A look back at Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith’s ‘unusual’ relationship

The couple has been separated since 2016, but they're not getting divorced.

Jada Pinkett Smith shocked the world when she announced that she has been officially separated from husband Will Smith since 2016. She made the revelation in an interview on The Today Show (on US network NBC), prior to the release of her new book Worthy.

How a high-profile Hollywood couple managed to keep their split a secret for seven years is probably even more shocking than the actual fact – especially considering the loved-up and united front they put up as recently as the 2022 Oscars, where we witnessed on live television, “the slap heard around the world”.

Will opened up about his feelings after reading Jada’s memoir in an email to The New York Times, stating that it“kind of woke him up,”. He continued on to describe Jada as “more resilient, clever and compassionate” than he’d ever realised. 

So, how did the couple get here? We’ve taken a stroll down memory lane to help piece together yet another 2023 celebrity separation.



Their decades-long romance began in 1995 when Will saw Jada on her TV series A Different World. On an episode of her own show Red Table Talk, Jada revealed “I knew there was something in our energy that would be magic”.

However, there was one small problem… he was already married! So, did Will Smith and Jada Pinkett date? Will’s first wife, Sheree Zampino, was eventually the one to end their marriage, and it was then that he began chasing Jada’s affections.

In his memoir, titled Will, he confessed “My divorce from Sheree wasn’t yet final, so Jada and I decided it would be prudent if we kept our relationship under wraps. (We were both pretty famous, and we felt it just wouldn’t have been a great look)”.

Actress Jada Pinkett and actor Will Smith attend the "Devil in a Blue Dress" Beverly Hills Premiere on September 22, 1995 at the Academy Theatre in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)



In the same 2021 memoir, Will described the first few months of their relationship thus: “as wild a romantic whirlwind as our bodies could have possibly handled”. And if the next few years were anything to go by, he was right!

Will and Jada were engaged in November 1997 and married within a month, and to top it off, Jada was three months pregnant as she walked down the aisle in a champagne velvet wedding dress.



At the height of their fame, in 1998 Jada and Will welcomed their first child together, Jaden Christopher Syre Smith. Jaden has followed in his parents footsteps, featuring in his own blockbuster movies like The Karate Kid, and more recently Life in a Year.

Actor Will Smith, actress Jada Pinkett Smith and son Jaden Smith attend the "Wild Wild West" Westwood Premiere on June 28, 1999 at Mann Village Theatre in Westwood, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)



Shortly after Jaden, they welcomed their second child in 2000, Willow Camille Reign Smith. Just like her brother, Willow hasn’t shied away from the spotlight with a music career that is also well recognised.

Jada Pinkett-Smith, Will Smith and kids (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/WireImage)



Things seemed rather quiet on the Jada and Will front…until 2013. The rumour mill started swirling with whispers that the couple may be in an open relationship. Jada candidly told the Huff Post Live, “I’ve always told Will, ‘You can do whatever you want as long as you can look at yourself in the mirror and be okay'”. Her answers did nothing to put speculation to rest, pushing the actress to take to Facebook where she published a lengthy post titled Open Marriage?.

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 30: Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith are seen as they prepare to depart out of Los Angeles International Airport on December 30, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by GVK/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)



2015 was seemingly their year for damage control. Knowing what we know now – the marriage was on the rocks and heading for divorce. But, in a drastic attempt to dispel rumours, Will took to Facebook where he posted – “In the interest of redundant, repetitious, over & over-again-ness…Jada and I are…NOT GETTING A DIVORCE!!!!!!!!!!!!! I promise you all – if I ever decide to divorce my Queen – I SWEAR I’ll tell you myself!”

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 24:  (L-R) Actor Will Smith and actress Jada Pinkett Smith arrive at the Los Angeles World Premiere Of Warner Bros. Pictures 'Focus' at TCL Chinese Theatre on February 24,2015 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Barry King/FilmMagic)



Then we hit 2016, the year of the “entanglement”. It was revealed in a 2020 Red Table Talk episode that Will and Jada had been separated for a short time and during this time, Jada had a relationship with rapper August Alsina. Will candidly jokes, “I was done with your ass,” to which Jada responded, “Yeah, you kicked me to the curb. We broke up”. What none of us knew was that the couple had officially called it quits for good back then.

PASADENA, CA - FEBRUARY 05:  Actor Will Smith and actress Jada Pinkett Smith attend the 47th NAACP Image Awards at Pasadena Civic Auditorium on February 5, 2016 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)



If they weren’t already actors, we would be shocked at how well these two played a loved up monogamous married couple over the years to come. However looking back now, the clues seemed to be stacking up. In 2018, Will spoke on his relationship dynamic with Jada. He revealed the pair don’t refer to themselves as married, and prefer the term “life partners”.

Shortly after, Jada also told Sway in the Morning, “At the end of the day, that’s a man that can rely on me for the rest of his life, period”.



In 2021 Will revealed in an interview with GQ that he and Jada had grown up with very different views on what makes a perfect relationship. “For the large part of our relationship, monogamy was what we chose, not thinking of monogamy as the only relational perfection,” he said.

Looking at the pair, it’s not hard to see how we thought these guys were still living completely united lives the entire time.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 14: Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith attend the 2021 AFI Fest - Closing Night Premiere of Warner Bros. "King Richard" at TCL Chinese Theatre on November 14, 2021 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)



Then came “slapgate”. The world looked on in awe as we saw Will Smith approach the stage at the 2022 Oscars where he assaulted comedian Chris Rock for his off-script joke referencing Jada’s alopecia. The pair held an incredibly united front as Will made an apology and stated, “Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally”.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - March 27, 2022.  Will Smith accepts the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for "King Richard" with wife Jada Pinkett-Smith    during the show  at the 94th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre at Ovation Hollywood on Sunday, March 27, 2022.  (Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)



After looking back at the extensive romantic journey of these two Hollywood A-listers’, Jada’s shock announcement seems not-so-unexpected after all. In the interview with Hoda Kotb, Jada confirmed that she and Will have been living “completely separate lives” since 2016.

Sharing even more, Jada confirmed what we all might have known deep down. “By the time we got to 2016, we were just exhausted with trying. I think we were both kind of just still stuck in our fantasy of what we thought the other person should be”.

As for why they kept it on the down-low all these years, Jada’s response was: “I think, just not being ready yet. Still trying to figure out between the two of us how to be in partnership, right? In regards to, ‘How do we present that to people?’ And, we hadn’t figured that out.” 

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