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‘The Oscars brought us closer; ‘Will and I are now on a new trajectory’: Hollywood star Jada Pinkett Smith on Slapgate incident ahead of Middle East tour – News

Ahead of her visit to the United Arab Emirates to promote her memoir Worthy, which has already become a major talking point, Jada Pinkett Smith talks about revisiting the difficult parts of her life and what it really took to process the Slapgate incident. 2022 at the Oscars.



Published: Thursday, October 19, 2023, 00:05

How do you decide if yours is a story worth telling? Human beings are the sum total of their experiences. It is the encounters with highs and lows, good and evil, agony and ecstasy, that make us who we ultimately are. But when it comes to public figures, we like to freeze them in time. So if someone was known for being cheerful when they initially rose to fame, any deviation from that behavior will draw attention. But celebrities, like any of us, are constantly evolving. Take the case of Jada Pinkett Smith.

She is many things to many of us. Niobe for all the Matrix fans, a loving mother to her children who have their own social media following, a successful entrepreneur and talk show host for the millions who look forward to the raw and real conversations on her show Facebook Watch Red Table Talk. . And yet, the last 18 months have largely revolved around fans and media speculating about her role in the 2022 Slapgate incident at the Oscars.

During the Oscars ceremony, host Chris Rock, while presenting the award for Best Documentary Feature, joked about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head (the actress had been diagnosed with alopecia, an autoimmune disorder). Scorned by the joke, her husband Will Smith, one of the favorites for the Best Actor Oscar that year, approached the deer to slap Rock.

The incident sparked many debates — whether there should be limits on comedy, whether women of color are easier targets for such jokes — which really prompted Smith to take the drastic step. While it’s a moment that has become a distant memory for fans, Pinkett Smith ultimately summarized her thoughts on the incident in a book detailing her journey from the streets of Baltimore to the red carpet of Hollywood.

The actress has already revealed that the couple, who once epitomized #relationshipgoals, have been separated for a while. Ahead of her appearance on Red Table Talk to talk about her Worthy memoir, Jada talks at length about why she felt her story was worth telling to the world… Edited excerpts from an interview:

What led you to write Digno? Was the process of reviewing your life cathartic or painful?

It was both. It was painful and cathartic. I decided to write about some of the most challenging moments of my life, searching for self-esteem; some parts were really hard to go back and relive.

Worthy book cover

Worthy book cover

What parts of your formative years in Baltimore have shaped the person you are today?

I would say probably two parts. First, the foundation that was in my grandmother’s garden (that’s the name of the first chapter “In my grandmother’s garden”). My mother was very young when she had me. So I spent a lot of time living with my grandparents. Spending time with my grandmother in her garden has generated some of the most wonderful memories. Second, the preteen phase, heading to the rugged streets of Baltimore from those gardens: these are the parts of my youth that have shaped me.

Living life in the spotlight can’t be easy for the person beneath the celebrity. I’m sure that becomes even more difficult when you’re married to someone who is a star. What has been the personal cost of living such a life?

The personal cost is simply how things can go wrong. But I also know it’s entertainment. I understand that people love drama, they love clickbait. Being an animator, I understand it. But it can also be annoying. That’s the price you pay for living a life in the spotlight. But there is also the advantage that when you have something to share, it can be a gift because you have people who will listen to you. Everything has its balance: it has its beauty and its curses.

Jada Pinkett Smith played Niobe in the Matrix series

Jada Pinkett Smith played Niobe in the Matrix series

What were the ideas that influenced your decision to start your production company Westbrook?

Will and I really wanted to start a company that facilitated artists and artists’ vision. Being the type of artists that we are, we know how difficult it is to receive full and complete support for the art that is being created. We wanted to create a company that catered to artists and could facilitate them in a way that helped their vision. And then we had Miguel (Meléndez) and company, who helped facilitate that vision with us.

How important was promoting diversity to Westbrook?

Oh, definitely! Actually, that was our number one priority. Whether it’s women or people of color, we wanted to be able to give them more opportunities. We wanted their skills and vision to become part of what we set out to do as a company. I’m really proud of even how diverse our diversity is. Many people think that when someone talks about diversity, they just want to make sure that black people are hired. Our diversity goes much further.

