On an episode of Red Table Talk, you know the conversation is going to be honest. Yep, the Smith women aren’t afraid of speaking their minds – even if that means feelings get hurt in the process. And Willow Smith definitely brought that same energy as she discussed the fallout of a very public family scandal. The only question? Whether mom Jada could deal with the home truths her daughter dished out about her marriage.
We’d not sure we’d be so, well, truthful with our own parents. But then the Smiths aren’t your ordinary clan, and that’s not just because they’re super-famous. Few families would be willing to sit down and talk candidly about subjects as thorny as death, addiction and consent, like Willow, Jada and Jada’s mom Adrienne Banfield-Norris have done on Red Table Talk. And when there’s real tea to be spilled, the hit Facebook Watch show is practically compulsive viewing.
That was the case in September 2020, when the three women got together for another heart-to-heart. The subject up for debate this episode? The broad – but intriguing – “Life-changing Lessons.” And the special guest was none other than Brené Brown – a woman who knows a thing or two about what it’s like to leave yourself exposed and open to attack.
Perhaps Brown’s name sounds familiar. Day to day, she works as a professor at the University of Houston, where she specializes in social care, and as a visiting professor teaching management skills at the University of Texas. Where you may recognize her from, however, is the viral TEDxHouston Talk she gave. “The Power of Vulnerability” has touched and illuminated millions since it hit the internet back in 2010.
And when Brown shared her wisdom on the show, emotions were in full flow. All three generations of Smith women let loose, in fact, although that’s pretty par for the course on Red Table Talk. But there was a relatively new elephant in the room: the revelation that Jada had had an affair with musician August Alsina. Yes, Willow definitely had something to say about that subject.
Alsina had been first to talk about the relationship talking to Angela Yee on The Breakfast Club radio show in June 2020. Pinkett Smith’s people were quick to deny the story. But it wasn’t the kind of thing that could be kept quiet, and the actress came clean to husband Will Smith in a Red Table Talk named “Jada Brings Herself to the Table” in the next month.
Actually, Alsina had indicated that Smith had known all about it, going as far as giving his permission for the romance. But Pinkett Smith denied that, although she’d become involved with Alsina while split from her husband. When pressed, she was willing to say her “entanglement” with Alsina had been a relationship.
Pinkett Smith explained to her Red Table Talk audience that a lot of good had come from the affair. She described how it had been useful to “confront a lot of emotional immaturity, emotional insecurity.” But her marriage proved a bigger attraction, and she ended up finding a way to get back with Smith.
The Girl’s Trip star described her feelings about their split to Smith, saying, “I feel like there are a lot of couples that go through those periods. And a lot of couples that separate and think it’s over. One thing I’ll say about you and I is that there’s never been secrets.”
The two have had plenty of time to get to know each other, having tied the knot in 1997. That makes their marriage one of the most enduring pairings in Hollywood. But it hasn’t been all wine and roses. No, the two have had their issues, and they’ve been upfront about them when asked.
Mind you, we say they’ve been married for more than two decades, but the celebrity pair wouldn’t endorse that description! No, they consider that the word “marriage” just doesn’t cover their relationship. They’ve expressed that they are “redefining the marriage as a life partnership.” And finding out what that meant to them has included separating in the past.
Indeed, the two had been broken up back in the middle of the previous decade, which was when Pinkett Smith had hooked up with singer Alsina. On Red Table Talk, she told Smith, “[You and I] were over. From there, as time went on, I got into a different kind of entanglement with August.”
Alsina shared with Yee in their talk on The Breakfast Club that love had blossomed with Pinkett Smith after they’d met at a concert in London, England. That had led to him bonding with all of the family. Given their closeness, it’s not a surprise that they were often snapped by paparazzi in the next few years.
The R&B singer has been close enough to the Smiths to make an appearance on Red Table Talk himself. There he chatted about how Pinkett Smith had been a great help with his addiction. And she didn’t hesitate to describe him as a “dear family friend.” It’s not clear when the friendship became something more, but Alsina clarified that the relationship had ended in 2018.
It hadn’t been entirely a positive experience for Alsina. He explained that word of the affair had cost him “money, friendships and relationships.” But none of that had damaged his regard for the Smiths. He told Yee, “I don’t have a bad thing to say about them. They are beautiful people.”
There was one issue that Pinkett Smith thought she should address, and she did so with her characteristic straightforward approach. She said on Red Table Talk, “One of the things I want to clear up that was kind of swirling in the press was you giving permission, which the only person who can give permission in that particular circumstance is myself.”
The actress went on to explain what she understood from what Alsina had said. She said, “But what August was actually trying to communicate – because I could actually see how he would perceive it as permission because we were separated amicably – I think he also wanted to make it clear that he’s not a homewrecker, which he’s not.”
Far from leaving a bad taste, the “journey” upon which Pinkett Smith had embarked with Alsina had done a lot of good. It had even helped her to “do some really deep healing.” But as that process had begun, things had come to an end with the R&B singer, she explained.
The actress told her husband, “And as I came through and started to realize certain things about you and I, he decided to break all communication with me, which was totally understandable. And I let that be and hadn’t talked to him since, so it is a little weird that all this stuff is coming out now, since this was several [years ago].”
The reconciliation seems to have gone well. Pinkett Smith told Smith how happy she was that they had reconciled and had managed to work things out. She said, “We have really gotten to that new place of unconditional love.” As for Smith, he apparently regarded the split as in the distant past.
But as previously mentioned, Smith has recently recast his marriage to Pinkett Smith in a more unconventional light. In 2018 he expressed that view on the Rap Radar podcast on music service Tidal. He said, “We don’t even say we’re married anymore. We refer to ourselves as ‘life partners,’ where you get into that space where you realize you are literally with somebody for the rest of your life.”
