Jada Pinkett Smith Has Come Clean About Why Her Relationships With White Men Just Haven’t Worked

Image: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for The Blackhouse Foundation at Sundance 2018

Jada Pinkett Smith has been married to her superstar husband Will since 1997. But before getting together with The Fresh Prince, the actress/singer dated white men, too. Here’s a look at the multi-talented celebrity’s reflections about why these relationships didn’t work out.

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Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1971, Jada Pinkett Smith studied at the Baltimore School for the Arts where she majored in theater and dance. There she developed a close camaraderie with rapper Tupac Shakur. After honing her talents further at the North Carolina School of the Arts, she relocated to Los Angeles, California to pursue her acting ambitions in earnest.

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Jada made her screen debut in a 1990 episode of sitcom True Colors before landing the recurring role of Lena James in A Different World the following year. Three years later she starred alongside Keenen Ivory Wayans in A Low Down Dirty Shame and Allen Payne in Jason’s Lyric. In 1995 she ventured into the horror genre when she portrayed a convict in Demon Knight.

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Jada’s big break came in 1996 when she was cast as Eddie Murphy’s love interest in box office smash The Nutty Professor. She also impressed in crime drama Set It Off and made a memorable, if brief, appearance in the opening scene of Scream 2. She closed out the 1990s with roles in Return to Paradise and Woo.

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Jada then got the chance to work with esteemed director Spike Lee on 2000’s Bamboozled before showing up in comedy Kingdom Come. In 2003 she landed her most notable film role, rebel Niobe, in the two sequels to The Matrix. Pinkett Smith’s golden streak continued with supporting roles in Collateral, Madagascar and Reign Over Me.

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In 2008 Jada joined the likes of Meg Ryan and Annette Bening in ensemble comedy The Women. That same year she took the director’s chair for the first time in The Human Contact. She also worked both in front of and behind the camera for Hawthorne, starring in and serving as executive producer for three seasons of the TV medical drama.

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Jada stuck with the small screen when she signed up to play mobster Fish Mooney in superhero prequel series Gotham. She then returned to the film world as a strip club manager in Magic Mike XXL and an obnoxious PTA head in Bad Moms. In 2017 she starred alongside Tiffany Haddish, Queen Latifah and Regina Hall in the hugely successful comedy Girls Trip.

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Of course, Jada’s talents extend far beyond acting. In 2018 she began chairing Red Table Talk, a chat show airing on Facebook Watch. The web-based series was something of a family affair thanks to regular appearances from both her mother and daughter.

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And Jada also has a second career as a musician. In 2002 she began singing under the guise of Jada Koren in the metal outfit Wicked Wisdom. After supporting Britney Spears on her Onyx Hotel tour, the group released their eponymous major label debut album in 2006. The group also performed at Ozzfest and supported Sevendust before taking a hiatus.

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Jada has also been a shrewd businesswoman throughout her career. She founded both her own music production company and clothing line in the early 1990s. She’s also a significant investor in hair and beauty firm Carol’s Daughter and has shares in NBA team the Philadelphia 76ers.

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A keen philanthropist, Jada gave the Baltimore School for the Arts a cool $1m in 2006 in memory of her late friend Tupac Shakur. The singer/actress has also founded an eponymous foundation to help raise funds and awareness of lupus, a disease which affected her aunt Karen Banfield Evans. She’s also contributed to several other causes including PETA, Gucci’s Chime for Change and the Million Woman March.

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Of course, Jada is also one half of a Hollywood power couple. The star first met fellow actor/musician Will Smith in 1994 when she auditioned to play his girlfriend Lisa on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. However, her small stature counted against her and she lost the role to Nia Long.

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But Jada and Will kept in touch and a year later they started dating. The devoted pair then walked down the aisle together at a ceremony in her Baltimore hometown in 1997. Indeed, in a 2001 interview with newspaper magazine USA Weekend, Jada claimed that she would rather throw her career away than let it break up their relationship.

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The A-list couple have occasionally made their relationship a professional one, too. In 2001 Will portrayed the eponymous iconic boxer in biopic Ali, while Jada played his wife Sonji Roi. However, Pinkett Smith was initially skeptical about taking the role, believing that audiences would struggle to see the characters as anything other than Will and Jada.

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Will also took on an executive producer role for Wicked Wisdom’s eponymous album. The group themselves were managed by Overbrook Entertainment, a firm which Will helped to establish. And in 2003 the couple teamed up to devise UPN sitcom All of Us.

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Of course, Will and Jada are also the proud parents of two kids who have since become stars in their own right. Born in 1998, Jaden is an actor/rapper who has appeared alongside his father in films The Pursuit of Happyness and After Earth. In 2010 he took the lead in the remake of the much-loved action movie The Karate Kid.

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Born in 2000, Willow Smith also went on to the share the screen with her father, appearing in I Am Legend aged just seven. Three years later she became the youngest signing to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and scored a U.S. Top 20 hit with “Whip My Hair.” Jada is also stepmother to Will’s son Trey from his first marriage.

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Jada and Will are renowned for being unusually open about both the highs and lows of their time together. In 2018, the former revealed on her Red Table Talk show that she once “woke up and cried for 45 days straight” during a particularly strenuous period of their marriage. Jada later expanded on this difficult time during an interview on CBS TV show Entertainment Tonight.

