Will Smith's Life in Pictures, in Honor of His 54th Birthday

Will Smith's decades-long career spans across film, television, and music. Here's a look back at his journey from his Fresh Prince of Bel-Air days to Oscar-winning actor 

Photo: Chris Cuffaio/NBCU/Getty
01 of 18

Will Smith's Early Life

Will (Willard) Smith Senior Year 1986
Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

"West Philadelphia born and raised" was, in fact, where Will Smith spent most of his days. The Pennsylvania native was born on Sept. 25, 1968 to dad Willard Carroll Smith Sr. and mom Caroline Bright and has an older sister named Pamela and younger twin siblings named Harry and Ellen.

Growing up, Smith had a complicated relationship with his father, penning in his 2021 memoir about a specific time he witnessed his father abuse his mother at age nine.

"That moment in that bedroom, probably more than any other moment in my life, has defined who I am," wrote Smith.

02 of 18

Will Smith's Start in Music

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Smith first gained recognition in the world of hip hop as the MC of duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince.

Jeffrey "DJ Jazzy Jeff" Townes was a childhood friend of Smith's since 1985. The two met coincidentally at a neighborhood house party, where Townes was DJing and Smith voluntarily filled in for his hype man who didn't show.

There was instant chemistry, prompting the duo to join forces, and ultimately leading them to work with rap mogul Russel Simmons and Jive Records.

03 of 18

Will Smith's First Grammy Award

LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 21: The 32nd Annual Grammy Awards, presented at Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles. Broadcast on CBS television on February 21, 1990. An event recognizing the achievements and talents of singers, musicians, and music industry persons. Pictured left to right: Rapper Will Smith and hip hop artist DJ Jazzy Jeff
CBS via Getty

DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince quickly rose to fame, gaining much success in the late 1980s and 1990s.

They made Grammy Award history in 1989, winning the first ever best rap performance by a duo or group award for their track "Parents Just Don't Understand."

The duo snagged the honor again in 1991 for their Billboard Hot 100 hit single "Summertime," earning them their second Grammy Award.

04 of 18

Will Smith's Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Days

Chris Cuffaio/NBCU/Getty

Following his musical achievements, Smith was tapped by NBC to star in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in 1990.

Smith played a fictionalized version of himself on the hit sitcom, a breakthrough role that launched his acting career. He also wrote and recorded the famed theme song under his "Fresh Prince" stage name alongside DJ Jazzy Jeff who produced it.

The show ran for six seasons and wrapped in 1996.

05 of 18

Will Smith's Breakthrough in Film


While 1993's Six Degrees of Separation and 1995's Bad Boys (costarring Martin Lawrence) were among Smith's first major roles in film, it was 1996's Independence Day that made Smith a box office draw.

The major blockbuster became the second highest-grossing film in history at the time and won numerous awards, including a Grammy and an Oscar.

06 of 18

Will Smith's Marriage to Sheree Zampino

Will Smith and Sheree Campino at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California
Jim Smeal/Ron Galella Collection via Getty

Smith wed Sheree Zampino in 1992, and the couple had a son named Willard Carroll "Trey" Smith III that same year. The two later divorced in 1995.

The actor confessed in his memoir that his relationship with Zampino did not start out smoothly, especially since he "fell in love" with Sixth Degrees of Separation costar Stockard Channing.

"After the film wrapped, Sheree and Trey and I moved back to L.A," wrote Smith. "Our marriage was off to a rocky start. I found myself desperately yearning to see and speak to Stockard."

07 of 18

Will Smith's Marriage to Jada Pinkett Smith

Jada Pinkett Smith
Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith. Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

After meeting on the set of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Smith married for the second time in 1997 to Jada Pinkett.

The couple have two kids together, son Jaden Smith and daughter Willow Smith, and are recognized as one of the biggest power couples in Hollywood.

08 of 18

Will Smith's Men in Black Success

Will Smith in Men In Black

Wasting no time, Smith took on the role of Agent J. in 1997's Men in Black alongside Tommy Lee Jones in what became the third highest grossing film that year.

He reprised his character in both of its sequels, Men in Black II and Men in Black 3.

09 of 18

Will Smith's Solo Grammy Wins

Will Smith holds his Grammy Award 25 February in New York. Smith won best Rap Solo Performance for "Men In Black."

