Will Smith looks strikingly older on the cover of GQ, right? Or maybe he’s just really tired. His smirk on the cover might be believable if not for his eyes looking… a little sad? The profile’s titled Introducing the Real Will Smith and the real Will is evidently tired of living up to the “Will Smith” he created through heartwarming comedic performances and box office blockbusters. I guess the pictures are supposed to show us he’s older, he’s wiser, he’s different. As he says, he’s in his “f—k it 50s”.
Pictures aside, what originally brought me to this interview was seeing “Jada” trending on Twitter yesterday. First I thought Ms. Pinkett Smith must have another Red Table Talk episode going viral, which I should acquaint myself with. Turns out it was because Will was the one talking — opening up about their marriage with GQ. Apparently, Jada never wanted a conventional marriage, didn’t even want the traditional wedding ceremony they had, but his Christian upbringing couldn’t accept anything else. He also talks about how she compromised in her own career to allow him to take the opportunities he wanted (she turned down an offer for her band to open for Guns N’ Roses so he could shoot The Pursuit of Happyness). And there’s a weird story about Will spending three years planning Jada’s 40th birthday party with family and friends and a screening of a commissioned documentary about her ancestors. When they got back to the hotel that night, Jada laid into him, calling the party “the most disgusting display of ego”. The fight woke up 10-year-old Willow, who was in tears. According to Will, that’s when they realized their marriage (which they’re still in) wasn’t working and they “could no longer pretend”.
We know from the infamous “entanglement” episode of Red Table Talk that Jada has been non-monogamous in their relationship. It was implied that Will had also been with other people. But the impression I got was that this occurred while they were separated. Now, a year later, Will’s clarifying some things while leaving more questions (even questions from the GQ writer) unanswered:
“We have given each other trust and freedom, with the belief that everybody has to find their own way. And marriage for us can’t be a prison. And I don’t suggest our road for anybody. I don’t suggest this road for anybody. But the experiences that the freedoms that we’ve given one another and the unconditional support, to me, is the highest definition of love.”
Tell us you’re in an open relationship without telling us you’re in an open relationship? We know what he means, but I want him to tell us we’re right. After years of rumours, why not just tell us what your situation is, instead of beating around some ambiguously non-monogamous bush. The non-confirmation confirmation had Black Twitter up in arms after the community has long held the couple up as an example of Black love goals. People are still getting used to viewing non-monogamy as a legitimate and respectable relationship style, so they certainly aren’t ready to have an open couple be their relationship “goals” — no matter how happy they tell us they are. But I wish people were ready. Remember those rumours that Kylie Jenner and Travis Scott were back together, however not exclusive? Kylie denied it, but I so badly wanted it to be true. A non-monogamous relationship may not ever be the lifestyle for the majority of society, but it is becoming increasingly popular and soon it will be normalized. It’s already common in queer spaces. I’m ready for celebs to be open about their arrangements.
But back to Mr. Smith. Why tell his tea now? Well he’s teasing his memoir, arriving in November. This article would have you believe now is the right time because witnessing his father physically abuse his mother will be included in the book and he wasn’t ready to tell those tales while his father was still alive. Speaking on his father, Will says, “He was one of the greatest blessings of my life, and also one of my greatest sources of pain”. Will’s father passed some years ago and the memoir was actually acquired by his publisher back 2018.
But the timing also works for November on strategy, right before his prime Oscar-bait performance in King Richard — the story of Venus and Serena Williams’s coach, their father — hits theatres. Not only will Oscar voters have his performance in the film to wow them, now they’ll also have traumatic childhood stories from Will’s own relationship with his father, a man he says is a lot like Richard Williams. On top of that, the Academy voters have a little bit of entertaining gossip to chew on with nuggets about his relationship with Jada in the memoir — and it’s good high-brow Academy-style gossip, because they prevailed and, according to them, are more in love than ever. Plus, it’s all wrapped up in a big splashy November promotional tour which will see Will returning to his hometown for the book tour. Although, part of me wonders if Will’s trying to get ahead of something, just in case his big entrance back on the scene (after primarily existing on his social media accounts for the past few years) results in his own August Alsina to overshadow his carefully crafted rollout.
Right now, though, at least from the GQ article, we’re not going to get the full extent of what happened between him and Jada. Will says some things just aren’t meant to be shared. That’s where the real Will Smith comes in. The movie star is the ever generous interviewee who knows what you need from him to sell a story and he’ll give it to you because you’re helping him sell his movie. The real Will Smith, at this point in his life, doesn’t need to perform for that kind of commercial success. Much like Beyoncé, he has different measures of success (although Bey has many Grammys, Will still needs that Oscar). His pursuit of the box office crown in his early career took a toll on his closest relationships and in this second act of his life he says he’s more centered on what matters most, focused on emotional connections with people (both in his life and through movie screens). With help from his confidant Denzel Washington, he’s branded this decade his “f—k it 50s” which includes ayahuasca rituals (more than a dozen), even though he’s never smoked and barely drinks. I just wish he’d say f—k it and tell us exactly what kind of relationship he and Jada enjoy.