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Jada Pinkett Smith calls for healing after hair joke, Oscars slap

Composite image of Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Chris rock at the 94th Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on March 27, 2022.
Angela Weiss/Robyn Beck
AFP/Getty Images
Composite image of Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Chris rock at the 94th Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on March 27, 2022.

Jada Pinkett Smith on Tuesday appeared to reference the incident at Sunday night's Oscars that shook the world stage and launched heated debates about ableism, Black hair, and toxic masculinity.

"This is a season for healing," the message, splashed across a pale pink background, read. "I'm here for it."

This is the first public statement made by the actress and host of the popular "Red Table Talk" since her husband, Oscar-winning actor Will Smith, slapped Chris Rock for a joke the award show presenter had made about Pinkett Smith's hair on Sunday night.

"Jada, I love you. GI Jane 2, can't wait to see you," Rock said as he prepared to present the award for best documentary feature, prompting Smith to coolly cross the stage and smack the comedian across the face.

The moment — from an otherwise unremarkable awards show — quickly went viral, leaving onlookers stunned at the uncharacteristically public aggression between two of Hollywood's biggest stars.

Smith has since apologized, both to the Academy and Rock directly, noting that hearing Rock make light of Pinkett Smith's very public struggle with hair loss had pushed him past his limit.

"Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada's medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally," Smith wrote.

Pinkett Smith has shared publicly her struggles with alopecia — an autoimmune disorder that causes sudden, unpredictable hair loss in its sufferers — and late last year, debuted a close-shaved head to embrace her involuntary hair loss.

Her Tuesday message, broadcast to some 11.7 million Instagram followers, was characteristic of the "Girls Trip" star, who routinely posts simple uplifting messages to her timeline.

While Pinkett Smith has not talked publicly about the slap, or the joke that led to it, social media users have weighed in, with many split on which party — Rock, Smith, or both — was in the wrong.

But in a Facebook alopecia support group for Black women, there was less debate.

"Ok.... enough about the Smiths and the Rocks," one woman wrote. "Let's get back to supporting and uplifting each other. Our struggles are real, but we shine bright like diamonds."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Alana Wise
Alana Wise is a politics reporter on the Washington desk at NPR.