Inside Will and Jada Pinkett Smith's 20-Year Marriage: From Divorce Rumors to How They Met
The Fresh Prince Finds His Princess
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith met in 1990, when Smith was starting his NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He was already a star at the time thanks to his music career.
Pinkett Smith had just moved from Baltimore to Hollywood and was auditioning for the role of Smith's girlfriend on the show. She didn't get it: producers thought that at 5', she was too short for the 6'2" Smith.
As Pinkett Smith left the set, she brushed right past Smith. "He's like, 'What's up?' and I was like, 'Yeah, how you doing?'" Pinkett Smith told PEOPLE in 1996. "I was ticked off that I didn't get the job."
Over the next few years, the two discovered they had mutual friends and became close pals.
But at the time, Smith was still married to his first wife, Sheree Fletcher, with whom he shared a then 3-year-old son, Trey.
“Because I did not understand marriage, I did not understand divorce, I probably should have fell back,” Pinkett Smith recently told Fletcher on the premiere episode of her Facebook talk show Red Table Talk.
On New Year's Eve 1997, the duo married in a lavish and secretive wedding wedding at the Cloisters, a medieval-style mansion near Pinkett Smith's hometown of Baltimore. According to one guest, "everyone was bawling" when Pinkett Smith read her vows, in which she noted how honored she is to be a part of Smith's life. When she finished, Smith asked the pastor, "Can I kiss her now?"
After a three-day honeymoon in Miami, Smith and Pinkett Smith -- who was expecting the arrival of her first baby, Jaden, in July -- headed to the Washington-area set of his next movie, Enemy of the State.
Starting a Family
Pinkett Smith gave birth to the couple's first child, son Jaden, in 1998, and their second, daughter Willow, in 2000.
Growing Their Family
"I never thought about being married or having a family. I didn't know anything about that because I came from a single mom so I always though I'd be a single mom and have a career," Pinkett Smith said at VH1's Dear Mama Event.
"Then I found this beautiful man, Will," she added. "I got married to him and I got my bonus son Trey and then I got Jaden and I got Willow and I was able to create, for myself, something I never had—which means family."
Parenting the Kids
As for their parenting style, Jada told PEOPLE in 2008, “We’re not strict but we definitely believe it’s a very important component for rearing children. It creates safety for them. They understand that they need guidance.”
“There’s a really powerful internal quality as an artist that as parents we encourage,” Smith recently said on BBC Radio 1Xtra. “You gotta get out on the edge, you have to try things, you have to be comfortable doing things that people don’t agree with, and you have to be comfortable doing things that you could fail."
The artistic support has clearly paid off. Jaden has become a fashion icon in addition to starring in several movies and developing a music career. Willow is also a singer, actress and dancer.
For years, the couple have fended off rumors of trouble in their marriage.
Asked to share the weirdest rumor she's heard, the actress recently said on Watch What Happens Live, "The craziest rumor? That Will and I are swinger. I'm like, 'Yo, I wish! I wish.'"
She added, "I really think that Will and I just have amazing chemistry on a lot of different levels. We love to laugh together. We love to learn together and we just love each other. We just have a good time together. I guess that's the secret. We just really like each other."
She previously said on Atlanta's Q100, "I've heard all the things—their marriage is not real, he's gay, she's gay, they swing. But at the end of the day, people have to believe what they have to believe. I'll tell you what, it's too hard to be in a pretend marriage. Life's too short for that one."
In 2013, Pinkett Smith told HuffPost 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 OK. Because at the end of the day, Will is his own man. I'm here as his partner, but he is his own man. He has to decide who he wants to be and that's not for me to do for him. Or vice versa."
When some interpreted the comment to mean that the duo have an open marriage, she clarified on Facebook, "Should we be married to individuals who can not be responsible for themselves and their families within their freedom? Should we be in relationships with individuals who we can not entrust to their own values, integrity, and LOVE...for us??? Here is how I will change my statement...Will and I BOTH can do WHATEVER we want, because we TRUST each other to do so. This does NOT mean we have an open relationship...this means we have a GROWN one."
She added, "[Will is] my best friend. He's been by my side through some of the most difficult parts of my life. And so that's something you can never take away."
Then in 2015, rumors that the couple was heading for divorce became so pervasive that Smith took to social media to dispel them.
"Under normal circumstances, I don't usually respond to foolishness. (Because it's contagious) But, so many people have extended me their "deepest condolences" that I figured - "What the hell... I can be foolish, too!" he wrote.
"So, 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! #Dumb People Should Have to Wear Scarlet D's."
20th Anniversary Wishes
For their 20th wedding anniversary last year, Smith shared some of the lessons he’s learned since they first said “I do.”
“20 Years Ago Today we held hands and walked naively down that aisle. Here’s what I’ve learned since,” he wrote alongside a photo of the couple from their wedding day in 1997.
“Love is Like Gardening,” he wrote. “I have learned to focus on HELPING you to BLOSSOM into what YOU want to be (into what you were born to be)… Rather than Demanding that you become what my Fragile Ego needs you to be.”
He also added, “I’ve learned to take pleasure in Nourishing YOUR dreams… Rather than wrestling with you to Fulfill my Selfish Needs & Satiate My Insecurities.”
“I have learned that Love is Listening. Love is Giving. Love is Freedom,” he continued. “Happy Anniversary, My Queen! I am forever Devoted to Nurturing your Deepest Truth.”
A Blended Family
For the debut episode of Pinkett Smith’s Facebook talk show Red Table Talk, Fletcher appeared as the first guest.
“I thought it was important to have that conversation because she was my entry point to motherhood," Pinkett Smith explained. "I was co-mothering with her. At that particular time, before [having a blended family] was popular, before it was even an idea, we were trying to create something that we had never experienced.”
She added, “We came from broken homes. We didn’t have a blueprint. We just had an idea. This is what we think we want. This is what we want to try to do for Trey.”