LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The slap heard around the world at the Oscars after Chris Rock joked about Jada Pinkett Smith's shaved head prompted a swift reaction from the alopecia community.
"To those of us who have struggled with hair loss, we know at the end of the day, those jokes, one by one by one pile up and that can cause a mental health crisis," Savannah Cooper, a Lexington native who has alopecia, said.
Cooper was featured on Pinkett Smith's Red Table Talk Facebook show which highlighted the devastating impact alopecia can have.
She shared her personal journey with LEX 18 and how she was relentlessly bullied in middle school when she started to lose her hair. One of her most painful memories was when someone wrote a terrible phrase on her locker.
"It said cancer whore which was just heartbreaking because yes, in the first place I am chronically ill and have illnesses, but I don't have cancer, and that is just another term that is thrown around to people that have any sort of hair loss," she said.
With the support of her family and dance as an outlet, she pushed past the hate.
After a few years of wearing wigs, she decided she didn't want to anymore when she got to her junior year of high school.
"I'm so tired of putting this on every day and hiding myself, and it's hot and itchy and you know it's uncomfortable and I just want to show the world who I truly am," she recalled about her decision.
She never looked back.
Wig or no wig she hopes kids with alopecia understand they are beautiful no matter what.
"Whatever their journey is, I hope they can feel comfortable and confident on that journey because that really is the key," she said.
She still has her bad days, but she is strong and proud.
And while she does not condone violence, she hopes in the aftermath of the Oscars slap, folks have more compassion and understanding for the alopecia community.
According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, the disorder affects as many as 6.8 million people in the U.S.
Recently, the FDA approved the first systemic treatment for alopecia areata. While Cooper does not have this particular type of alopecia, she said she hopes others benefit from it.
"That's a great thing for those people who it will work for and it's really exciting and hope that people can get behind it and start trying it and I hope it's a successful thing for them," Cooper said.