isn’t the answer and frankly Will, you should know better – his actions did have a positive impact for alopecians.

Because thanks to that infamous Oscars moment, more people want to know what alopecia is. They realise it’s quite common – then they learn ways to support those with hair loss.

It’s called the Will Smith Slap Effect.

Will smith slap headlines

The Slap Heard Around The World

Maybe you missed the moment when Will Smith decided to practise his backhand, waaay beyond his role in a tennis movie. So here’s a quick recap:

  1. Chris Rock, host of the Oscars 2022, was doing his obligatory “let’s slag off the nominees” bit. Will Smith, nominated for his role as Serena and Venus Williams’ father in King Richard, prepared for what was coming.

  2. Unfortunately, the comedian took things a smidge too far and picked on Will’s wife Jada instead. Jada, whose alopecia became public knowledge in 2019, was rocking a fully bald head along with a stunning green dress and chunky earrings. When Chris quipped that he couldn’t wait to see her in the next GI Jane movie, Jada handled it pretty well: rolling her eyes as if to say “here we go again, another alopecia-dissing a**hole.” 

  3. Will, on the other hand, took it less gracefully. He stormed up to the stage, then slapped the host across his face: a gesture so massive and dramatic it left us wondering at home whether it was all part of some bigger joke.

  4. But no, when Will returned to his seat, his rage was palpable: he shouted and cursed at Chris Rock to NEVER badmouth his wife again.

  5. Our visibly shaken host attempted to pick things back up and the ceremony continued…including the awarding of the Oscar for Best Actor, which went to Will Smack-Him Smith.

Advert alert: For my own lovely headscarf brand! 

What Happened Next?

Well, that almost-slap received far more attention than the Oscar winners themselves. People were divided across social media into Team Will (“he’s just standing up for his wife!”), Team Jada (“she can defend herself!”) and team Chris (“he was just doing his job!”).

As a fellow alopecian, I’m Team Jada all the way. OK, Will wanted to defend the person he loves, but he handled it SO badly. And sure, comedians make jokes – so if alopecians want to be seen as ‘regular’, we’re open to being picked on, too.

But come on, you guys! It just felt like such a personal attack. It wasn’t about her outfit choice or behaviour but a condition she can’t help. And she shouldn’t have been the subject of the teasing anyway; Chris Rock broke the rules by going after the wife of a nominee and not the nominee himself!

Anyway, this post isn’t about spousal loyalty or hosting etiquette. It’s about how such a scandalous event can have a positive impact – by making people more aware.

Jada at Oscars
Now THERE's a woman who needs a man to protect her... (Yep, I'm being sarcastic!) Image Credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

The Tantrum that Spread Alopecia

Of course, I don’t mean that people who read about the slap started losing their hair – imagine that! No, while stress is a major cause of alopecia, there’s a lot more to it. What it did was get people talking about hair loss. Sharing their own stories in the face of bullies and negativity. Supporting each other or even – and this is pretty powerful – simply recognising that it’s not easy to be a bald lady (or man) in this world.

According to this report from Murray Dare marketing in the UK:

  • Searches for “what causes alopecia” increased by 454%
  • Searches for “what is alopecia” increased by 313% in the UK and 1,060% worldwide
    Searches for ‘alopecia’ increased by 2 million; a rise of 600%
  • Twitter engagement with the term ‘alopecia’ increased by over 5 million percent!
  • In the week after the slap, over 66,000 news articles had mentioned alopecia, compared to 166 in the 90-day period before. That’s an increase of over 40,000%!


It doesn’t take a mathematician to deduce that people became A LOT more aware of alopecia after the Oscars – whether actively searching for it or picking up media tidbits.

And that can only be a good thing. Knowledge is power, and the more we learn about a condition, the more we can do about it. Not that conversation can cure hair loss – but we CAN alleviate the mental stress an alopecian might go through from feeling like they’re all alone, or that no one understands.

After the Oscars, millions of people worldwide came together online to talk about and educate themselves on alopecia. So that slap had a powerful aftershock – in a good way.

Final Thoughts: Time to Normalize Alopecia

Fortunately, some top celebrities are championing this very thing. Not to mention the regular folk like you and me on Instagram rocking their patches and acting as real-life alopecia ambassadors.

