According to People (and despite public protest) Jada Pinkett Smith, says Alopecia is a condition she has in common with late friend Tupac Shakur.
Smith says in this week’s PEOPLE cover story that the legendary rapper also had alopecia, the autoimmune disease that causes unpredictable hair loss.“I don’t think Tupac ever talked about the alopecia he suffered from,” she says of the revelation.
The actress and talk show host first spoke about her diagnosis with alopecia in 2018 and has since gone on to become a prominent advocate for awareness surrounding the condition.
Shakur experienced similar hair loss symptoms to Smith, something that she says began for the late rapper around 1991, when he was arrested for jaywalking by the Oakland Police Department in California. (Shakur later filed a lawsuit against the police department related to the incident, which was ultimately settled.)
“After he was in Northern California with the police officers that beat him up, he started losing his hair. And his alopecia patterns were far more extreme than mine,” Smith recalls.
She claims that Shakur, who was killed in 1996, kept the details of his alopecia a secret due to societal pressures at the time.
“I don’t think Pac ever talked about his alopecia, but he also looked really good with a bald head,” Smith notes. “But that was during a time and during an era that you wouldn’t — he just wouldn’t talk about it.”
The Emmy Award-winner speculates that, “I’m sure if [Shakur] were alive today, he would” speak about his condition publicly.
Smith and Shakur’s friendship blossomed at the Baltimore School for the Arts in Maryland, which they both attended as teens. The star previously revealed to Howard Stern that she and the rapper attempted to take things further by kissing on one occasion, but ultimately decided to remain friends. Their relationship was depicted in Shakur’s 2017 biopic All Eyez on Me, with Kat Graham playing Smith.
Smith tells PEOPLE that she ultimately hopes that conversations surrounding her alopecia — and Shakur’s — will further raise awareness about the condition, which affects as many as 6.7 million people in the U.S. alone, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
“I’m glad that I’ve had the opportunity and we’ll continue to have the opportunity to talk about how alopecia affects me,” she says. “And I’m just hoping that it’ll give people the freedom to talk about how and just not have shame around it and not to have such a stigma.