Jada Pinkett Smith has addressed the issue at the heart of the Slap – the sound that echoed around the world almost a year ago at the 2022 Oscars, when her husband Will Smith took to the stage after comedian Chris Rock made a joke targeted at Pinkett Smith’s lack of hair.
Pinkett Smith has broken her silence on the subject to tell the UK’s Guardian how she felt about her autoimmune disease, and the alopecia that comes with it, becoming the subject of a global scandal.
She says now: “I learned a lot about detachment. And I learned a deeper beauty within myself, being able to let my hair go.
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“It’s been a hard one, a scary one – because specifically as Black women, we identify so much of ourselves with our hair. And it was scary. I had to really dig deep and see the beauty of myself beyond my aesthetics.”
In the same interview, Pinkett Smith – who exec-produces and narrates new Netflix docuseries African Queens, focusing on royal figures from African history – also discussed navigating the entertainment industry 30 years ago, when she saw far fewer Black faces around her.
She said: “Even something as simple as coming into the game at such a young age, and how I had to navigate the necessity to be ‘less Black’. How do you navigate people being threatened by your Blackness? Having to really not take it personally and understanding: ‘OK, this is the land I’m in right now. How do I navigate this without allowing their discomfort with my Blackness to get on me?’ That’s a hell of a thing to navigate.”
“It’s something that can either make you bitter, or it’s something you can look at, not take personally, then push against.
“There are always those compromises you make that you hope don’t totally pull you away from your roots. That’s the difference between being confused, or being swallowed by becoming someone else to get what you need. It’s about being clear who you are.”
African Queens debuts on Netflix on February 15.
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