Both you and Will have championed diversity in Hollywood. Do you think the industry has finally matured in its view of diversity?

Matured in how he sees diversity… You said it right: “matured” (laughter). That’s an important word because we may have concepts that we are practicing, but we may not be practicing them maturely. You just gave me a very different way of looking at it because I think we need more time to mature in the way diversity is practiced. I think there’s a lot more awareness about it, but we need more maturity in how we practice it.

An excerpt from his book relives that moment during the 2022 Oscars. At one point, he writes, he is afraid of being made fun of on stage. On another level, as that unfolds, you see your husband react to that joke by slapping the person who made it. How did you process that moment and the frenzy it generated?

At that particular time, Will and I weren’t together. But before I left that building that night, I knew that she might not have come in here as his wife, but I would surely leave as one. I knew I had to be by her side. To be honest with you, I had more important issues to resolve than what the media was talking about. I was really worried about Will because he had never done anything like that. I knew what was going on with him after Emancipation, which was a difficult and challenging film for him. After that he had asked me to accompany him to some therapeutic spaces with him because a lot of things were coming up for him. So when we went to the Oscars, we had a backstory.

It has taken you 18 months to publish a version that is authentically yours in the form of this book. Was the silence you maintained during this time difficult?

Yes (laughs). After writing this book, I felt free in a way. I felt like I had been holding on a lot, and for good reason. That was part of my journey: believing that my story is “worthy,” that I deserve to tell it. As much as people think I share on Red Table, once you read the book, you’ll know that I haven’t shared much otherwise. I mean, I shared what I could for that platform. Because in this book I can draw you in and immerse you in my world, I can share more because you understand the context and the story. I’m always trying to figure out how to tell my story and what I’m going to tell because there are so many other people’s stories that are connected to mine. I always try to find ways I can be honest without breaching confidentiality. It’s definitely a tightrope, but I have to be honest with you, it feels good to share because I’ve been carrying a lot. And I’m glad I was able to do it in collaboration with my family. Will, in particular, has been very supportive. He knew this was something he needed and writing this book was part of my “worthy” journey.

But sharing your story honestly can also be misinterpreted.

Absolutely, especially for us as women. I’m not saying no other woman has to do it. I’m not saying that any other woman has to be so sincere. All I want is for everyone to understand that we should not burden our stories with guilt or burden. I want women to know that their journey is worth telling no matter how they decide.

You mentioned that you and your husband had separated in 2016. Why wasn’t legal separation an option to consider?

Not that it wasn’t an option (laughs). I thought about it many times. It just so happened that she knew he needed to get to the right place. She didn’t want to conflict with Will in a public setting. She didn’t want the lawyers to put us in a bloodbath over ridiculous things that neither of us cared about. I said to myself, “Jada, right now you need to focus on your healing.” I had thought that once I recovered, we would find out what a divorce or legal separation would be like.

The incident at the Oscars brought us closer in a way I didn’t expect. We have been together on a new trajectory.

What role have your children played in this healing process?

All. Our marriage is the cornerstone of our family and our community. That’s bigger than Will and me. As we went through those challenging years of separation, trying to figure out how to consciously uncouple, we also knew that we simply loved our family. There has never been a time when we haven’t been together for Christmas, Thanksgiving or birthdays. We love spending time with our children and we do it all the time. So it wasn’t like we were separated and told our kids, “Go stay with your dad” and “Come with me.” At that point we were like, “Oh, there’s brunch on Sunday, let’s go,” “Willow, I’ll be there for the concert.” We kept doing all those things together because we couldn’t have imagined not doing them.

You’re coming to the UAE to promote Worthy and will be chatting on Red Table Talk with Sarah Omolewu. What are your expectations from the visit?

I just want to make beautiful connections with all my sisters there. I want everyone to come and sit with us at the Red Table for a real conversation. I’m going to bring the red side table, so we’ll have our real version of Red Table Talk.

anamika@khaleejtimes.com

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