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HOT NEW COUPLE
Following his split from first wife Sheree Zampino, Will Smith – then a small-screen superstar, thanks to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – steps out with actress Jada Pinkett, whom he first met when she auditioned to play his girlfriend on the sitcom in 1990. "I helped him understand what happened in his marriage," Pinkett later tells PEOPLE in July 1996, "and he helped me see what happened in my relationship. He's become my best friend."
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A BANKABLE STAR
Smith begins earning his reputation as "Mr. July," the king of summer movies, when he stars in the alien-invasion blockbuster Independence Day, which hits theaters over the July 4 weekend. It goes on to become the highest-grossing film of 1996, and at the time, the second-highest-grossing movie in history. Playing up his role as fighter pilot Steven Hiller, Smith, Pinkett and his son Trey (from Smith's previous marriage) present a united front at the film's L.A. premiere, dressing in fatigues.
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The The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ends after six successful seasons, and Smith smoothly transitions to movie star – making a grand appearance alongside Pinkett at the 1997 Academy Awards, where his box-office clout earns him a spot as a presenter.
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The twosome make it official on December 31, 1997, tying the knot in a lavish ceremony at the Cloisters, a medieval-style mansion near the bride's hometown of Baltimore. The couple, attired in matching Badgley Mischka, are hiding a secret from their 100 guests – Pinkett is two months pregnant.
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BUMP IT UP
The now-hyphenated Pinkett-Smith flaunts her baby bump at the 1998 Blockbuster Awards (where Smith wins favorite sci-fi actor for Men in Black). The couple welcome son Jaden on July 7, adding daughter Willow in 2000. A child of divorce, Pinkett-Smith is committed to including her stepson, Trey, in the family, calling him her "bonus son." "I refused to have Trey feel like a stepchild," she says. "He is not from my body, but he is a huge part of my spirit and my soul." The couple later produce the UPN sitcom All of Us, about a blended family like theirs.
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The term "jiggy" is added to the popular vernacular thanks to Smith, who adds a fourth Grammy to his collection when his single "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" takes home the award for best rap solo performance at the 1999 ceremony. Pinkett-Smith wins the unofficial "amazing body after baby" award, showing off rock-hard abs.
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BEST IN SHOW
In a groundbreaking move, the Academy Awards nominates three African-American actors for the top actor prizes at the 2002 event: Smith (for Ali), Denzel Washington (for Training Day) and Halle Berry (for Monster's Ball). Berry wins best actress, and Smith loses best actor to Washington but keeps the night in perspective. "I'm very happy that [black] roles are more available. I think blacks in Hollywood are advancing, however slowly," Smith tells Entertainment Weekly.
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Pinkett-Smith takes over the family's blockbuster duties in 2003, starring in The Matrix Reloaded – a franchise her husband turned down. The hard-bodied role offers the couple another benefit besides just another hit movie to add to their collective resumes – the actress raves about their improved sex life. "Your body's stronger, you just have all of this stamina," she tells Lifetime magazine. "Having been in the best shapes of our lives during that time, let's just put it this way: It was A-OK."
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She's a metal chick! Pinkett-Smith joins the rockin' ranks, fronting the metal band Wicked Wisdom. "The Jada that Will met is the chick people see on stage with the band. The Jada you see on the red carpet is the person he helped me to become," Pinkett-Smith says. "I don't think I'd be the woman I am today without his love and vision." And his support – Smith joins his wife on stage for a 2004 performance before she hits the road for Ozzfest in 2005.
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LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
Son Jaden, then 8, costars with his father in the 2006 drama The Pursuit of Happyness. Jaden earns critical acclaim, and Smith scores another best actor Oscar nomination. The actor credits his son with helping him deliver such a powerful performance. "The chemistry wasn't something that we had to search for," he says about a particularly brutal scene. "And that's my real son there, there's no acting necessary. The emotion of the moment is easily comprehensible."
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Hollywood's power-couple trifecta – Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Victoria Beckham and David Beckham, and Pinkett-Smith and Smith – celebrate the Beckhams' move to L.A. at a 2007 bash. The Smiths grow particularly close to Cruise and Holmes, who gushes to PEOPLE, "Jada is so strong. She is a rare woman – a phenomenal friend, mother, wife. She inspires me."
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REVEL WITH A CAUSE
Along with Denzel Washington and his wife, Pauletta, the couple lend their star wattage to the 90th birthday celebration of apartheid fighter Nelson Mandela, toasting the civil rights leader at a 2008 London dinner that includes such luminaries as Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey. The globally minded couple go on to co-host the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in 2009, with the Norwegian Nobel Committee praising them as having "a global impact on the arts and philanthropy."
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THE NEXT GENERATION
The family attends the July 2010 London premiere of son Jaden's breakout role in The Karate Kid, which goes on to reign at the box office. Youngest daughter Willow is no slouch, releasing the Top 20 hit Whip My Hair months later, with the video becoming a viral hit. Having four performers in the family is tough, Pinkett-Smith tells USA Today, adding that she manages everyone's schedule on a 30-inch LCD TV screen in the kitchen. "I'm the glue that keeps it all together. I'm the nucleus of an entertainment family. My day-to-day is making decisions to keep life above water."
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Sitting with First Lady Michelle Obama over the Easter Weekend this year, Pinkett-Smith cheers on daughter Willow as she performs at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. Looks like there are no hard feelings – the actress had joked to Access Hollywood that her husband had a crush on Barack Obama's wife. "I gotta watch out because Will Smith loves intelligent women. Beautiful, intelligent women, that's his Kryptonite," she says with a laugh.
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A BIG FAREWELL
As if you needed any more proof that Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith are Hollywood royalty, they have Oprah Winfrey's stamp of approval! The couple join Stevie Wonder, Jamie Foxx, Aretha Franklin and other stars during the talk-show queen's second-to-last episode on May 24, 2011.
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ONE BIG HAPPY FAMILY
The family let the media into their lives – in a big way – when they invited Architectural Digest into their 25,000 Calabasas, Calif., home for the magazine's September 2011 issue. Pinkett-Smith called the home a "spiritual endeavor," while Smith explained the house's circuitous floor plan is a metaphor for the "the infinite cycle that represented what Jada and I hoped for our love." That circle remains unbroken – in spite of reports, the couple maintain that,