Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith have been married for over 20 years, which is no easy feat for a couple—famous or not. “It’s like dog years when you’re married [in Hollywood],” Ellen DeGeneres quipped to Smith back in 2008 when he and Jada celebrated 10 years of marriage. “That’s like 50 years, right?”
Since the ’90s, Will and Jada have been an institution in Hollywood: They’ve weathered rumors of breakups, affairs, and judgment for their unconventional relationship. While no marriage is perfect, the Smiths seemed to show us all how to make love last. That is until Pinkett Smith dropped a bombshell during an interview with Hoda Kotb in October 2023, revealing the pair have been living “completely separate” lives since 2016.
Here’s a full breakdown of the Smiths’ relationship timeline, and where they stand now.
What’s the best way to meet in Hollywood? On set, of course. The Smiths are no exception. The couple meets after Jada auditioned to play Smith’s girlfriend on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (talk about foreshadowing). She doesn’t get the part, and Will is married to Sheree Zampino at the time, who is his son Trey Smith’s mother. Still, there was a connection between the two.
After his split with Zampino, Will calls Jada and asks, “Are you seeing anybody?” She says no, and he replies, “Cool. You’re seeing me now.”
After two years of dating, the couple tie the knot on New Year’s Eve. Jada is pregnant with their first child, Jaden, at the time. After the private ceremony, the newlyweds head to Miami for a three-day honeymoon. They then fly to Washington, DC, to film Enemy of the State together. What a dream job!
It will come to light years later that she and Will didn’t sign a prenup. “Listen, weddings are beautiful, but they can be very romanticized,” she will tell Parade in October 2023, while promoting her memoir, Worthy. “I feel that was a very real moment for the two of us to look each other in the eyes, recognize that there would be tough times in this journey and to say to each other, ‘No matter what, we’re going to figure it out, and that’s why we don’t need a prenup, because I’m making a promise that divorce won’t be necessary, that we will figure this out.’ And we made that promise to each other without all of the bridal wedding beauty; it was just sitting on a log in his mother’s backyard, and going, ‘Hey.’ Having to really look at the possibility of us not being together.”
Jaden Smith is born on July 8.
Two years later, the couple welcome their daughter, Willow Smith, on October 31.
“Work hard, play hard.” That must have been the Smiths’ motto, since they decide to write and produce the sitcom All of Us, inspired by their family. The series runs for four seasons before eventually getting canceled in 2007.
“We wanted a sitcom that really reflected a piece of life that you don’t see often on television and a piece of life that’s very difficult to deal with and a piece of life that we wanted to show could be dealt with in a very mature manner,” Pinkett Smith says about the show.
After eight years of marriage, rumors start spreading that the couple are in an open relationship. Will tells the Daily Mail: “If it came down to it, then one can say to the other, ‘Look, I need to have sex with somebody. I’m not going to if you don’t approve of it—but please approve of it.’”
Jaden proves he has a knack for acting, just like his parents. He appears in his dad’s movie The Pursuit of Happyness. “Jaden is 100% fearless, he will do anything,” Smith tells Vanity Fair. “So as a parent it’s scary, it’s really terrifying—but he is completely willing to live and die by his own artistic decisions and he just doesn’t concern himself with what people think.”
After a decade of marriage, Will explains that the couple will never consider divorce. “What I found is divorce just can’t be an option,” the actor says on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. “It’s really that simple. And I think that’s the problem with LA—there are so many options. So a huge part of the success for [Jada] and I is that we just removed the other options.”
The entire Smith family takes the stage at the 16th annual Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo. Jada and Will host the event because of their dedication to promoting global peace.
Rumors about the marriage begin to swirl again. The couple deny that Jada had an affair with Marc Anthony (her love interest on the show Hawthorne) after a source tells Us Weekly that the two were flirtatious. “They were a little touchy and like they were in their own little world,” the insider says.
People continue to speculate that the pair engage in relationships outside their marriage, causing Jada to address the issue: “I’ve always told Will, ‘You can do whatever you want as long as you can look at yourself in the mirror and be okay,’” she tells HuffPost. “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.”
She later clarifies her statements on Facebook, writing, “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.”
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A common trend in their marriage seems to be assuring the public that their relationship is secure. In 2015, Will once again denies rumors that the couple are dissolving their marriage. “In the interest of redundant, repetitious, over & over again-ness … Jada and I are NOT GETTING A DIVORCE!!!” he writes on Facebook.
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Will and Jada quietly separate. Neither comments publicly on the split, which is not revealed until 2023, when Pinkett Smith speaks with Hoda Kotb about her memoir, Worthy. “It was not a divorce on paper,” Kotb clarifies, “but it was a divorce.” She confirms Kotb’s characterization of her relationship and adds that the couple live “completely separate lives.”
“By the time we got to 2016, we were just exhausted with trying,” Pinkett Smith continues. “I think we were both kind of just still stuck in our fantasy of what we thought the other person should be.”
Jada invites her husband’s ex-wife, Zampino, onto Red Table Talk, the show she hosts with her daughter, Willow, and mother, Adrienne Banfield Norris. During the episode titled “Motherhood,” Zampino and Jada discuss coparenting and how they settled previous issues. Psychotherapist Stacy Kaiser is also invited to help explain how important their dynamic is.
“Is the person you’re dating still intertwined in some way,” Kaiser asks Jada, “with the person who’s their ex? If so, you need to find a way to get along with them because you wouldn’t be dating that person if it weren’t for the person who they broke up with.”