The Men In Black lead continued to explain how things were, saying, “There’s no deal-breakers. There’s nothing she could do – ever – nothing would break our relationship. She has my support until death, and it feels so good to get to that space.” And he’s not alone in thinking that.
When Pinkett Smith appeared on the radio program Sway in the Morning in 2018, she echoed his sentiments. She said that the pair would never divorce. She said, “We are family. That’s never going down. We are family. Take out all that whole marriage relationship [stuff], at the end of the day, Will and I are family. I am going to hold him down, doesn’t matter.”
The actress-cum-podcaster continued, “All that relationship [stuff] and what people think: ideas of a husband, partner and all that, man, whatever. At the end of the day, that is a man that can rely on me for the rest of his life – period.” But what does Willow think of this relaxed attitude to marriage?
Well, it turns out that the Whip Your Hair singer is not keen on monogamy. On Red Table Talk in June 2019 she said that she would give it a miss because “there [are] so many different kinds of people in this world and so many things to learn… I don’t see the benefit in not learning those things, or in not putting myself in a position to learn as much as I possibly can from as many people as I possibly can.”
So perhaps we could expect that Willow would not be too angry about her mom’s indiscretion? Well, when the three Smith women got together with Brown, it all came out. Brown started a discussion of her hot topic – vulnerability – by describing times she’d felt unguarded and at risk of being hurt: dating after her divorce; saying ‘I love you’ first and trying to get pregnant after having undergone a miscarriage were the examples she cited.
Willow described times when she had felt vulnerable herself, saying, “I’ve definitely had some moments where I’m at this table, going, ‘Do I say this? Do I say this? Do I say this?’” When pressed, she revealed that she had been at her most vulnerable when she had self-harmed after first tasting success and feeling unsure about her worth.
Things then turned tearful as Pinkett Smith’s mom Gammy shared the tale of her battle with addiction. Next it was the actor herself who was at the plate. And she swung for the stands, saying that her most vulnerable time had in fact come in their most recent show. She said, “For me it would be the last RTT we did.”
And to be honest, Pinkett Smith looked like she was having a moment jam-packed with vulnerability right then as she described what it had been like to confess to her husband about the relationship with Alsina. She said that it had been, “Full blast of, like, flaws, and feeling and just the total breakdown of any mask.”
No one can know what reception Pinkett Smith had imagined that she’d get from her daughter. After all, the marital infidelity of a parent is an issue always likely to come loaded with lots of emotional baggage. But Willow was full of praise for her mom’s revelation. She had plenty to say about the moment.
Willow came right out with it, telling her mom, “I’m so proud of you.” And she was clear that her parents had set an example for her. She said, “To be able to see you and dad do that, for me, that was like, okay that’s the real deal. That’s real love.”
The young model and singer continued, “When you can be like, I’m with you, I’m gonna stand by you, and I’m gonna hold your hand because I love you. That’s what we do and that’s really important.” With that the conversation moved on, but it was obvious from the comments provoked by the episode on social media that the discussion had made an impact.
Positive reactions flooded in. Fan Queta Carter frothed, “Theeeee Best Episode eveeer!!,” and Angelica Neves entirely agreed. She wrote, “This is one of the best episodes for sure. I love this show.” Shannon Faith didn’t stop at rating it best episode of Red Table Talk. No, she wrote, “Best thing I’ve watched this year. Thank you!”
And it seemed that Pinkett Smith and Willow might have changed at least one mind, with Nakia Cole confessing, “I have to say, I am one who shamed you in your last Red Table Talk. I’m a victim of lots of trauma so it spoke to my weakness and made me lash out instead of becoming vulnerable… So from one sister to another I want to thank you for this video, it/you checked me!!!”
With this kind of openness, it’s no wonder that Willow is drawn to different kinds of togetherness. As we mentioned, in 2018 she expressed her interest in polyamory. She’d even consider a “throuple.” Her mom noted that she’d been “reading and listening to podcasts” about that particular issue. And certainly Willow seemed well informed about it.
Gammy had her doubts about it, although she looked forward to talking to their guests: a throuple who exemplified the lifestyle. Pinkett Smith said she and Smith had chatted about ideas of expanding their relationship. Meanwhile, Willow was all for it. In fact, when quizzed whether she’d consider polyamory, hre reply was an unequivocal “of course.”
It may be that Willow has learned the benefits of an open relationship from her mom and dad. Whether that’s true or not, she has a negative view of sticking to one partner. She said, “Monogamy, I feel, actually inhibits you from learning those skills of evolving past those feelings of insecurity and just jealousy. This is the thing.”
But what type of relationship would suit Willow? She was clear that if she joined a throuple, it would be one of each. She said, “I love men and women equally, and so I would definitely want one man, one woman.” Mind you, it wasn’t just a way to be unfaithful, according to the youngster, who added, “I’m not the type of person that is constantly looking for new sexual experiences. I focus a lot on the emotional connection.”
It may not come as a surprise that once Willow had said that, Pinkett Smith suggested that she, too, was all for it. She said that she’d once had a “non-sexual throuple” with Smith and his ex Sheree Zampino. That relationship had centered around parenting Smith’s eldest son Trey and had lasted for more than 20 years.
Pinkett Smith also saw it as a matter of the heart, not just a way to get extra sex. She said, “I could probably be romantically engaged with somebody else, but I can only have sex with one person. I’m sexually monogamous, but I definitely could be romantically poly.” Gammy, though, had other ideas. She was a firm, “No, thanks.”