Will, Chris, & Alopecia
- Brykyta K. Shelton
It's been almost a week since many saw Will Smith do something out of character.  Have the children, teens, or young adults in your life asked you your thoughts?  My 18-year-old goddaughter asked me my thoughts.  I told her my opinion initially was clouded as a person dealing with the ups and downs of Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia (CCCA) for 11 years.  I told her firmly that violence should have been avoided.  A better look would have been for Will and Jada to have gotten up and left after the joke or for Will to have used his speech to address Chris Rock’s joke, the creator of 2009’s “Good Hair” and father of two daughters!!!
I am not defending Will Smith, but people don't see the impact that alopecia has behind closed doors.  I have seen strong people cry at my disappointment when a treatment hasn't worked and be anxious when one is working because the question becomes how long will it work, and what will be the reaction when and if it stops?  It is a rollercoaster ride for patients and their inner circles. When I decided to cut my hair down to have better access to treat my CCCA, I remember my brother being on pins and needles, unsure if I would regret my decision and then have a meltdown after it was done.  It is sad, but my worry about the bald patches was released from me when my mother lost her fingers.  It was crazy; that burden was completely removed from me.  I took my worrying energy and turned it into encouraging others in alopecia support groups I am involved with.
We as the community that Will and Chris come from must also do better.  Did Chris grow up hearing people that looked like him in multiple settings ask inappropriate questions? I know I did, in the church house and at family reunions. The community that looks like us often feels they have the right to comment on decisions one makes on dress style, hair, makeup, you name it, our people have something to say.  I remember being eight years old and a church member asking me, why I let my mother cut my hair?  She did not leave it at that, she went on to state that I looked like a little boy.  Then at age 41, when I was working with my stylist and dermatologist on a style to better treat and camouflage the problem areas and preserve a healthy scalp, I was asked by a church member, “Who did you let scalp you?”  Thankfully, I'm no longer mentally or spiritually in bondage to CCCA and my hair anymore, so I was able to answer as a Christian should, and calmly explained my struggles with CCCA.  Had I not been at peace with my situation in that moment, I know it could have triggered me to act out of my normal character.
Remember one’s rights end, where another begins.  Let the event on Sunday allow us to pause before we comment or ask something that could trigger a struggle we know nothing about.