Jada Pinkett-Smith hosted another thought-provoking conversation about “toxic forgiveness” on her web series, Red Table Talk. In the show’s most recent episode, Will Smith’s ex-wife Sheree Zampino sat down with Jada and her cohost (and mom), Adrienne Banfield Norris, to discuss the history and current state of Sheree and Jada’s relationship.
"We have developed a really nice sisterhood, but it hasn't been easy along the way," Jada said. "Sometimes we did have to fake it to make it," she added.
Sheree was married to Will for three years before he and Jada got married in 1997. When Jada reflected on the early days of her relationship with Will, though, she says she should’ve waited a bit longer before getting involved with him.
“I would have definitely had taken a beat [before dating Will] as far as putting myself in the dynamic of you guys. [I should have thought], ‘Let’s give this a year and let y’all figure [things] out. I didn’t understand it…I was in the picture [too soon],” she said.
Breakups are hard enough for non-celebrities. You have to get used to an entirely new flow of life and readjust to your new reality. Divorces are even harder because there are a lot of administrative things that need to be taken care of: joint bank accounts, life insurance policies, last name changes, and the list really does go on and on.
I’ve taken quite a liking to her Sheree Zampino from watching her on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. So it’s hard to visualize her as this person who admitted to barging into Jada and Will’s bedroom to check out the décor. But it speaks to how much people can grow and evolve over time, especially once the emotions surrounding any given situation ease and clearer heads start to prevail.
I once began dating someone who was in the final stages of finalizing their divorce. It was my first time dating someone who had been married before. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but went for it anyway. As time went on, I realized how difficult it can be to be with someone who’s coming out of a marriage. Especially when there is a child involved.
There were times I found myself very uncomfortable at how close my partner and his ex-wife were. But how could I express that without coming across as some needy, jealous new girlfriend? Some of the communication was part of healthy co-parenting but I found some of it to be a bit intrusive on our relationship. I had to have a few frustrating conversations and get very clear about what my boundaries were and what I was comfortable with, but I had to do so in a way that was respectful of their co-parenting.
Sure, a lot of the strife has to do with the role the ex-partner plays, but you’d be surprised at how much of it has to do with your own internal dialogue. It’s so easy to get caught up in the typical bitter dynamic we often see and hear about. Jada described having a misconception that Sheree would be old news once the divorce was finalized, but quickly learned Sheree was a part of the family. Forever. This sentiment is the reminder so many of us need to work on how we communicate and how we make people feel. It really takes a concerted effort to make sure the family unit, exes and all, functions in a way that’s as healthy and respectful as possible.
Stepping into the role of new partner and also a mother figure (which is what I have also had to do) is a lot at once, so I really understand where she’s coming from on her comment about wanting to wait. But is it fair to assume that if she waited a year before entering into a relationship with Will that they still would’ve ended up together? At the time, she was very close with Tupac Shakur and there were rumours swirling about their relationship. Who knows how differently things would’ve ended up if she didn’t jump right in? Even after the “trial” of separation, with the laws in most places outlining that you must be separated for at least a year before filing for divorce, there can be so much to figure out. Throwing a new partner into the mix can be challenging for all parties involved.
Celebrities are being force-fed news about their exes and their new partners all the time, and if the new person they’re dating is also a celebrity, it’s even more complicated. So it really must not have been easy for Sheree to see her still-husband and the father of her child out dating Jada at the time. That period was considered her rise to fame and it was filled with some of her greatest work: Menace II Society, A Different World, Jason’s Lyric, The Nutty Professor and the classic, Set It Off.
Currently, I can’t stop seeing headlines about Selling Sunset’s Heather Rae Young and Tarek El-Moussa. I often wonder how Tarek’s ex-wife Christina Haack is coping. Granted, she moved on quickly and swiftly, too, and is currently in a separate custody battle with another ex-husband, Ant Anstead. It must be hard to not be able to shut it off, even when you want to.
When you think about some of the messiest divorces in Hollywood, you have to think about the divorces that involved kids. I’m talking about the K Fed and Britney split, Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. We’ve seen the direct impact of these splits on the kids born out of these relationships, who WILL grow up one day and see all of this mess on the internet. It sucks.
My wish for everyone navigating the tough terrain of break ups, divorces, co-parenting and everything in between is that there is peace and resolve. It might take a while, but Zooey Deschanel’s family seems to be living the co-parenting dream and there’s no doubt that we can, too.