Smith pursued a solo rap career following the success of his titular rap for Men in Black, which was also included on his debut solo album Big Willie Style in 1997.

Not only did Smith's "Men in Black" win the Grammy Award for best rap solo performance in 1998, but his single "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" also won in 1999 (and became his first No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100).

10 of 18

Will Smith's Role as Muhammad Ali

Will Smith Ali
Frank Connor/Columbia/Kobal/Shutterstock

The actor took on the role of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali in 2001's biopic Ali.

Smith physically and mentally transformed into the heavyweight champion, deemed "the greatest of all time," and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and the Golden Globe Award for best actor in a motion picture drama.

"The champ looked at me and gave me the nod that I did a good job," Smith said of Ali during an interview with Oprah Winfrey. "I worked as hard as I could possibly have worked."

11 of 18

Will Smith's Guinness Book of World Record Titles

Actor Will Smith poses with his certificate for breaking the Guinness World Record for the most public appearances in different cities in 12 hours (having also appeared at Premieres in Birmingham and Manchester) at the "Hitch" UK Premiere at Odeon Leicester Square on February 22, 2005 in London.
MJ Kim/Getty

In 2005, Smith was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for making the most public appearances in different cities within 12 hours while promoting his romantic comedy, Hitch.

Making his rounds throughout England, the actor stopped in Manchester, then joined costars Eva Mendes and Amber Valletta in London, and concluded in Birmingham.

12 of 18

Will Smith's Role in The Pursuit of Happyness With Son Jaden

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS, Jaden Smith, Will Smith, 2006.©Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collect

Smith starred alongside son Jaden in 2006's biographical drama The Pursuit of Happyness, a film that explores the real-life rags-to-riches story of successful businessman Chris Gardner.

Smith plays Gardner, a single father who raises his son (played by Jaden) in a poverty-stricken state in the hopes of creating a better life for them both.

13 of 18

Will Smith's Honor at TCL Chinese Theatre

Actor Will Smith puts his hands in cement in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles
Chris Pizzello/Reuters

Smith received the honor of getting his handprint and footprint cemented in the ground outside of TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California on Dec. 10, 2007.

"I am humbled, I am honored, and my heart is just beating right now," said Smith in his speech during the ceremony. "I'm going to do everything that I can do with my life, and instructing my family and my friends to make this world a better place."

14 of 18

Will Smith's FIFA 2018 World Cup Song

Will Smith during the closing ceremony prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
Splash News Online

Smith had the honor of performing the official song for the 2018's FIFA World Cup in Russia alongside Reggaeton star Nicky Jam.

"It's an honor to be asked to perform at the 2018 FIFA World Cup," Smith said in a statement. "This global event brings people from all over the world together to cheer, laugh and experience magic."

15 of 18

Will Smith's Role as Genie in Aladdin


In the 2019 live-action adaptation of Disney's Aladdin, Smith took on the iconic role of the Genie.

The film became Smith's highest-grossing film, surpassing 1996's Independence Day.

16 of 18

Will Smith's Memoir Release

Will Smith holds a copy of his book during an event promoting his new memoir "Will," in Philadelphia People Will Smith, Philadelphia, United States - 08 Nov 2021
Matt Rourke/AP/Shutterstock

In November 2021, Smith wrote a memoir titled Will with the help of acclaimed author Mark Manson.

The book details Smith's life transformation, "from a fearful child in a tense West Philadelphia home to one of the biggest rap stars of his era and then one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood history."

17 of 18

Will Smith's King Richard Success

Warner Bros. Pictures

Smith took home his first-ever Golden Globe Award for actor in a drama motion picture at the 2022 ceremony for his role in King Richard.

In the film, Smith played Richard Williams, the father of and coach of tennis superstar players Venus and Serena Williams.

In Februray, he also received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for the role.

18 of 18

Will Smith's First Oscar Win

Will Smith
Will Smith. ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty

During the 2022 Oscars, Smith took home his first win for Best Actor for his performance in King Richard.

Just moments before his big win, Smith shocked the audience when he smacked comedian Chris Rock on the stage after Rock made a joke about Smith's wife Jada Pinkett Smith's hair.

During his acceptance speech, Smith addressed the incident directly, offering an apology to the Academy and his fellow actors — though he didn't mention Rock.

"Art imitates life: I look like the crazy father. Just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things," he said in his speech.

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