After speaking out about her own struggles with alopecia, Jada Pinkett Smith is meeting with some of the millions of people and their families dealing with the same condition.
On Wednesday’s episode of Red Table Talk, Pinkett Smith and her daughter Willow Smith sit down with Niki Ball, the mother of a 12-year-old daughter who also suffered from alopecia. Ball’s daughter Rio was severely bullied over her hair loss and died by suicide in March.
Rio had started to develop alopecia while at home early in the pandemic, Ball explained. It started with a bald spot on her head, and soon Rio’s hair started falling out “by the handful,” leading to a diagnosis of alopecia.”
Jada Pinkett Smith Cries with Mom of Daughter with Alopecia
“With the hair loss, she was so strong,” Ball says of Rio in this exclusive clip from the episode. “She still rocked it even when it was falling out, and she just had these big bald patches. Tried the creams. They made her break out. Tried the injections, she took five of them in one day. But neither of them really did anything.”
“Then with school coming up, we got her that super cute wig, she loved it, and she glowed then,” Ball continues. “But at school, within a couple of weeks, she was like, ‘I don’t want to wear it anymore, there’s no point.’ She had it ripped off her head. She’d get smacked upside on the head walking down the hallway. And that was within the first two weeks, three weeks. It got really bad for her.”
The kids at school called Rio a “naked mole rat,” a “bug-eyed alien” and “Mr. and Mrs. Clean.”
Ball says that three weeks before her death, Rio “had a really bad day” at school and “just lost it” when she got in the car to go home. “I knew this was very serious,” Ball says.
On March 14, 2022, Rio died by suicide. Ball says it “was the worst day of my life.”
“She was so smart. She was just brilliant,” Ball says. “And she was funny. She was a great big sister. She loved reading and writing and sketching. She loved being in the band.”
As Pinkett Smith cries along with Ball, she tells her that Rio’s story is one of the reasons why people “need an understanding around the devastation of this condition.”