Despite the couple’s consistent denials of affairs and divorce, they admit to having issues in their marriage. They address the perception that famous couples have perfect marriages on an episode of Red Table Talk.
“What was really important about Will and I doing that show together—two things: First of all was really to kind of get rid of the idea that people in the public eye have perfect relationships,” she says on an episode of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. “We were kind of sick of living up to that. We were real sick of it. And then second of all, really having myself and Will come and talk about our relationship—sometimes you see just women do it alone or you just see a guy do it.”
Singer August Alsina claims that he had a relationship with Jada, and that Will had given him his permission to do so. To address this, Jada invites Smith to Red Table Talk and puts herself in the interviewee’s seat. The couple reveal that they had briefly separated when she started seeing Alsina.
“I got into an entanglement with August,” Jada says. “The only person that can give permission in that particular circumstance is myself. I could actually see how he would perceive it as permission because we were separated amicably, and I think he also wanted to make it clear that he’s also not a home-wrecker. Which he’s not.”
The Smiths also speak to their desire to work on their relationship and stay committed to each other. Will adds, “I told you the first year we were married that I could love you through anything.”
Will writes about the “sacrifices” Jada made on his behalf in his memoir, Will, from taking part in a traditional wedding she didn’t want, to turning down the chance for her band, Wicked Wisdom, to open for Guns N’ Roses so her husband could film The Pursuit of Happyness.
Specifically, Will writes about the moment he realized their marriage “wasn’t working” in 2011 and tells GQ that they “saved” their relationship through “trust and freedom,” a.k.a. nonmonogamy.
“Jada never believed in conventional marriage…. Jada had family members that had an unconventional relationship,” Will told GQ. “So she grew up in a way that was very different than how I grew up. There were significant endless discussions about, what is relational perfection? What is the perfect way to interact as a couple? And for the large part of our relationship, monogamy was what we chose, not thinking of monogamy as the only relational perfection.”
“We could no longer pretend.”
Jada later that year opens up about communicating with her partner in the bedroom and letting go of certain “fantasies.”
“It’s hard,” she says during an episode of Red Table Talk, per E! Online, “The thing Will and I talk about a lot is the journey. We started in this at a very young age, you know, 22 years old. That’s why the accountability part really hit for me because I think you expect your partner to know, especially when it comes to sex. It’s like, ‘Well, if you love me, you should know. If you love me, you should read my mind.’ That’s a huge pitfall.”
She continued, “You tell me what you need. Tell me what you want, and on top of it, I know that I have to be accountable to do the same…. I really try. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s deeply healthy, and I think around sex, because it’s something that we don’t talk about and there’s so much fantasy around it.”
Will slaps Chris Rock on live television during the 2022 Academy Awards after the comedian makes a joke about Jada’s baldness, which is due to alopecia, by comparing her style to Demi Moore’s buzz cut in the 1994 film G.I. Jane. Though Will initially seems to laugh at the joke, he quickly turns angry.
“Keep my wife’s name out your fucking mouth,” he yells at Rock, before approaching the stage to slap him. Later on during the ceremony, Smith wins the best actor award and says in his speech that “love makes you do crazy things.” He is later removed from the Academy and apologizes for his behavior.
Over a year later, in 2023, Jada tells Kotb that she was “shocked” Will called her his wife at the Oscars, saying they “haven’t called each other husband and wife in a long time.” According to Variety, she added, “I’m like, ‘What is going on right now? Keep my wife’s name out of your mouth?’ I’m really worried for Will because I don’t know what’s going on.”
Despite their separation Jada tells Parade that the slap brought her and Will closer together. “Look, everybody wants to ride in the limo, right?” she says. “Everybody wants to be down when everything’s lovely. What happens when things aren’t so lovely? What happens when people who love you need you, and when you need people that you love? And so that was a moment that I feel like we recognized once again, ‘Oh, snap, we are just made for this journey together.’ And I was like, ‘No matter what, I am here with you. I don’t care what is going on.’ And I think that is the moment for both of us when we looked at each other and said, ‘Wow, we’re really what we got.’”
She continues, “We all have our romanticized ideas of how it all should be, and it might not show up in that way. But at the end of the day, do you have someone at your side that you’re willing to go through tough times with and they’re willing to go through tough times with you? I’m very lucky that I can say, ‘Yes, I have someone that’s willing to do that.’”
While promoting her memoir Worthy, Pinkett Smith reveals that she and Smith have lived “completely separate” lives since 2016. When asked why they had decided to keep their relationship status a secret for so many years during her NBC News prime-time special with Hoda Kotb, Jada insists they were simply “not ready” to tell the public. “[We were] still trying to figure out between the two of us how to be in partnership…in regards to, how do we present that to people? We hadn’t figured that out,” she says.
Jada adds that she “made a promise that there will never be a reason for us to get a divorce,” explaining, “We will work through…whatever.”
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In that same vein, Jada tells People that she and Will are “still figuring it out”: “A lot has happened. The thing about relationships is that it’s constantly moving. Relationships are…it’s an organism. It’s its own thing. It’s constantly shifting and constantly moving. There’s a lot that’s transpired in the last two years, and so we’ve been doing some really heavy-duty work together.”
On October 14, The New York Times published a response from Will Smith, reporting that the contents of Worthy “woke him up” and made him realize that Jada is “more resilient, clever, and compassionate than he’d understood.”
In the statement, Will writes, “When you’ve been with someone for more than half of your life, a sort of emotional blindness sets in, and you can all too easily lose your sensitivity to their hidden nuances and subtle beauties.”
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