BUFFALO, N.Y. — When comedian Chris Rock joked about Jada Pinkett Smith's lack of hair, her husband, action Will Smith walked on stage and slapped Rock.
Smith later said in his acceptance speech for Best Actor that he felt called to protect those he loved. Pinkett Smith has alopecia, a condition that caused her to lose her hair.
Alexa Laska, 20, is a college student from Lancaster, New York, who has been dealing with alopecia since she was a child.
"It's kind of a shock to your personal image, your self-image, it affects your confidence." Laska said Will Smith assaulting someone probably wasn't the best course of action, but he was responding to his wife who was emotionally distressed, who was upset about a medical condition out of her control."
Alopecia is a disease that develops when the body attacks its own hair follicles (where hair grows from), which can cause hair loss anywhere on the body. It is not contagious.
Stylist Steven Daniels said alopecia is a major issue for many women.
"I have several clients whose significant others have never seen them without any kind of hair prosthesis. It affects people in ways unimaginable, it has caused people to fall into a deep depression," he said.
Giving them a new look or hairstyle he said at times makes the individual "feel like they have their life back. It feels like they can really be a part of society in the way that is comfortable for them."
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, alopecia can begin at any age; however, most people develop it during childhood or their teenage years. About half of them see their hair regrow within 12 months without treatment.