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Will Smith Was Out Trying to Impress Jada Pinkett the Night He Met First Wife Sheree Zampino

Will Smith has always been an open book, but now he’s getting even more candid and vulnerable with the release of his memoir Will. The book chronicles chapters of the superstar’s life dating back to before the swell of fame he experienced with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Those pivotal Fresh Prince years, however, reveal just a bit more about how the actor met and initially pursued wife Jada Pinkett Smith prior to his first marriage.

Back in 1990, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was “bubbling hard,” as Smith describes in his memoir. And during this time, he and co-star Alfonso Ribeiro would sometimes hang around the casting office to ogle the women who would come in and audition for a role on the show. One day, Pinkett sauntered into the casting office, and Smith was immediately taken with her. “‘Who the f**k is that?’ I whisper to Alf between his relentless chops. ‘She is not from LA.’ (East Coast recognize East Coast),” Smith writes in his memoir.

At the time, Pinkett had been denied the role of Smith’s girlfriend on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, notably because she “wasn’t tall enough,” Smith recalled. The actor, however, wasn’t deterred by anything and went up to Pinkett with the line, “‘Whatup Shawty?'” Safe to say, it did not impress Pinkett, who left and went back to filming A Different World.

Little did the actress know, however, that Smith and Ribeiro were making their way to the set of the sitcom to see Pinkett’s performance. “The plan was, he and I would go to the taping of A Different World, and we would sit in the audience. That would give me an opportunity to adequately Fresh Prince flex. The audience would, of course, erupt when we showed up; Jada would hear all of the cheering during her scene, and she would look out to the crowd and realize it was because of me. (And Alf.),” Smith writes in his memoir.

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Pinkett’s scene, however, wasn’t filmed until “midway through the taping,” which means Smith’s scheme didn’t exactly go according to plan. Nevertheless, he was incredibly impressed by her verve and talent. “She was fire — her accent her mannerisms her hair, her attitude. She felt like home.”

Between scenes of the taping, Smith was introduced to his first wife, Sheree Zampino, who was chatting with one of Ribeiro’s pals at the time. Smith worked his charm, and left the woman he’d eventually marry in fits of laughter. “If she had been drinking water, she would have done a spit take. She begins to laugh uncontrollably, as if I had given voice to one of her own, secret inner whispers,” Smith writes. The rapport between the two was effortless and instantaneous.

“I didn’t meet Jada that night. Sheree and I left together before the show was even over. We laughed all the way through dinner, all the way through that fall, and three months later, we were married.” After roughly three years of marriage and one child, Smith and Zampino divorced in 1995, and Pinkett and Smith married by 1997. We’ve always known that this couple’s Hollywood romance dates back decades. But with his new memoir, Smith is giving longtime fans a whole new take on the couple’s fateful first meeting.

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