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Jada said, “I just felt like, I needed more freedom. And freedom in the sense of like … the public wants you to be a certain way, your family needs you in a certain way, your partner needs you to be something. And for me, that just was never … I’m really a free spirit at heart, I really am.”

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Will also admitted that he decided to take a two-year break from his showbiz career in order to strengthen his marriage. But contrary to tabloid whispers, the star insists that he and Jada have never talked about divorce. Instead they chose to redefine their bond, an act which both parties also discussed on Red Table Talk in October, 2018.

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“It’s a life partnership in the sense that we’ve created a foundation together that we know is for this lifetime,” declared Jada. Will responded, “We have devoted ourselves to each other in a spiritual, emotional sense. Whatever she needs, she can count on me for the rest of her life.”

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And Jada has no qualms about discussing her past relationships either. Shortly after talking about the ups and downs of her marriage on Red Table Talk, the star also opened up about her love life before Will. And it was her comments on the white men she dated that made the headlines.

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“I have dated some really wonderful white men,” Jada told viewers of the Facebook Watch show. “But it was interesting in that you’re dating someone who has no idea what oppression is.” The star revealed that she felt this was always the main reason why these particular relationships never lasted.

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But Jada doesn’t blame the guys in question for their inability to identify with her own experiences with race. She continued, “He’s at the top of the food chain, he doesn’t understand. It’s a very hard thing for him to be able to relate to.”

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Jada also discussed how it wasn’t just white men with whom she sometimes found it difficult to make a connection. She told Red Table Talk viewers, “I’m always feeling like in a certain way, white women are looking down at black women in a certain matter. Like, they’re angry, they’re mean.”

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Jada was joined on the panel by daughter Willow, mother Adrienne and Grey’s Anatomy actress Ellen Pompeo. The last also opened up about her experiences as one half of an interracial couple. Pompeo said, “There’s a section of the population that truly feels like opportunities are going to be taken away from them by people of color, by anyone that’s different from them.”

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The Grey’s Anatomy actress continued, “People of color are magical and mystical and powerful and beautiful and spiritual and strong and excellent at what they do. There’s so much power and talent. One thing I do think that would be productive for everybody to do is just try to make different friends.”

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“I have a lot of black friends and I have a lot of white friends,” Pompeo added. “I don’t see my white girlfriends have black people in their life, from what I can see.” Jada responded, “I feel like it’s that authenticity that needs to happen, the willingness to break bread.”

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Jada had previously reflected on one particular relationship with a white man, “a very nice guy” named John, on a Red Table Talk chat with her mother. Adrienne Banfield-Jones admitted that she’d had her own prejudices when she’d first learned her daughter’s new boyfriend wasn’t black. She revealed, “I didn’t even give myself an opportunity to like John.”

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Adrienne admitted that she’d also given Lexi, the white woman who married her nephew Jason, short shrift at first. “[Lexi] will tell you we gave her a hard time because we didn’t welcome her with open arms, and she really had to prove herself. I feel bad about that.”

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Adrienne revealed she believed the reason behind her reaction was an old mantra of her mother’s. She said, “I repeated what [my] mommy told me, was that you have to learn to get along with white people. But don’t ever bring them home.”

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However, Jada’s mom admitted that she felt far more comfortable when one of her female relatives had wed a white man as “he acted more black.” Jada responded, “Historically you would think that bringing a white man into the family would be more of an issue than a white woman. This runs deeper than we even are conscious of.”

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Indeed, Jada also admitted to her own prejudice against blonde white women during an episode of Red Table Talk. She said, “Blonde hair on white women just triggers me. I’ve had to catch myself. All throughout my childhood. I do remember experiencing being teased by white women in regards to my hair, how I looked, feeling belittled.”

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Jada continued, “I feel like a lot of white women feel like race is not an issue for them. I think what crushes me, specifically in my relationship with white women, the thing that really breaks my heart is that white women understand what it feels to be oppressed… What it feels like to be ostracized or not being treated as an equal.”

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Jada then recalled one specific incident in which her bias initially came to the forefront. She said, “I was going to do an interview with this blonde woman and I thought twice about it. I thought, ‘I don’t know if I want to do that.’ That was my first instinct because of how she looked!”

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Jada continued, “And I was like, ‘Oh! That’s no different.’ That doesn’t give me the right to clump all blonde women in one. And look at me, I got blonde hair! It’s no different than you getting robbed by a black guy once and now you’re saying all black dudes are thieves and dangerous.”

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Jada believes that there’s still a major divide between white and black women that needs to be bridged. She said, “I wish sometimes the world could have more compassion for black women. We really haven’t had the luxury to have that more relaxed – not having to walk into the world with such an armor because of what we’re still dealing with.”

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In December 2018 Jada opened up about another personal issue on Red Table Talk: the time she suffered a nervous breakdown. She said, “It’s like when you just don’t have control over emotions, your thoughts, you feel completely and utterly out of control. I don’t even think at that particular time I understood that it was what people would consider a nervous breakdown.”

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In the same episode Jada also talked about another mental health issue she once faced. She told her mother and daughter, “I was severely depressed, severely. And that was something that I battled with for years. Waking up in the morning was like the worst part of the day.”

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Still, Jada’s struggles clearly aren’t holding her back. Two years on from the box office success of Girls Trip, Jada will return to the big screen in 2019 in Angel Has Fallen. Helmed by Ric Roman, the action thriller is the third instalment of the Gerard Butler series, following Olympus Has Fallen and 2016’s London Has Fallen.

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