After the Oscars, the media acted like alopecia had been unheard of before. Which isn’t true. The conversation has been going on for a loooong time, you guys – but it’s just gotten a lot more mainstream. And in this context, at least, I’m ALL about going mainstream!

Now I wanna hear from you:

  • If you already have alopecia, how did the media frenzy around the slap affect you?
  • Would you condone Will Smith’s actions – or what ‘team’ are you on?
  • Have you been having more hair loss conversations since?

As I’ve seen countless times in my 24 years as an alopecian, and am reminded of by events just like these, sharing really is caring. So share your stories and experiences in the comments below. Go out and tell just one person how your bald patches make you feel. Tell someone you know who’s struggling with alopecia how amazing they are. (If they don’t believe you, tell them again.)

Let’s continue shining the spotlight on alopecia!

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Emma in a bubble

Author

Lady Alopecia

Alopecian. Yoga Teacher. Copywriter. Here to share information, offer support and show people the adventures that can lie in hair loss. I’m proud to have alopecia and I want to help others embrace their baldness, too!

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Comments

6 Responses

  1. Hello Emma! While I don’t think violence is the way to go, I’m from Team Jada and Team Will. I understand that he felt his wife’s pain and, taking her pains, exceeded his limits. But I think a health condition should never be the subject of jokes! Because? It’s because? Why does alopecia not cause physical pain? Or why not put your life at risk? But it causes a lot of psychological pain! And depending on how well the person handles it or not and their environment, it can cause serious psychological and emotional problems, leading to loss of quality of life or even, in the most serious cases, lack of interest in it! I think that humor, especially with regard to health, should be rethought and conditions such as alopecia, vitiligo and the like, which do not cause physical pain or danger to survival, deserve the same sensitivity as any other health problem, because only those who experience it know the pain they cause!
    I love you and I olve your blog! And you are so gorgeous that you dont need any hair to enhance your beauty!

    A big hug from Portugal!

    1. Thanks so much Alandra, for taking the time to share your opinion! I totally agree that it causes a lot of psychological pain and that it’s a hugely sensitive subject…plus, if a joke is going to be directed at someone there’s no telling how they might be equipped to handle it. So probably best to avoid doing so! You’ve really given me food for thought – while I do love a giggle, wise cracks about someone’s health (especially in such a public space) aren’t exactly good form. It was a cheap shot, and not all that funny…in my opinion, anyway!

      Thank you for your kind words, they’re so so appreciated. Lots of love and hugs back to you! xo

  2. Umm I am torn…I am TEAM all 3 at different times…lol Battling alopecia for 20 years (as a hairstylist) I definitely understand Jada’s hurt & thought the joke was a cheap shot. But on the flip side was Chris simply doing his job🤔. I am team Will all the way (had just finished reading his book & being SEEN by as a coward is a big issue for him)…❤️ So I was all over the place. That all being said… I don’t condone violence but I get it. I have 3 balding crown spots but can cover them with my perimeter hair pieces/wigs. While I am ok with it I do wish I could wear my natural curls sometimes.

    1. Brilliant points, Keena – it’s a hard call, right? And even though I’m leaning towards Team Jada, I completely understand your reasonings for the other two. Totally agree that comedians/presenters have a tough job, and to do this kind of expected banter is bound to offend someone…but personally, it just felt a little too much. I’ve never read Will’s book (but I’m curious to, now!) so that’s an interesting point to make, also. Hmm…There are definitely times I’ve been tempted to react in a BIG way to awful things people have said to me – but that’s where the mindfulness training comes in and I remember to just stop and take a breath! It’s hard, but it helps. I’m really sorry to hear about your patches, too…it is great that you can cover them but yeah, no doubt you miss just going au natural! Hopefully you’ll reach that stage again. In the meantime, keep sharing about your experience! Thanks so much for your comment xo

  3. Well, I have to say, that slap did open up more dialogue about AA. I feel a little more empowered to say I have AA because of what happened. Unfortunately, it took a shocking event to bring awareness of AA, but now there’s not so much of a stigma around having a conversation about it and people are more open and receptive to a conversation about the real struggles we have in dealing with it. Let’s hope the dialogue continues.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing, Sue – and I’m absolutely delighted to hear you feel more empowered in your AA now! Yes, it was unfortunate that it took such a dramatic event to get people talking but at least they are now. And, like you say, it’s starting to be less of a ‘taboo’ topic now, finally! xo

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