Jada Pinkett Smith on how she prepared her family for tell-all memoir Worthy

The actress and entrepreneur also tells The National how she faced past traumas and relived beautiful moments while putting together her book

Jada Pinkett Smith details her life story in new memoir Worthy. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

“Hold tight.”

That’s the message Jada Pinkett Smith told her family in the lead up to Tuesday’s publication of memoir Worthy.

Some of the book’s revelations have already made headlines, including the fact that Pinkett Smith, 52, and husband Will Smith have been separated since 2016.

Yet despite living separately, a formal divorce is not on the cards as they view their relationship as a “life partnership.”

This in addition to revealing that Oscars presenter Chris Rock leaned in and apologised to her moments after Smith physically assaulted Rock live on stage.

Meanwhile, in an interview with the New York Times, Pinkett Smith said she lives a lifestyle akin to “an urban nun,” where her daily meditation practice includes the reading of spiritual texts including the Quran, Bible and Bhagavad Gita.

That pursuit for clarity is what drove her to write Worthy, which also sheds light on her long-term battle with depression.

There is obviously a lot to unpack here and when speaking to The National, a sanguine Pinkett Smith predicts the book will induce even more public discussions.

“I told the family and Will – I was actually talking to him all day – to better hold tight,” she says. “Because there is going to be so much content here that people are not going to help themselves in making crazy headlines and what have you.

“The beautiful part about it though is I have a book, you know what I mean? So that people who really want to know can get it and really get what the story is.”

Pinkett Smith will share more details about Worthy as part of a UAE tour next month.

It begins in the W Abu Dhabi hotel on November 6 where she will host an event in the vein of her Emmy-Award winning Facebook Watch show Red Table Talk targeted towards female entrepreneurs.

The following day she will be at Dubai's Coca-Cola Arena for a general in-conversation session about the memoir.

Revisiting the past

The fact that the book is even out remains a welcome surprise for Pinkett Smith.

She explains it came on the back of a concerted effort by friend Jay Shetty, the British-Indian podcaster and social media influencer.

“He kept pushing me and just kept talking to me about writing a book and I was like ‘Jay, I don't want to’. And then one day, while I was in meditation I came across this idea about my journey being about one that goes from my lack of self-worth to feeling worthy,” she recalls.

“I then knew step by step how I wanted to outline this journey. I started working on the chapter titles and then deciding on what stories I wanted to tell that amplify the idea of each chapter.”

Despite the best laid plans, Pinkett Smith says revisiting childhood traumas made her consider quitting numerous times.

They were mostly related to her early years, growing up in a single parent household in Baltimore. Her mother, a head nurse at a local clinic and late father, a construction worker struggling with substance abuse, divorced when Pinkett Smith was a toddler.

“My childhood stuff was really hard to go back to. And when digging it up again I was like 'Oh God, I just don't want to do this’” she says. “I found out that my childhood, pre-teen years, my teen years and early adulthood were really difficult and full of challenging things I thought I resolved but really hadn't.

“Writing the book made me confront it in a whole different way.”

The golden decade

That said, Worthy is more than an account of Pinkett Smith’s inner journey.

That pain is offset by colourful anecdotes about growing up in a period where African-American artists, from actors and comedians to musicians and athletes, were making their mark on popular culture.

One was rapper Tupac Shakur, who she refers to as her “soulmate”, whom she met in the Baltimore School for the Arts in 1986, a decade before he was murdered in Los Angeles.

A whole chapter is dedicated to the 1990s, the decade in which she entered the entertainment industry as an actress in a range of successful African-American films and television productions, from the sitcom Living Colour and The Cosby Show spin-off A Different World to blockbuster comedy The Nutty Professor and hard-hitting dramas Menace II Society and Jason's Lyric.

Pinkett Smith also found the time to direct the music video for 1996 hit Keep On, Keepin' On by pioneering female rapper MC Lyte and RnB girl-group Xscape.

“I am so glad you brought that period up because it was a golden era when there was a lot of artists rushing into Hollywood. It was like a gold rush,” she says.

“You had all these sitcoms from different comedians like Martin Lawrence with his show Martin, Will (Smith) on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Keenen Ivory Wayans with In Living Color.

“You also had Eddie Murphy doing all these blockbuster films. It was a time where all these black creatives were being given the opportunity to tell our stories. And of course, hip-hop and RnB were on fire and black athletes from different sports were stars.

“Everything was popping and there was so much unity amongst us all that we knew that one person's success was going to help another person. It was a beautiful time.”

The time when she joined a metal band

As well as growing acting credits, including a star turn in cult-action film Set it Off, Pinkett Smith also had her own metal band Wicked Wisdom.

Yes, you heard right.

Formed in 2002, the quintet released two albums, scored a minor hit with 2006 single Bleed All Over Me and was personally invited by Sharon Osbourne (wife of Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne) to play in rock festival Ozzfest in 2005.

Worthy details the band’s experience in a chapter.

“It’s called The Wild Banshee, because that’s what I called myself on stage,” Pinkett Smith says.

“My daughter (singer and actress Willow Smith) sings my songs so much better than me. She did a rendition of Bleed All Over Me that was so crazy that I feel like I passed the torch. She got it.”

For such a rich and diverse life, one gets the feeling that Worthy will be one of the many stories Pinkett Smith will go on to tell.

Worthy: A Journey with Jada Pinkett Smith will take place on November 7 at Coca-Cola Arena, Dubai. Tickets start at Dh295 and are available at www.coca-cola-arena.com

Updated: October 19, 2023, 4:01 AM