Ricky Gervais Says Jada's Alopecia 'Not a Disability,' Community Reacts

Ricky Gervais has sparked a debate on social media, after he mocked people who have referred to Jada Pinkett Smith's alopecia as a disability.

Pinkett Smith's experience with the autoimmune disorder, which often leads to hair loss, has been the focus of much discussion over the past several days, after her husband, Will Smith, slapped Chris Rock onstage at March 27's Academy Awards.

As he prepared to present an award, Rock quipped: "Jada, I love you, G.I. Jane 2, can't wait to see it," referring to her close-cropped haircut, similar to Demi Moore's in 1997 film G.I. Jane. Pinkett Smith shaved her head after experiencing hair loss.

When Gervais discussed the incident in a live Q&A session on Twitter last week, the British comedian condemned Smith's actions but also defended Rock's joke, insisting it was "tame" in comparison to anything Gervais would have said.

In a clip from the event shared on his TikTok account earlier this week, the After Life star said: "You don't hit people over a joke, however bad it is. And it wasn't bad! That was like the tamest joke I would ever have told."

"Someone said it was joking about her disability," he said in a deadpan tone before bursting into laughter. "Well I'm going a bit thin. So I'm disabled. That means I can park right up next to [British supermarket] Tesco now."

"And I'm fat. That's a disease, isn't it?" Gervais, a five-time Golden Globes host added. "I'm fat and balding. I should get f****** benefits."

Gervais' comments sparked a spirited discussion under his post. While there appeared to be general agreement that it was not a disability, there were disagreements over whether alopecia should be seen as something to be mocked.

"I agree Will shouldn't have slapped Chris but you need to understand how emotionally important a woman's hair is; it is devastating to lose it," said one of the star's followers.

Commented another: "I have alopecia and it is not a disability, at the same time it shouldn't really be joked about because you never know how it will impact the person."

Meanwhile, a third TikTok user wrote: "I have alopecia & if someone said it was a disability to me that would offend me more than a G.I. Jane joke."

Responding to Gervais' comments, the National Alopecia Areata Foundation told Newsweek that while it accepted the condition is not "medically disabling," it noted that "emotionally, this disease can be challenging for those living with it, especially if they have extensive hair loss.

"Multiple studies have confirmed the impact of emotional/mental health and psycho-social burdens on people living with alopecia areata. In fact, it has been found that up to 50 percent of children and adolescents with alopecia areata suffer from depression and 39 percent suffer from generalized anxiety disorders.

"Another study showed that among adults with alopecia, 71 percent have some degree of depression or anxiety.

"Many people living with the condition are suffering, and we must do better to support this community and erase the stigma, discrimination, and societal barriers that persist," the statement went on.

"We stand with the alopecia areata community and are here to support those in need, especially in the wake of emotional moments such as the one we all witnessed at the Academy Awards," the organization concluded. "We encourage the broader public to learn more about alopecia areata so we can end the stigma around this disease."

Ricky Gervais and Jada Pinkett Smith
Ricky Gervais (L) has mocked people who have referred to Jada Pinkett Smith's (R) alopecia as a disability. Pinkett Smith debuted her shaved head last year, after the autoimmune disorder led to hair loss. Vera Anderson/WireImage;/Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

In July 2021, Pinkett Smith debuted her shaved head on her show, Red Table Talk, after speaking candidly about how "terrifying" the experience of hair loss was for her.

She said: "I was just like 'Oh my god am I going bald?' It was one of those times in my life where I was literally shaking with fear. That's why I cut my hair and continue to cut it."

Gervais also weighed in on the matter in the days following the Oscars, saying that he would have avoided alopecia jokes to instead make quips about Pinkett Smith's "boyfriend."

"I'll get it out of the way. I have not got any Will Smith material. I trended when that happened and I was not even there," Gervais said at a show in London.

"What has it got to do with me? People were going: 'What would have happened if Ricky Gervais had been doing it [hosting the Oscars]?'"

He said: "Well, nothing as I would not have made a joke about his wife's hair. I would have made a joke about her boyfriend."

The comedian was referring to the extra-marital relationship Pinkett Smith had with singer August Alsina. She famously referred to their situation as an "entanglement" as she spoke about it with Smith on her show, Red Table Talk, back in 2020.

Following Smith and Rock's Oscars dust-up, Alsina released a song seemingly alluding to his relationship with Pinkett Smith.

In an interview with GQ last year, Smith revealed that he also sought affection outside of their marriage as their relationship became non-monogamous.

After slapping Rock at the Oscars, Smith returned to the stage minutes later to accept a Best Actor statuette for his efforts in King Richard. During his acceptance speech his apologized to his fellow nominees and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. One day later, he apologized to Rock via an Instagram post.

Amid the wait for the Academy to reveal the course of action it plans to take over the incident, Smith announced his resignation from the organization.

Update 4/8/22, 6:50 a.m. ET: This article was updated to include a statement from the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.

Chris Rock and Will Smith
Will Smith (R) slaps US Chris Rock onstage during the 94th Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on March 27, 2022. Smith slapped Rock after the comedian cracked a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

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