Jada Pinkett Smith Reveals Why She and Will Smith Separated & More Bombshells From Her Book Worthy

In her new memoir Worthy, Jada Pinkett Smith unpacks everything you thought you knew about her marriage to Will Smith and much more.

By Natalie Finn Oct 17, 2023 12:17 PMTags
Watch: Jada Pinkett Smith Was "Shocked" By Oscars Slap

In case your jaw hasn't dropped since Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars, Jada Pinkett Smith is here to remedy that.

Last week the Red Table Talk host started dropping hot, savory breadcrumbs in a series of interviews leading up to the Oct. 17 release of her memoir Worthy, revealing she and Smith had been separated for six years before that shocking night and they no longer lived together (though she moved nearby). But, Pinkett Smith also said on TODAY they aren't divorcing and are working on "healing the relationship."

And she would have shared the true state of their union several years ago, but Smith got cold feet, according to the actress.

Pinkett Smith, 52, expands upon all this and more in Worthy, which she has heralded as the real story of her journey. (And yes, the actress who made "entanglement" the most zeitgeisty term since "conscious uncoupling" has acknowledged she may have had a hand in perpetuating various misconceptions over the years.)

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith's Wildest Quotes About Each Other

Smith, though a starring character in his wife's narrative, has remained in the background while she's been making the rounds to promote her book. But he told the New York Times in an email that even he was unaware of what Pinkett Smith was experiencing—or of how resilient she'd been.

"When you've been with someone for more than half of your life a sort of emotional blindness sets in," wrote the actor, who wed the Set It Off star on Dec. 31, 1997. "You can all too easily lose your sensitivity to their hidden nuances and subtle beauties."

Smith, who quipped on Instagram that his notifications are currently set to off, also offered a message of support that On Purpose host Jay Shetty shared during his sit-down with Jada for the Oct. 16 episode of his podcast.

HarperCollins Publishers

"I just turned the final page of Worthy," Smith wrote. "It is amazing to realize that despite having lived most of my life by your side, I still found myself shocked and stunned and caught off guard, laughing, then inspired, then heartbroken. I was all over the place. It's one thing to hear anecdotes at a family barbecue, but it was truly overwhelming to take in your story, potently condensed in this way." 

Noting he knew it wasn't easy to "excavate the depths" of one's self, the Will author concluded, "I applaud and honor you. If I had read this book 30 years ago, I definitely would have hugged you more. I'll start now. Welcome to the author's club. I love you endlessly. Now go get some Merlot and take a rest."

Pinkett Smith laughed and called the sentiment "beautiful," adding, "That's why I can't divorce that joker."

Meanwhile, you should treat yourself to a generous pour and settle in for more of the bombshells Jada dropped in her book, Worthy:

How Jada Met Will

Jada Pinkett Smith first met Will Smith when she was 20 years old and he flew out to the set of her film The Inkwell to personally offer her a role on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

She turned it down, she writes, because her movie career was taking off and she didn't want to do TV.

He was at her 21st birthday party and she felt a connection during a later group hangout (and she did appear on Fresh Prince)—but he was married.

Pinkett Smith recalls Smith calling her less than a week after his first wife, Sheree Zampino, filed for divorce in February 1995. He asked if she was seeing anyone, she said no and she writes that his reply was, "Good. You're seeing me now."

And she loved the boldness.

Jada Addresses Rumors That She's Gay

Rumors of Pinkett Smith being gay have trailed her through the years, she notes.

While she had "a few sexual experiences with women" and cherishes their beauty "inside and out," she writes, at the end of the day, "when it comes to sex, I love men."

Tupac Shakur Proposed

Pinkett Smith writes of an attempted kiss between her and the late Tupac Shakur when they were classmates at the Baltimore School for the Arts. They loved each other, she described, but didn't have that sort of chemistry.

She further shares that Shakur, who was killed in September 1996, proposed to her in a letter he sent from Rikers Island in February 1995 while awaiting sentencing after being convicted of sexual abuse. (He had pleaded not guilty and was acquitted of sodomy and gun charges.) The rapper was released after serving 10 months, having married girlfriend Keisha Morris while in jail (the union was annulled).

Pinkett Smith was admittedly torn, she writes, and considered going through with it—even though at the time she had no intention of ever getting married. But when Shakur told her he'd expect conjugal visits, she realized he wanted a wife while he did time, not for forever.

Jada's Tragic Fight With Tupac

The last time Pinkett Smith talked to Shakur, they had what she describes as an "intense" fight at a restaurant, where they were meeting to discuss starring in Gridlock'd together. She called her agent right after and said she wouldn't do the movie and never wanted to work with or talk to the rapper again, she writes.

They didn't talk again. On Sept. 8, 1996, Shakur was shot in Las Vegas. Pinkett Smith recalls his mother—and everyone else who knew him— assuming he'd recover, so she planned to fly out Sept. 14.  He died Sept. 13.

Smith's ex Zampini was first to call with the news, and Pinkett Smith remembers telling her then-boyfriend that she didn't "know what the f--k she's talking about."

Jada Refused to Sign a Prenup

Pregnant with their son Jaden at the time, Pinkett Smith wasn't having it when Smith informed her ahead of their Dec. 31, 1997, nuptials that his team thought they should sign a prenuptial agreement.

