Mar 28, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Rep. Pressley: Alopecia is "not a line in a joke"

Photo of Ayanna Pressley wearing a black suit that has a white flower on it as she speaks
Rep. Ayanna Pressley speaks before the swearing-in of Kim Janey as the mayor of Boston at City Hall on March 24, 2021, in Boston. Photo: Maddie Meyer via Getty Images

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) said Monday that alopecia is "not a line in a joke" after comedian Chris Rock mocked actress Jada Pinkett Smith, who suffers from the autoimmune disease, at the Oscars.

Driving the news: Rock's joke became a national headline after actor Will Smith, Pinkett Smith's husband, struck him across the face in response.

  • Pinkett Smith and Pressley have both spoken publicly about struggling with alopecia, a condition in which scarring and permanent hair loss develops as a result of inflammation and the immune system's attacks on hair follicles.

What she's saying: "My life's work has always been about trauma & healing," Pressley tweeted. "I’m a survivor - I don’t endorse violence in any form."

  • "Let’s talk about what it’s like to live with #alopecia," she said next. "The deeply vulnerable & difficult moments that our families see. Appreciation post for those who hold us down & support us when we’re at our lowest points. They see us, fully."
  • "Our bodies are not public domain. They are not a line in a joke — especially when the transformation is not of our choosing. I’m a survivor of violence. I'm a proud Alopecian. The psychological toll we carry daily is real. Team Jada always. That’s that on that."
  • Immediately after Smith slapped Rock, she'd initially said, "#Alopecia nation stand up! Thank you #WillSmith Shout out to all the husbands who defend their wives living with alopecia in the face of daily ignorance & insults." The tweet is now deleted.

The big picture: Alopecia is the No. 1 cause of hair loss in African American women, according to dermatologist Yolanda M. Lenzy.

Worth noting: Smith apologized for the incident during his acceptance speech for his Best Actor win, saying in an emotional speech, "Love will make you do crazy things."

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