Jada Pinkett Smith reveals that she and Will Smith have been separated for seven years: ‘Once I met him, I completely abandoned my mental health’

The actress and host explains in her new memoir that at the 2022 Oscars, when her husband slapped Chris Rock for a joke about her, they were together ‘as family, not husband and wife’

Will Smith Jada Pinkett
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett on the red carpet at the Oscars in Hollywood on March 27, 2022.ABC (via Getty Images)
María Porcel

Among the many celebrity memoirs being released this season, the revelations in Jada Pinkett Smith’s book seem to be taking the podium for leaving mouths agape. The actress and host has revealed in a preview of her book Worthy, which will hit bookstores on October 17, that her parents were frequent drug users and that she herself sold drugs in her youth in Baltimore; that she has struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts; and that she has been separated for more than seven years from the man she married 26 years ago, and father of her two children, global superstar Will Smith.

This is all included in a preview of the book that People magazine has obtained exclusively. The magazine also published a long interview with her, making it the cover of its paper issue this week. In it, Pinkett Smith talks about her childhood and her mental health problems, and also one of the most controversial episodes that she has had to live: when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars in 2022, a moment that made headline after headline, in addition to having serious consequences, since the Academy asked the actor and singer to stop being a member. In fact, it is when talking about the infamous slap that she reveals that she and the Men in Black actor separated in 2016 — long before that controversial awards ceremony in which he took home the Oscar for best actor.

In her book, Pinkett Smith explains that she arrived at the 2022 Oscars with a bad feeling, because Chris Rock had already made a joke about her at that same gala years before, precisely in 2016, in the so-called #OscarsSoWhite, where Rock said that the most important awards of the film industry were racist. That night, Rock spoke about her, who had decided not to go to the ceremony because of the lack of diversity: “Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited!” So, fastfowarding to 2022, Pinkett Smith was trying “to be optimistic”: “I told myself, A lot of time has passed, it’s the Academy Awards, there are no new misunderstandings, and I’m sure he’ll play nice.” But the worst happened.

The rest is history: he made a joke about her and her alopecia: “Just like I’d thought, he wasn’t able to help himself, and I rolled my eyes.” This is the first time Pinkett Smith has spoken at length about that incident. She has suffered from alopecia for years, a condition that can undermine one’s self-esteem and cause serious mental health problems. And now she devotes a chapter of her book practically to that, a chapter called: “The Holy Joke, the Holy Slap, and Holy Lessons.” She then recounts that how upset she felt was not so much about her own alopecia, about suffering from the disease herself, but about the people she had met “whose condition was far worse” than hers. “I was frustrated that the majority of folks can’t seem to understand how devastating alopecia can be. My heart broke for the many who live in shame, the children who have committed suicide after being teased and taunted by their classmates. And now the Oscars, in all its political correctness, was telling the world it was okay to make jokes at the expense of a woman suffering from alopecia?” Since the slap, she has not spoken to Rock again, nor does she intend to: “I just hope that all the misunderstanding around this can be cleared up and that there can be peace.”

Jada Pinkett Will Smith
Jada Pinkett and Will Smith at the 1997 MTV Awards gala in New York.New York Daily News Archive (NY Daily News via Getty Images)

The actress confesses that she didn’t see “the gravity of the situation” until Will Smith started repeatedly yelling at Rock from his seat to keep his wife’s name out of his “fucking mouth” … and then got up and slapped Rock. Right then and there, she realized it was not “a skit.” “Even so, I am unclear on the reason why Will is so upset. We had been living separate lives and were there as family, not as husband and wife. But when I hear Will yell ‘wife’ in the chaos of the moment, [I have] an internal shift of, ‘oh, shit, I am his wife!’”

“This is when sixteen-year-old Jada appeared — I’m back in a club back in Baltimore, a fight has broken out, and shit could start poppin’. I’m aware that I’m at the Oscars in a beautiful but very heavy forest-green dress with a high neck, a zipper bodice, and a train a thousand miles long, and I’ve had to stay seated all evening. But no matter how much growth I’ve recently experienced, my old mechanisms are driving, and my mind is racing with […] if I have to fight or run, I’m done! I can’t even get up! But no matter what, Will and I are in this together,” she recalls thinking at that moment. During an intermission at the gala, Rock approached her to try to apologize. “I didn’t mean you any harm,” he told her. “I can’t talk about this now, Chris, it’s the same old shit.”

For her, the problems with Rock didn’t start that night, but from back at the 2016 Oscars (after what happened that night, Rock called her to apologize, and she thought she had “buried the hatchet”) and even before. “I talk about this in the book, 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,” Jada says. To further explain how her complex relationship with Rock goes back a long way, Pinkett Smith adds that a few years ago, one summer, the comedian asked her to go out with him, though she does not specify the date in which it happened. “I think every summer, reports would come out that me and Will were getting a divorce. And this particular summer, Chris, he thought that we were getting a divorce. So he called me, and basically he was like, ‘I’d love to take you out.’ And I was like, ‘What do you mean?’ He was like, ‘Well, aren’t you and Will getting a divorce?’ I was like, ‘No. Chris, those are just rumors.’ He was appalled. And he profusely apologized and that was that.”

In the in-depth interview with People, she also talks about the beginnings of her relationship with the actor. They met in 1994, when she tried to apply for a role in the series The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, in which he starred. Then her career started to take off, but she was dealing with mental health issues that had her in treatment. “Once I met Will, I completely abandoned my mental health. I was so intoxicated by him and our dynamic. I really felt like I’m cured.” She stopped taking Prozac, her antidepressants. “He became the drug.”

After their New Year’s Eve wedding in 1997, they had two children: Jaden, in July 1998, and Willow, in October 2000. They became one of the most acclaimed couples in Hollywood, and also one of the most watched. They themselves have said that their marriage has suffered ups and downs, and that they have made each other suffer: he even made her cry for 45 days in a row, as she said in Red Table Talk, her show. In addition, both have had extramarital affairs: she revealed in the summer of 2020, and with Will Smith in front of her, that she had had an affair with a rapper; a year later he explained that their relationship was no longer monogamous and that they had been several times on the verge of separation. In fact, for years, he has preferred not to use the term “marriage” to refer to their relationship.

In 2011, the couple experienced a major falling out after the actress’s 40th birthday party, as Will Smith told Oprah Winfrey in an interview a decade later. “We realized that it was a fantasy illusion that we could make each other happy,” he said. “We agreed that she had to make herself happy and I had to make myself happy. Then we were going to present ourselves back to the relationship already happy — versus demanding that the other person fill our empty cup.”

Of the state of their marriage, Pinkett Smith says, “We’re still figuring it out.” “We’ve been doing some really heavy-duty work together. We just got deep love for each other, and we are going to figure out what that looks like for us,” she adds.

In addition, in the interview with People and in the book, Pinkett Smith talks about how her son Jaden (with whom Smith has had a strained relationship for years) told her about ayahuasca, explaining that the father of a friend of his had tried this hallucinogenic compound and that she had to try it. She then went to an ayahuasca ceremony, where a shaman usually guides the congregants after making them drink an infusion, which causes very strong hallucinations. “Ayahuasca helped me, it gave me a new intimate relationship with myself that I had never had before.” Jada says since the first time she took the drug, “the suicidal thoughts completely went away.”

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