Among all things, Oscars 2022 grabbed eyeballs for the Will Smith-Chris Rock episode. The actor slapped the comedian over the latter’s joke on his wife, actor Jada Pinkett Smith’s medical condition alopecia, which leads to hair loss. Meanwhile, Bruce Willis also announced retirement from acting following his aphasia diagnosis, a language disorder that affects a person’s communication, and closer home Miss Universe 2021 Harnaaz Sandhu opened up about suffering from celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that led to her weight gain. These recent incidents, among others, have put the spotlight on less-talked health issues such alopecia, celiac, aphasia and Alzheimer’s disease. On World Health Day, today, celebs talk about these health concerns and the ailments they came to know after watching a film, show or series or after their near and dear ones went through it. They also share how right knowledge and awareness are the first steps to address any health issue and how their misconceptions around certain ailments got clarified through study and research.
Ajay Singh Chaudhary:
I got to know about Alzheimer’s disease after I watched the movie, The Notebook. Allie suffers from Alzheimer’s and Noah helps her remember their love by reading to her every day. I didn’t know much about the disease before that and read a lot of articles on it because I feel in our country there is still not much awareness around such ailments. People think Alzheimer’s means memory loss, but it is just a part of it. Another misconception that floats around this disease is that it only happens to older people. As a celebrity, I feel we can create awareness about this ailment by starting a conversation, be it on social media or in person, just by talking about it we can help others to know about this health issue. Since the purple colour is associated with this disease, we can have a purple day and put up photos on social media with the appropriate hashtags. And the last thing that we can do is have someone who has seen a friend or family go through it share their story.
I was always aware of diseases such as alopecia or Alzheimer’s, but when I saw Julianne Moore in Still Alice where she ends up with a case of early onset Alzheimer’s disease and it gave me immense insight about the ailment and absolutely shattered me. Not knowing who you are and your entire life is erased from your mind is unfathomable to me. It’s devastatingly sad. I knew about alopecia because a friend of mine from college suffers from it and has been wearing a wig for years. It makes her feel more secure and that’s a choice that she has every right to make. I salute Jada for not caring and hiding her ailment by wearing a wig at the Oscars or in general. Not only has my respect grown for her because of that, but the fact that she openly shares her struggle on social media about her struggles with alopecia. Hence, I can’t stress enough on how horrible that joke was, but definitely did not warrant Smith to resort to violence. I did not know the exact distinction between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, thus I had to research the difference and the correlation between the two. I learned that Alzheimer’s is a disease, while dementia is not, and that Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia. I remember when I was in the film industry, there were no pilates or keto diets. There was no concept of a size zero. Some actors worked out, but no one was working specifically towards being a size zero. Now that is a norm. Look at Tiger Shroff or Shilpa Shetty Kundra or Alia Bhatt, they all look phenomenally fit. That’s the healthy trend and I commend all of these actors who take time out of their busy schedules to make sure they do not skip their workouts. I also think cigarette smoking is looked down upon severely whereas in the 90’s it was not as bad as it is now. Celebrities are overall more aware of what’s good for their health and bodies now more than ever.
Showbiz is a tough profession and what we often hear is of actors going through depression. I feel that emotional health is as important as physical health and issues like depression and anxiety must not be taken lightly. They are as important as any other physical ailment. It’s natural to feel low at times. However, being clinically depressed is not the same as feeling a little sad. The lockdown was tough and actors were totally out of work. I saw many of my friends go through extreme anxiety and battle major depressive phases. The one thing I learnt through this time is that it is so important to have a support group, people who you trust, and people who are with you. This can help you battle any kind of ailment, be it emotional or physical. I was aware of celiac disease but I never really knew the intricacies of it. I was not aware of why it happens and the challenges that come with it. Recently, after Miss Universe Harnaaz Sandhu spoke about it, I actually started reading up on the condition. I feel that if more and more celebrities open up about health conditions they have battled or are still going through on a day-to-day basis, it will really contribute to more awareness. Also, people assume that celebrities lead a very easy, luxurious life, one which is devoid of any struggle. However, when we share our battles with our audience, they will know that we all are the same and will also be able to connect with us better.
I recently learned about aphasia after the news of Bruce Willis suffering from it started doing rounds. It affects the ability to communicate and occurs typically after a stroke or head injury. I strongly feel depression is a health issue which is misunderstood. People use the word depression in their day-to-day common conversations and that’s wrong. Depression, if not treated at the right time, can have a severe effect. I feel communication is the first step to help someone suffering from depression. You need to make the person realise that you are there for them no matter what. Take them to a doctor and get it treated medically. To create awareness about anything, I feel the first thing that needs to be done is talk about it. Once there is a conversation, people will automatically join in and share their experiences and stories. Social media is a great platform which can be used to create awareness about such diseases and should be used wisely.
I have seen a film called Paa by R Balki which stars Amitabh Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan and the lead character Auro in the film suffers from a rare genetic disorder called progeria. Auro wants to know about his father but his mother hides it from him. After watching the film I got very emotional, both the actors Abhishek and Amitabh Bachchan have played their characters exceptionally well. And that was the time I wanted to know more about the disease, so I read a lot about it and also got in touch with a couple of my doctor friends. A misconception about any health issue which led me to read more was definitely Covid. When the first wave struck us there were so many whatsapp forwards on the virus that were getting viral and people used to forward them without checking the pointers. That made me quite upset. When I had Covid I totally avoided all the whatsapp forwards. And I only got in touch with my doctor and my family. We actors are maximum reach to the masses for the kind of work we do in front of the camera and also many people follow us on social media. So I always take a lot of time to post anything on health awareness. We can contribute by speaking the truth and sharing valid facts. And I have said this in the past that I do not believe in rumours and always check the facts before making any comment or reaching a conclusion. I also reach out to the right people for any kind of valid information.