It’s hard to forget the infamous 2022 Oscars slap, where actor Will Smith smacked Chris Rock for making a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and her shaved head. Pinkett Smith has alopecia and has been shaving her head since 2021.
It’s a sensitive subject, especially for celebrities whose lives are on a public stage.
Talk show host and actor, Ricki Lake revealed that for more than 30 years, she was self-shaming over her thinning hair that caused so much distress that she contemplated suicide.
Lake, now 54, opened up about her hair loss and explained the range of emotions she experienced when coming to terms with what was happening.
After a decades-long struggle, Lake, an actor and singer, revealed she has a hereditary condition called androgenetic alopecia, a disease that causes hair loss, which in men leads to male-pattern baldness, and in women it causes severe thinning.
In an emotional Instagram post, Lake, now a 54, shared a photo of her shaved head, along with the caption, “It has been debilitating, embarrassing, painful, scary, depressing, lonely, all the things. There have been a few times where I have even felt suicidal over it. Almost no one in my life knew the level of deep pain and trauma I was experiencing.” She continues, “I am not alone in this and my goal is to help others while at the same time unshackle myself from this quiet hell I have been living in.”
Lake explains that after playing the lead role of Tracy Turnblad in the 1988 film Hairspray, her film debut, that she went from “Hairspray to Hairless.” To create the 1960’s bouffant look of for her character, every day for two weeks, her fine and then virgin hair was teased and triple processed, which stressed her follicles.
Since then, she experienced shedding–the medical term is elogen effluvium–which was amplified by dramatic weight fluctuations, depression, hormones and then the hair extensions, that she started leaning on to hide her “shame.”
Hoping her hair could be revived, Lake kept her secret and tried everything, including Rogaine, topical treatments, steroid injections PRP therapy (plasma injections into your scalp) and Propecia, a prescription medicine used for androgenetic alopecia.
As the face of her own daytime tabloid talk show, Ricki Lake (1993 to 2004), Lake was pressured by the same unrealistic beauty standards of today and was seen by millions fans in studio and in their homes.
The mother of two is known in Hollywood and had starring roles in films like Cry-Baby (1990) with Johnny Depp, the 1996 romcom Mrs. Winterbourne, with Shirley MacLaine and Brendan Fraser, and in TV, where she had a recurring role in King of Queens, where she plays the sister to Kevin James’ character Doug.
She never left the spotlight, she recently had appearances on reality shows The X Factor: Celebrity and Masked Singer, and is a documentary filmmaker.
In 2012, Lake reprised her original talk show with Ricki, and though she won a Daytime Emmy for the show, it was cancelled after one season.
In 2017, when her ex-husband, jewelry designer Christian Evans died from suicide, Lake went into severe depression. Married from 2012 to 2015, the pair remained very close, and she said his death devastated her. “I got to experience true depression,” she told People. “There were days when I couldn’t get out of bed, and that is a very scary place to be. I’m such a positive person, and to not feel like that was paralyzing.”
With so many stressors in her life, professionally and personally, it’s not surprising that her hair was falling out.
In a 2022 interview with People, Lake said, “I was afraid of coming out. Because no woman as far as I knew had ever gone public about female baldness.”
After hitting a new low in December 2019, Lake said she had to take power over the situation.
“I’d reached a low point. I decided to take charge.” Lake explained she spoke with her then boyfriend about her secret and shared her plan to shave her head. He supported her and told her that she’d look good.
On January 2, 2022, Encouraged by the support of her boyfriend, and by the love of close friends, Lake rang in the new year with a brand new look.
She shaved her head and shared an Instagram post, that she called a “quiet hell.”
“It wasn’t a calculated move,” she said of making the post on the first day of the new year. “I just needed to be set free from this silent suffering.”
What she hadn’t known is that her hair would again grow, this time giving her a full head of gorgeous wavy gray hair. “When I shaved my head, I never had even an inkling that it would grow back. It feels like a miracle.”
Celebrating the three year anniversary of when she took her power back, Lake posted the video that was taken when she first shaved her head. In the caption she writes, “In this video, you can see me come to a place of peace, liberation, and most importantly, self-love and self-acceptance…After three years, I can honestly say I appreciate and love my natural gray and sometimes wild unruly head of hair.”
Whether she’s boasting a buzz cut or her now naturally gray locks, Lake looks stunning. We’re so happy that Ricki Lake so bravely shared her journey, which will surely help others going through the same!