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She was “shaking in fear” when she found clumps of hair in her hands while taking a shower. The way she accepted and embraced her changing body is a lesson for everyone.

Jada Pinkett Smith is never one to circumvent the truth. 

Over the last couple of years, the actress and television personality has built a reputation as an open book, someone who’s always willing to delve into profound, uncomfortable, but necessary conversations about life. There is no subject too controversial to tackle. There is no aspect of life too challenging to unpack. The Smith family essentially blazed a trail in how we can be unflinchingly forthcoming about our circumstances while being sensitive to other people’s perspectives. 

While most of the Red Table Talk exchanges thus far have concerned family or relationship dynamics, Jada has recently sounded off on something far more personal: going bald. Hair is often thought to be the epitome of feminine beauty and grace, so naturally, it can be alarming to see any woman having none. There are questions, there are accusations, and there is plenty of judgment hurled your way. 

In her willingness to be vulnerable, Jada teaches us how we can overcome shame to live our truth with confidence.

Jada reveals the “terrifying” way she found out she was going bald 

In an Instagram video posted to her account on December 28, 2021, Jada provides her followers with an update on what’s been happening with her hair. 

“Now at this point, I can only laugh,” she says, rubbing her head and pointing to a line etched across her scalp. “Y’all know I’ve been struggling with alopecia.” She said the latest development is going to be “more difficult for [her] to hide,” so she just wanted to bring her troubles to light and not have anyone ask intrusive questions. She finished the video by sharing how she will “put some rhinestones” on the scalp and make herself a “little crown.” In the corresponding caption to the video, she said, “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends … period!.”

The 50-year-old has always kept her supporters in the loop with the ups and downs of her alopecia journey. In a 2018 Red Table Talk episode, she remembered the beginning of her hair loss and how terrified she’d been to pull out “handfuls of hair” in the shower. “It was one of those times in my life where I was literally shaking in fear.” She thought she was going bald and had no way of curbing the process. Hair loss snuck up on her, and she had to calm herself down to investigate what was happening. The mother-of-two consulted many doctors, and underwent a series of tests and examinations to diagnose the sudden hair loss, but to no avail: “They don’t know why.”

It was terrifying when it first started […] Taking care of my hair has been a beautiful ritual, and having the choice to have hair or not. And then one day to be like, ‘Oh my god, I might not have that choice anymore. 

Jada Pinkett Smith on Red Table Talk

It was at that point when she had to make peace with the fact that she was losing hair at a rapid pace, and there might not be any recovery. “That’s why I cut my hair and continue to cut it,” she said back in 2018. She also started wrapping her head in a scarf, which generated curiosity of its own among the show’s viewers. Ultimately, the hair loss accelerated to the point where Jada had to get rid of everything. She debuted with her bald look on Instagram in July 2021, saying, “Willow made me do it because it was time to let go,” adding how she was looking forward to her fifties and how they were going to be “divinely lit with this shed.”

She eventually learned to “let go” and make peace with her condition

Credit:
Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times
/Getty Images

Just because Jada was able to “let go” at the end of the day doesn’t mean there wasn’t a great deal of pain and anxiety on her end. As women, we are taught to cherish the length of our hair, prize every strand like it’s our child, and are shamed when we’re having a “bad hair day” or exhibiting hair fall. A lot of this societal emphasis has to do with how haircare is a billion-dollar industry that profits off insecurities surrounding hair maintenance, and how much of our beauty we evaluate by our hair type, length, or color. 

For Jada, it had been a ritual to nourish and comb her hair on a daily basis, a passion that reinforced her sense of femininity and self-care. “Taking care of my hair has been a beautiful ritual,” she said. Moreover, before alopecia had surfaced, she could take comfort in her “choice” to style her hair however she wanted to. However, the condition snatched this freedom right out of her hands. It is a tragic discovery to stumble across, one that can take years, if not decades, to acclimate to. You have to accept the changing patterns of your body and how some mechanisms are not within your control, no matter how hard you try. 

Alopecia impacts 1 in every 500 to 1,000 people in the United States. It’s a staggeringly common condition that still isn’t normalized to this day. It actually affects men and women equally, and although it can occur in people of any ethnic background, a Nurses’ Health Study concluded that Black and Hispanic women were more likely to suffer from alopecia areata than white women. There’s an unfortunate shroud of ignorance and embarrassment encompassing the condition: where most people likely know someone going through the symptoms but, still, there isn’t much in the way of awareness or acceptance in our communities. The tendency to “blame the victim” still runs amok; so does the urge to hide and prolong and completely erase the hair loss. 

People are out here with cancer, with sick children… I watch the higher power take things every day. When I looked at it from that perspective it did settle me […]

Jada Pinkett Smith on Red Table Talk

In Jada’s case, she looked at people around her and determined that if hair loss was the worst thing to be going through, it wasn’t so bad after all. People were facing extreme scenarios with disease, death, and abuse, so if she could take solace in counting her lucky stars, it was enough.

Nothing is stopping you from embracing your beauty

Jada’s attitude towards being bald is nothing short of extraordinary. It’s a colossal adjustment to see yourself in the mirror and lack the one feature that essentially defined your face, and possibly, your identity in many cases. But, at the end of the day, your body will do what bodies do: you have to come to grips with these changes, but it’s a part of life. Hundreds of thousands of people are going through the same emotions, and they, too have had to live with their condition. 

How we can emulate Jada is not just how she came to accept and live with her hair loss but how she reclaimed her beauty with such self-love and confidence. You’re not beautiful despite your baldness; you’re beautiful because of your baldness. It’s what makes you unique, striking, and authentic. If it’s enough for Jada, it can be enough for anyone. 

Embrace Your beauty
 “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.” – Brené Brown