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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Meet the woman who encouraged Jada Pinkett Smith, others to embrace life as a ‘Bald Boss’

Actor, rapper and film producer, Will Smith apologized for slapping comedian Chris Rock after Rock cracked a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith, who is Smith’s wife. Rock made a reference about Pinkett Smith’s nearly bald hairstyle, during the 94th Academy Awards. It drew the world’s attention toward the issue of people who live with alopecia. Pinkett Smith— who hails from Baltimore— is one of them. On the actress’s Instagram account, she once revealed that her battle with alopecia led to shaving her head. 

   “I thought I’d just share it so y’all are not asking any questions,” Pinkett Smith said, in between chuckles in 2021. “But you know, momma is going to put some rhinestones in there. I’m just going to make me a little crown. That’s what momma’s gonna do.”   

  Through Pinkett Smith’s bravery to admit her alopecia struggle, and Smith’s public misstep, a chance to dig deeper about what alopecia is surfaced. Jamie Elmore—who is an alopecia confidence coach— was officially diagnosed with alopecia in 2004. Elmore is also a hairstylist of 30 years, a salon owner, Editor-in-Chief of Bald Life Magazine, founder of the Bald Boss Community, and the Alopecia Support Group. The Seattle, Washington-based leader has been doing the day-to-day work to support women, men, and even children all over the world who walk the alopecia journey.

   In an interview with The Baltimore Times newspaper, Elmore reminded that alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that can randomly show up in anyone’s life.

   “It’s where your immune system attacks your hair follicle and causes your hair to fall out,” Elmore said.

Hair follicles consist of structures in skin that form hair. While hair can be lost from any part of the body, alopecia areata typically affects the head and face, although hair loss is not always limited to affecting these body parts. Hair loss can last life-long. However, it may simply consist of one episode. Hair loss may be substantial, or it may fall out in smaller patches which are round, according to the National Institutes of Health.

   Elmore’s mission to raise awareness about alopecia, and embracing baldness because of it, was even mentioned when she appeared as a guest on Pinkett Smith’s Red Table Talk show, along with some members of her Bald Boss Community in 2021. Pinkett Smith asked Elmore about the definition of a Bald Boss.

   “A Bald Boss is someone who owns their baldness. Just like a boss owns their business, a Bald Boss owns their baldness,” Elmore said.

   Elmore’s journey to face the “traumatic and life changing” disease confidently was a process. She first wore wigs, head wraps, and weaves before taking the plunge to get rid of the remaining strands that hung from her scalp.

   “I was done with the wigs and all of that in 2009,” Elmore said. “I took off my wig and have not worn one since.” 

   Her experience morphed into a mission to empower others who are bald for a host of reasons. Bald Life Magazine is a platform which features stories of courageous bald people.

   Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley is another public figure who connected with Elmore and shares the “living with alopecia experience.” Pressley was the first person of color who was elected to represent Massachusetts in the House of Representatives. She was featured on the cover of Bald Life Magazine and interviewed by Elmore in 2021.  

    “I would dread waking up in the morning because when I would remove my bonnet, with my bonnet would come …clumps of hair. And it got to the point where I was so self-conscious because someone could just literally bump me and a braid would fall… to the ground,” Pressley said. “And so I was carrying this and all the anxiety of trying to conceal it while existing in public life doing interviews, you know, being photographed, just being in the world. And on the eve of the impeachment vote of our then occupant of the Oval Office, Donald Trump, at about 11 o’clock at night, it just all came out,” Pressley said.

  The politician spoke about feeling liberated when she finally felt the water on her scalp without being concerned about wearing a shower cap. Pressley also shared how she felt about being featured by Bald Life Magazine.

   “Whenever you can educate people, I think that helps to foster greater understanding and empathy and sensitivities,” Pressley said.

   Elmore told The Baltimore Times that finding a support group or counselor can benefit people who live with alopecia. Please visit https://baldlifemagazine.com/ to learn more about Elmore’s alopecia advocacy work and Bald Boss Community. You may locate Elmore’s not for profit organization via https://www.alopeciasupportgroup.org/ . Bald Bosses will be walking in Annapolis’ Juneteenth Parade on June 18, 2022. 

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