Jada Pinkett Smith is ready to tell her story. The 52-year-old actress sat down with Today‘s Hoda Kotb for an intimate discussion about her upcoming memoir, Worthy, set to be released on Oct. 17.
During the NBC News prime-time special, Jada broke down the many startling revelations from her book, including her marriage to superstar Will Smith and her husband’s infamous slap at the 2022 Academy Awards.
On Wednesday, a preview of the interview unveiled the revelation that seems to be the most shocking of them all: Jada shared that she and Will have been separated for seven years. “Yes, it was not a divorce on paper, but it was a divorce,” Jada told Hoda.
The Girls Trip star disclosed that she and Will, 55, have been leading “completely separate lives” since 2016, even though they never officially divorced.
The bombshell came after they pair met on the set of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air in the ’90s. Things didn’t turn romantic right away, but once they did Jada knew the relationship was going to be an important one.
“I knew on the first date,” she said. “He was a different kind of guy than I was used to dating. Extremely intelligent, which I really liked because he kept me on my toes. He was such a dreamer.”
Through the years rumors swirled about the couple, but Jada said, “I can definitely understand why there would be misunderstandings, but none of it’s true.”
The separation began seven years ago, as Jada confirmed during the interview, making it a long-standing arrangement that they have successfully kept private from the public.
Hoda, who was clearly taken aback by the admission, asked Jada why they chose to maintain this unique arrangement, to which Jada responded, “I think just not being ready yet. Still trying to figure out between the two of us how to be in a partnership, and in regards to how do we present that to people, you know? And we hadn’t figured that out.”
When Hoda pressed for more details about the reasons behind the separation, Jada revealed, “I think by the time we got to 2016, we were just exhausted with trying. I think we were both kind of just still stuck in our fantasy of what we thought the other person should be.”
Despite the separation, Jada shared that she made a promise to herself and Will to never allow their marriage to result in a divorce. “I made a promise that there will never be a reason for us to get a divorce. We will work through whatever. And I just haven’t been able to break that promise,” she stated.
“But you still live separately,” asked Hoda. Jada confirmed, “We live separately.”
As for where they stand now, Jada said, “Right now what we’re focused on, which has been so beautiful, is deep healing, because of everything that’s transpired. What happens after that, I don’t know yet. He’s getting old. Who’s going to be there for him, Hoda? It’s going to be me. I’ll be there. That’s what we signed up for Hoda. I don’t know what to tell you.”
Divorce, at least at the present time, is off the table. “We don’t want to,” Jada said. “We love our family. And we love each other. It’s more of a life partnership. Ten years from now, Hoda, who knows?”
And to people who feel tricked by the public front Jada and Will put on amid their separation, Jada said, “I would say that there’s deep love between us. I can see why people would say that it’s not exactly what they thought, but I actually think that it can be a lot more than what people hope for.”
Jada and Will’s separation made the shock of seeing the actor slap Chris Rock at the 2022 Academy Awards two-fold, she confessed.
The dramatic incident occurred right after Chris made the joke, “Jada, I love ya. G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see it.” The comment wasn’t totally unexpected, as Jada revealed, that after seeing Chris onstage, she thought “He’s not going to be able to help himself. Hopefully he plays nice.”
For her reaction, Jada, who suffers from alopecia, rolled her eyes. “I did that eye roll not so much for me, and I think this is really important, but the fact that there could be a jab at alopecia,” Jada told Hoda.
Moments later, after Chris quipped that it was “a nice [joke]” after being met with some uncomfortable reaction from the audience, he saw Will make his way onto the stage. Chris, who was chuckling, was then met with an open-handed slap to his cheek from Will. “Oh, wow,” he uttered to the gobsmacked crowd. Will then walked offstage and cursed at Chris from his seat, yelling, “Leave my wife’s name out of your f**king mouth.”
Jada admitted that, like many viewers watching at home and in the audience, she initially thought the confrontation was staged. When she realized the moment was very much real, she was taken aback.
“First of all, I’m really shocked because, mind you, I’m not there — we haven’t called each other husband and wife in a long time,” she explained. “I’m like, ‘What is going on right now?'”
As for the slap, Jada said she was “really worried for Will,” who took home an Oscar that night for his role in King Richard, and that the outburst was wildly out of character for him.
While clips from the nominated acts played for broadcast viewers at home, Jada recalled that Chris attempted to make contact with her in the audience. “Chris looks to me and he says, ‘Jada, I meant you, I meant no harm,'” she remembered. “I’m just out of it because I’m really worried about Will.”
At that point, Jada claimed, Will was “still talking.”
“Now he’s mad because Chris is talking to me,” she said. “And I go, ‘Chris, this is about some old s**t.’ That’s all I could think to say, right? And I couldn’t really take in his apology.”
