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Indianapolis woman tells of her battle with alopecia after Oscars slap

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Actor Jada Pinkett Smith has been vocal about her battle with alopecia, a condition that results in hair loss.

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences on Monday condemned the actions of Pinkett-Smith’s husband, actor Will Smith, during Sunday night’s Oscars and launched an inquiry into his slapping of presenter Chris Rock.

Smith took the Oscars stage after the comedian made a joke about Pinkett Smith. Rock said, “Jada, I love you. ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it.”

The joke touched a nerve. Pinkett Smith, whose head is shaved, has spoken publicly about her alopecia diagnosis.

The incident has opened the door for important conversations. Hair is often important. and the jokes can some time sting. Earlier this month, a northern Indiana teenager with alopecia committed suicide, reportedly due to bullying at school.

For one woman, Dee’juana Bass of Indianapolis, it taken 10 years for her to finally start talking openly about what it’s like living with alopecia. For her, the signs started as slight hair loss at the top of her head.

“I freaked out. I cried. I like got into like a depression, and it’s just like unbelievable. It was unbelievable,” Bass said.

But, over time, it kept getting worse.

Bass says the joke directed at Pinkett Smith touched a nerve.

A scalp biopsy showed she has alopecia, and her hair would never grow back, bravely letting her stylist share these before and after pictures.

“My whole center is gone. The back part of my hair, it comes down to like the middle of my back,” Bass said.

Bass said, at first, very few people in her family knew about her alopecia diagnosis. While she’s opening up. it’s still a painful process. She recommended, “Be who you are. Don’t let anyone talk about you. Don’t feel bad about it. It’s part of life. You are going to be beautiful with or without the hair.”

Alopecia impacts all ages in a variety of ways. In some cases, the immune system attacks the hair follicles. It other cases, it’s hormone-induced loss or tension damage.

Women of color are more susceptible to certain hair trauma.

Lawrence Mark, dermatologist with Eskenazi Health and a professor of dermatology at IU School of Medicine, said Monday, “I particularly counsel folks not to have really tight hairstyles, where you can feel the hair being pulled on your scalp. Although you may not have any immediate effect, there can be long-term effects were even a decade or two decades.”

Jeff Woytovich founded the Children’s Alopecia Project. He founded the organization after his daughter’s alopecia diagnosis in kindergarten. The project holds several camps for youth to help build confidence. It’s summer camp will be held in Princeton, Indiana in July.

Woytovich says the Oscar incident, although unfortunate, opened up an important conversation.

“If you think that was a horrible thing, kids are being tortured every day and being made to feel less than. And so I appreciate the awareness but by hate the reason why we have the awareness,” he said.

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences on Monday said it condemns the actions of Smith during Sunday night’s Oscars and it will launch a formal review of his slapping of presenter Rock.

After that announcement from the academy, Smith issued an apology to the comedian, the academy and viewers at home, saying he was “out of line” and that his actions are “not indicative of the man I want to be.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.