UK's leading alopecia charity responds to Will Smith's Oscars slap

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·Lifestyle Writer, Yahoo Life UK
·4-min read
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Watch: Will Smith smacks Chris Rock on stage at Oscars

Alopecia UK has responded to Will Smith's decision to jump on stage and slap Chris Rock for his joke about Jada Pinkett Smith at the Oscars 2022, with its CEO's sympathies with Pinkett Smith herself.

Rock compared Pinkett Smith's hairstyle to Demi Moore's character in GI Jane, a role she shaved her hair off for – comments that didn't please either of the couple.

The UK's leading charity for the hair loss condition has made it clear it does not condone Will Smith's reaction or violence, but has brought light to the important factor that "dealing with unwelcome remarks is unfortunately an all too real part of having alopecia."

"Baldness continues to be an easy target for obvious observational ‘humour’," the charity said in an official statement.

Read more: Jada Pinkett Smith's history with alopecia after Chris Rock Oscars upset

Will Smith slap of Chris Rock at Oscars 2022 – Alopecia UK shares thoughts. (Getty Images)
In the wake of Will Smith's reaction to Chris Rock's joke, Alopecia UK shares its thoughts. (Getty Images)

The charity has also addressed why Smith might have been provoked in such a way, acknowledging the difficulty the couple would have gone through due to Pinkett Smith's condition. "We can only assume that over the past couple of years since his wife Jada’s diagnosis with alopecia, he will have seen first-hand the emotional distress that can be caused when losing one’s hair," the charity says.

"Not only can it be upsetting for the person directly impacted by hair loss, it can be distressing for those close around."

It says Smith's violent outburst isn't the first time something like this has happened, with the charity also hearing from students suspended from school, adults facing disciplinary proceedings at work and sports players receiving match bans for responding to bullying comments with physical violence.

Read more: Susanna Reid: 'No excuse for violence' following divide over Will Smith's 'slap'

Jada Pinkett Smith arrives on the red carpet outside the Dolby Theater for the 94th Academy Awards in Los Angeles, USA. (Future Publishing via Getty Images)
'I am thinking about a woman who showed up on the red carpet looking INCREDIBLE and is now in the throes of a publicity storm,' says Alopecia UK CEO Sue Schilling. (Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Alopecia UK's CEO Sue Schilling also offers her own personal thoughts on the events that unfolded. "Those of us with alopecia know having a visible difference can be an emotional rollercoaster that impacts ourselves and our families," she says.

"We never ever condone violence as a response. Today I am thinking about Jada Pinkett Smith, not her husband or the host. I am thinking about a woman who showed up on the red carpet looking INCREDIBLE and is now in the throes of a publicity storm. Let's just remember that a joke that seems harmless to you may be harmful to someone else."

What the charity does advocate for is calling out the insensitivity, albeit in a different way, and one that Pinkett Smith should be comfortable with.

"Instead of hitting Chris, it would have been brilliant if he had called out why the 'joke' was potentially damaging," the charity says.

Read more: The couples who turned the Oscars 2022 into date night

Alopecia UK has issued an alternative way Smith could have responded to the joke, saying something like this:

"Apologies everyone for interrupting the proceedings but I really feel the need to challenge the joke that Chris Rock made just now about my wife Jada. The difference between Jada and Demi Moore, who shaved her head for the role of GI Jane years ago, is that my beautiful wife’s lack of hair is not entirely by choice. She has a medical condition called alopecia and she has chosen to embrace the baldness that brings rather than wear a wig as many women with alopecia do. There have been times when this condition has caused distress and anguish to my wife and, as a result, to me and my family.

"I feel it is time that obvious jokes were not made about anyone’s appearance. In a society where it is unacceptable to make jokes about someone’s race, sexuality or disability, perhaps it’s time we extended that to include any visible difference. Yes, my wife is bald. But is that any reason to uninvitedly bring her into a joke when she is here, like anyone else, to simply enjoy the evening?

"There is another reason for me to call out such a joke. All across the USA and the rest of the world, millions of children and teenagers are living with alopecia. Some of them are unfortunately having to deal with bullies who make jokes and jibes about their hair loss. This should not be happening in 2022 and yet it is. This month, tragically, a 12-year-old girl with alopecia took her life because she felt she could no longer face the bullies who were making her life miserable. All because she looked different.

"Chris, if I allowed your remark to go unchallenged, millions of people around the world would see it reinforced that it’s ok to make jokes about people with a visible difference that they cannot control. It is not ok and it’s time it stopped. Thank you.”

Jada Pinkett Smith arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar party during the 94th Academy Awards in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., March 27, 2022. (REUTERS)
Jada Pinkett Smith first shared she was living with alopecia in 2018. (REUTERS)

While the charity is aware many people with alopecia use humour as a way of coping, and isn't trying to ban jokes altogether, it instead wishes "nobody with alopecia should feel like they have to deal with uninvited attention, comments or jokes.

"We feel confident that Chris Rock would not wish his joke to mean that thousands of young girls with alopecia have ‘GI Jane’ added to the names that are thrown in their direction. But as we have seen, words have consequences and it is time for that to be acknowledged.

"We send our best wishes to Jada Pinkett Smith and hope she is doing well following the events of last night," the charity adds.

To understand more on the topic, you can read Alopecia UK's blog post, 'To joke or not to joke...' after it was reported the BBC received a complaint about a joke from Gary Lineker on his colleagues’ hair loss.

You can also learn more about the condition via its website, contact them on info@alopecia.org.uk or 0800 101 7025 for one-on-one peer support and advice.

If you need urgent support you can call The Samaritans on 116 123, Childline on 0800 11 11 or NHS 111 Service on 111.

Watch: Will Smith will not face charges for punching Chris Rock

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