In a new GQ interview, the actor and Emancipation producer opened up about being a husband and a father to Willow, now 20, and son Jaden, 23 (Smith also shares son Trey, 28, with ex-wife Sheree Zampino). As he details in his forthcoming memoir Will, Smith’s nearly 24-year marriage suffered from inequities as both spouses dealt with their high-profile careers.
For instance, ahead of their 1997 wedding, for which Pinkett Smith wanted a traditional theme, she ultimately “gave in” to Will’s “pressure” to celebrate at a castle in Maryland. As Smith recalled in his book, per GQ, “This would be the first of many compromises Jada would make over the years that painfully negated her own values.” The couple also purchased a 256-acre home (presumably their $3.4M Calabasas compound) which Pinkett Smith never wanted. “Nothing good comes from spending your hard-earned money on a ‘family home’ that your wife doesn’t want,” the actor wrote in his memoir. “You are putting a down payment on discord and for years you will be paying off a mortgage of misery. Or, worse.”
— GQ Magazine (@GQMagazine) September 27, 2021
Following years of this dynamic, the couple hit crisis mode in 2011, after Pinkett Smith’s 40th birthday in New Mexico where Smith planned a private film screening to document his wife’s family descent from slavery. In 2018, Smith had reflected on his intention to create “my deepest, most beautiful proclamation of love” however, Pinkett Smith was mortified. “That was the most disgusting display of ego I have ever seen in my life,” Smith wrote in his book of her reaction.
The resulting argument, he wrote, was so loud that Willow, then 10, woke up crying and begged her parents to stop, with her hands over her ears. “Our marriage wasn’t working,” wrote Smith. “We could no longer pretend. We were both miserable and clearly something had to change.”
Later in the interview, it was revealed that Smith and Pinkett Smith “stopped being monogamous,” which suited them both. “Jada never believed in conventional marriage.… Jada had family members that had an unconventional relationship,” explained Smith. “So she grew up in a way that was very different than how I grew up. There were significant endless discussions about, what is relational perfection? What is the perfect way to interact as a couple? And for the large part of our relationship, monogamy was what we chose, not thinking of monogamy as the only relational perfection.”
That arrangement also affected their children — over the summer, it was revealed that Pinkett Smith had an “entanglement” with singer August Alsina, whom she had met through Jaden, during a period of separation from Smith. On the family’s Facebook Watch series Red Table Talk, co-host Willow shared pride for how her parents handled the public fall-out — by discussing it openly on-air.
“To be able to see you and Dad do that, for me, that was like, ‘OK, that’s the real deal,'” she said. “That’s real love… Like, when you can be like, ‘I’m with you. I’m going to stand by you and I’m going to hold your hand’… that’s really important.’”
Like all children, Willow and Jaden have subjective perspectives on their upbringing. During a 2018 episode of Red Table Talk, the pair shared how they felt after forging their mutual entertainment successes. Of her 2010 song Whip My Hair, As recapped by Entertainment Tonight, Willow called it a “terrible experience” adding, “Just that the values of the people around me should have been the opposite. You and daddy should have been like, ‘OK, we value her musical growth and knowledge more than her popularity.'” Jaden admitted he had somewhat of the same experience after starring in the 2010 film The Karate Kid.
Pinkett Smith was emotional hearing her children’s testimonies. “You know what? I think parents have to give themselves much more forgiveness,” she said. “When you become a parent, you have these huge ideals, even for yourself, because we all are coming into parenting with our own childhood traumas. And you’re hoping you can fix all that through your own rearing of your children, and you can’t. Your kids are gonna have their burdens. And even though I see how it might have hurt you, it’s what I knew.”
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