It wasn’t until later on during the ceremony that Jada, who hadn’t seen Will make contact with Chris due to her view of the stage, learned that her husband had actually hit the comedian.
“Will’s publicist Meredith comes out, Meredith says, ‘Chris has left the building and he’s not going to press charges.’ And I said, ‘Press charges for what?’ And she says, ‘Will hit Chris.’ I look to Will and I said, ‘You hit Chris? Like, you actually hit Chris?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah,'” she said. “And I’m like, ‘Alright.’ And then I click in and I go straight into Jada mode. We’re going to get through this. This is going to be a firestorm. I got you.'”
In an interview with People, Jada mused that the true strife between Chris, Will and her began in 2016, the first time the comedian made her the butt of his jokes at the Oscars.
When Will was overlooked for his Concussion performance and the acting nominations recognized no actors of color, Jada was vocally in support of the #OscarsSoWhite movement, calling for a boycott of the awards show.
Chris, who was hosting the Oscars that year, made jokes about Jada in his monologue. He later claimed in his Netflix comedy special earlier this year that Jada told him he should quit the hosting gig out of solidarity.
“I think that there might be some misunderstanding between Chris and I as far as the 2016 Oscars. I think that he might’ve taken offense, which I meant no harm in offending. That wasn’t my intention. But I do think that there’s a big misunderstanding there,” she told the outlet, admitting to “not really recognizing the level of pressure [Chris] might’ve been under” at the time.
Jada said Chris called her afterward in 2016 and she thought they’d moved on, “until 2022 came.”
When asked if she was offended by Chris’ joke about her shaved head, since it is a direct result of her living with alopecia, Jada remained diplomatic.
“I mean, that’s what comedians do,” she answered. “I would just have to say that I am not really here to make any judgment on how people decide to express themselves and express their art. I’ll say that several times I’ve had my feelings hurt, for sure. I’ve had my feelings hurt a lot by Chris. But at the end of the day, too, being in the spotlight, it comes with the territory.”
Speaking with Hoda, Jada speculated that the issue may have also stemmed from the “false narrative” she felt she created in 2020 to explain her romantic relationship with August Alsina. At the time, Jada and Will sat down with one another on her Facebook Watch series, Red Table Talk, for an emotional conversation.
“My honest opinion about that is that narrative had more to do with the false narrative that I helped to create on the Red Table,” she said of the slap.
She continued, channeling the headlines that followed them that year: “‘The adulttress wife who forced him to go to the table and sit there,’ you know what I mean? ‘And now, look at what she’s done. She has the power with an eye roll to make him go up and slap somebody on stage.'”
Chris referenced Jada’s “entanglement” scandal and hit back at Will and Jada’s relationship during his live comedy special on Netflix that premiered on March 4.
“Everybody knows that had nothing to do with me. I didn’t have any entanglements,” he said of Will slapping him. “His wife was f**king her son’s friend. Now, I normally would not talk about this s**t, but for some reason, these n***as put that s**t on the internet. I have no idea why two people that talented would do something that low-down.”
“We’ve all been cheated on, none of us have ever been interviewed by the person who cheated on us,” he added. “Why the f**k would you do that s**t? She hurt him way more than I did… Everybody called him a b**ch, and who’s he hit? Me!”
However, a source told ET that the slap incident actually brought Will and Jada closer.
“Will and Jada have been on a journey of healing over the last year and have put a lot of effort into their relationship,” the source said. “Will took time off to focus on his mental state. The incident truly brought Will and Jada closer together. He took accountability for his actions, and Jada stood by him throughout this hard time in their lives.”
Jada confirmed as much in her chat with Hoda, saying, “I just knew we were in it together, no matter what. It’s a ride or die thing, Hoda, and whatever comes with it. These kind of moments can do two things: they can amplify love, or they can really make you bitter, angry, resentful. We’ve chosen to really look at this moment and heal.”
As for Will’s journey after the outburst on the Oscars stage, Jada said it remains a work in progress, something she discusses in her memoir. She declared that she’s committed to standing by her husband, stating, “I’m going to be by his side, but also allow him to have to figure this out for himself.”
In addition to everything above, Worthy takes readers through the mother of two’s life, giving an unprecedented and intimate look into Jada’s journey from her younger years, taking part in the drug trade on the Baltimore streets, to becoming the successful woman she is today.
Other highlights include her close relationship with Tupac Shakur, her move to Los Angeles, where she began her acting career, and the bleak times when she had suicidal ideations and her struggles with self-acceptance.
“Through everything that I have been through, Hoda, what I’ve been able to discover about myself, about love, when you’re going through such difficulty, that’s when you really get to see how much love you have around you,” Jada said. “When you’re going through the mess, all the riff raff gets stripped away and you really get to see who you are and you really get to see that army of love around you. I am so grateful. I’m so grateful.”
Worthy will be available wherever books are sold on Oct. 17.
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