NEW YORK — The so-called Slap Heard Round the World happened when Will Smith slugged Chris Rock after Rock made a joke about the close cropped hair of Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
She’s chosen to keep her hair short because she has a medical condition called alopecia, which affects hair growth. She’s by no means the only woman who has the condition, which also affects children and men. As Emma Guttman-Yassky, M.D., PhD points out, Pinkett Smith is among the 2 percent of all Americans who have contracted alopecia areata.
“[Alopecia is] an attack on the hair follicle by immune molecules that are just kind of informing a swarm of bees, if you may, surrounding a hair follicle, and destroying it,” Guttman-Yassky said.
Dr. Guttman-Yassky is one of the world’s foremost experts on the condition. She’s also a researcher into cures for the autoimmune disease, and some of the treatments that Dr. Guttman-Yassky and her colleagues have invented have shown significant success. The condition can cause hair to fall out in spots and patches, like Pinkett Smith’s, up to the entire body losing hair, including eyebrows and eyelashes.