As rumors fly about the state of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’s six-month-old marriage, friends of the pair are stepping forward to defend them. Here, Jada Pinkett Smith, who, with husband Will Smith, is a longtime friend of the couple, tells PEOPLE what life is really like in the Cruise-Holmes household:
I met Kate through Tom – I didn’t know her before Tom. I think everybody has this image: Poor little Kate, she doesn’t have the strength to take care of herself. People don’t know that behind all that grace is a tiger. I’ve witnessed it! I’ve had conversations with Kate personally where the tigress comes out of her, that fight.
There was one incident when I turned to Will – we were in their dining room, just the four of us, we were sitting and talking – Kate made a comment, and that was the moment I was like, “You know what? I can ride with her.” She made it very clear she wasn’t standing for people messing with her family. She is extremely protective. But at the same time she’s so graceful.
I can see how people wouldn’t see this, but when you look at Kate now [compared to] when she first met Tom, she’s more confident and more knowing who she is than ever before. You can see it in her pictures. She looks more beautiful and more confident and more assured. I’ve watched that metamorphosis – how Kate has blossomed into this woman. Because her life changed very quickly, she moved from one person into another.
On reports that Holmes is a ‘prisoner’:
It burns my soul – I see her in the house with Tom; he doesn’t have that on her! It kills me. ‘Tom’s this monster and he’s got her chained up in the basement and he’s forcing Scientology down her throat’ – it’s bulls—. Let me tell you: Kate ain’t no little wimpy kitty cat. It’s not that ballgame. For real.
I see how protective she is over her family and her husband. She very much carries the idea that people better not [mess] with my family. She gets fired up. When she gets to that mode, it makes me step back. I was like, ‘Okay!’ And Tom looks at me and goes, ‘See? See? Did you see that?’ And I go, “Yeah, I saw that – hell yeah.’ It amazes me.
She’s got a quiet thunder. When she walks into a room, or you see her in a magazine – it’s a thunder that people are attracted to. It’s quiet and it’s very subtle, but it’s extremely powerful. What’s great about Kate is that she doesn’t wear who she is on her sleeve, and that makes people so interested in her. That in itself is quite a power, and she knows it. Kate is smart, let me just put it like that.
People think Tom and the Church of Scientology got something on Kate? They don’t. Kate is running her own show. And she’s a great mother. Her kids – Connor, Bella, Suri – are some dynamic children and are extremely happy. And her husband is very, very happy.
They are a happy family. And they’re strong. The forces they have right now are amazing. They’re like any other loving family that just wants peace and harmony and to be able to thrive in a nurturing environment, in an energy that supports their union. And at the end of the day it’s really nobody’s business.
On the frenzy surrounding Cruise and Holmes’s November wedding:
Even at the wedding I had to pull [Katie] aside and ask her, “Are you okay?” because it was just so much. And she looked at me and said, “You know what, Jada? It’s been a lot, but I’m doing alright, and I’m happy.” I watched how she handled everything and I’m telling you, she did not break a sweat. If it had been me, I’d have been a madwoman.
She takes it all in stride. That’s the quiet power that I’m talking about, and it’s the thing that people overlook. Look at this picture for a moment. Kate went from being little sweet Katie Holmes to Kate Cruise. That’s a really huge leap from one world into another.
She’s young, she popped into motherhood very fast. If you think about the transition she’s done, with as much grace she’s had, and on top of it with the attacks – I don’t know how she does it. Nobody really looks at that. It amazes me how people want to focus on “She’s tied up in the basement and he throws steaks to her at night and she gets to see Suri only on Sundays.” It’s ridiculous.
On who wears the pants in the Cruise-Holmes household:
Tom don’t run nothin’ in that house! It is Katie’s house. It’s her world! The devotion that Tom has to his wife, and the places he’ll go to make her happy – spiritually, where he will go as a man for his woman.
He’s taking time off to just be with [Katie] on her routine. [Holmes is filming Mad Money in Louisiana.] It’s nice when our husbands take the time to come with us to work. I saw him the other day, he had Suri by himself. He had Suri for like four days. By himself. He’s a family guy as well as this larger-than-life individual. He knows, more than anything, that for him to be happy, he’s got to have a happy home and a happy family.
On their friendship:
They have tons of friends that aren’t Scientologists and tons of friends who are. They don’t discriminate. They’re like, “If you’re a good person, then we can roll with you.” We’ve been friends since filming Collateral.
Sometimes we get together with the kids, sometimes we’ll go out to dinner without the kids. Sometimes they’ll call and say, “Where are you? We’re gonna fly to you this weekend.” Or, “We’re up in Colorado – come and hang out.”
Kate never asks me for mommy advice because she’s so good at it. Sometimes we’ll chitchat about our challenges being married to the men we’re married to, and having a family, and just getting tips on keeping the balance.