She recalls firing back that if they were entering into marriage "with the possibility that divorce could happen," then maybe they shouldn't get married at all.

Smith agreed and "that was that," Pinkett Smith writes. It was the moment, she describes, in which they tacitly vowed to stay together "no matter what happens," and she would not go back on her word.

Smith has also said divorce is not an option for them.

Advice From Warren Beatty

After turning down the role that went to Halle Berry in Warren Beatty's 1998 political satire Bulworth, Pinkett Smith recalls going to lunch with the actor-director and being reminded that she contained multitudes.

It was the first time, she recalls appreciatively, that someone told her in a nonjudgmental way that she might want to "allow more of the delight under my hard exterior to peer through."

He didn't advise her to change, she notes, but rather to "be willing to show more sides of myself."

Playing Through Death Threats

Pinkett Smith recalls her security team advising her not to play Ozzfest in 2005 with her metal band Wicked Wisdom (which she formed after her Matrix co-star Keanu Reeves inspired her to go for it) due to the number of racist death threats they'd received.

Undeterred, they joined the tour, facing down a group of neo-Nazis in the audience during a show in Camden, N.J. And they played every date, including after she suffered a health scare that a doctor attributed to heavy stress.

Battling Depression and Suicidal Thoughts

Toward the end of 2011, Pinkett Smith "wanted to be on this earth less and less," she recalls, noting that therapy had at least helped her reach 40 after years of battling depression, suicidal thoughts and feelings of hopelessness. (A diagnosis of complex trauma with PTSD and dissociation would come later, she notes.)

She looked for a suitable cliff to drive off of in Los Angeles so it would look like an accident, she writes, but ultimately couldn't go through with it, worrying she'd survive but be paralyzed or disfigured. 

Soon after, however, the parent of two of her son's friends sang the praises of ayahuasca. In the book, she credits the subsequent eye-opening experience she had on the hallucinogen with helping her put suicidal ideation behind her for good. Pinkett Smith also recalls a "friends-and-family" ayahuasca experience she arranged about a year after the 2022 Oscars (and Jaden, 25, has said it was his mom who introduced him, his dad and sister Willow, to psychedelics).

A "Relationship of Transparency"—Not an Open Relationship

Pinkett Smith explains that her and Smith's approach was never "go sleep with whomever you want," it was "let's trust each other to come together in partnership with the truth, talk and work as partners through them."

Talk of an open marriage "was somewhat misleading," she writes, but also admits their way isn't for everybody. At the same time, she muses in the book that she may have suggested having a "relationship of transparency" because—still traumatized by her late father walking out on their family—she feared being abandoned.

The End of Marriage as They Knew It

Throughout the book from the time Smith enters the narrative, Pinkett Smith describes a mutual failure to dig beneath the surface and really work through their differences, the couple communicating more respectfully than productively.

They put off difficult conversations, she writes, and she admittedly made the mistake of thinking he should be able to read her mind. "He should already know," she recalls thinking.

And by 2016, with their kids, including her stepson Trey, forging their own paths, it became more obvious she and Smith "had pictures in our mind of what a happily married couple was," she writes. "And our pictures didn't match."

Pinkett Smith shares that she did consider divorce, but ultimately never even met with a lawyer. Any lawyer, despite rumors that she did, she added.

Their solution, she writes, was to "separate in every way except legally."

Chris Rock Asked Her Out

Some time before The Slap, according to Pinkett Smith, Chris Rock asked his Madagascar co-star out on a date amid the latest round of rumors that she and Smith were breaking up.

She writes that she told the comedian that wasn't the case, they laughed about it and he "apologized profusely."

Rock and his ex-wife, Malaak Compton, split up in 2014 and finalized their divorce in 2016. His rep did not respond to E! News' request for comment.

Reason for Hope

Pinkett Smith was on the production team that brought King Richard into being, but at one point, after a particular "falling-out" with her husband, she asked for her name to be removed.

Smith insisted she stay on, she writes, so she remained an executive producer. But she recalls being "pleasantly surprised" when Smith wanted her to be his date at the many ceremonies that demanded his presence throughout the 2022 awards season. 

They were back in therapy, she notes, and she considered the invitation a sign "we weren't ready to give everything up just yet."

What Really Shocked Jada When Will Smith Slapped Chris Rock

Like seemingly everyone else watching, Pinkett Smith assumed at first that her husband and Best Documentary presenter Rock were doing a planned bit when Smith marched up to the podium after Rock's "G.I. Jane 2" joke and smacked the comedian in the face, she writes.

Pinkett Smith describes how she and Rock had eventually exchanged conciliatory messages after she boycotted the 2016 Oscars and he, as host, took a few shots at her and Will in his monologue. But, without going into detail, she notes there had been "decades of disrespect between Will and Chris" going back to the 1980s.

Still, after the unscripted reality of the moment on March 12, 2022, sank in, what shocked her most, she writes, was hearing Smith call her his wife (as in, "Keep my wife's name out of your f--king mouth") six years after they separated.

And Pinkett Smith, sensing the coming months wouldn't be easy for her husband, planned to "stand with him in this storm as his wife, no matter what."