A model who lost all her hair to alopecia in a matter of weeks says the condition can “highly impact mental health.”
ZaraLena Jackson spoke out after Hollywood legend Will Smith, 53, slapped Chris Rock, 57, at last night’s Oscar ceremony over an insensitive quip about his wife.
Rock, a famed stand-up comic, said Jada Pinkett Smith, 50, who suffers from alopecia, was set to make GI Jane 2, referring to her hair condition.
Reality star ZaraLena said that, although she does not condone violence, Rock should have “known better”.
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Ex on the Beach contestant Jackson, 29, said: “I think it’s inappropriate to make any joke about someone with alopecia as it’s a condition that highly impacts mental health for that individual and isn’t a laughing matter.
“To be clear, I don’t condone violence, but him defending Jada showed strength in my eyes.
“Being a comedian is very tongue in cheek and we all dislike when jokes are targeted as us, regardless of the subject, but he should have anticipated that response naturally and known better.”
Jackson, from Preston, Lancs, first appeared on MTV’s Ex on the Beach in 2017, with long luscious locks before turning to Instagram as an influencer after leaving the show.
But the model then saw huge clumps of hair falling out in 2020, and she was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease alopecia.
Within six weeks, Jackson had no body hair and said her hair loss felt like “torture” and made her feel “stripped” of her identity.
She claims she has also been the victim of cruel jokes about her condition, saying: “I’ve had it all – I’ve had strangers say ‘Hey baldy’ which doesn’t phase me at all, I am bald.
“I’ve had friends and family joke about ‘let your hair down’ or ask to borrow a razor or shampoo, which I just laugh at because I know they mean no harm and it can be humorous to see them panic without thinking about the comment.
“I’ve had a few reference me with the GI Jane comment. I think GI Jane looks insane though so I wasn’t offended.
“My mum actually walked in on me in my dressing room the other day without a wig and she went, ‘Oh wow Zara, you look like a GI Jane babe!’
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“I guess any comments around my alopecia depends on who they come from and what context they’re said in.
“I’m quite thick-skinned around it now so not much can phase me personally any more.
“The worst snide comment for me is, ‘Oh wow, nothing is natural any more, is it?’.
“For me, I always liked the idea of natural beauty, and I’m not saying no hair isn’t beautiful, but I now wear wigs and put on eyebrows to look ‘normal’ or ‘natural’.
“I don’t have a partner currently, but if I did and he defended me, I’d feel comforted and proud.”
She acknowledges though that, despite the circumstances, violence wasn’t the answer.
“I’d probably be a little annoyed about the violence, as it’s not the way for dealing with confrontation, but alopecia has its way of making a person feel so alone.
“Will has clearly been with Jada throughout her hair loss journey and has seen first hand how much hair loss can impact someone, so I can understand his anger towards anyone using that for humorous material in public.
“If alopecia was taken as a medical condition and not cosmetic, the subject wouldn’t be joked around lightly.
“Everyone seems to make noise around the importance of mental health when a life is lost, yet won’t put changes in place to prevent or support the initial cause, in my opinion.”
If you have been affected by hair loss, you can visit Alopecia UK for advice and support.
Additional reporting SWNS
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism