Jada Pinkett Smith revealed that she and Will Smith, who she married in 1997, have been separated since 2016 and live “completely separate lives.” The actress later went on to clarify that while the pair are still legally married, they are “divorced.” Whatever that means.
The revelation came from Pinkett Smith’s upcoming memoir, Worthy, as well as a sit down interview with Hoda Kotb of NBC News. As to the cause of the separation, the 52-year-old was rather vague, chalking it up to the over two decades they have spent together.
“By the time we got to 2016, we were just exhausted with trying,” she told Kotb. “I think we were both kind of just still stuck in our fantasy of what we thought the other person should be.”
While the pair have considered finalizing their separation legally, Pinkett Smith said that she has been unwilling to make that final leap. “I made a promise that there will never be a reason for us to get a divorce. We will work through whatever,” she added. “I just haven’t been able to break that promise.”
The couple have been the subject of a multitude of rumors and public dramas—mainly Jada’s “entanglement” with musician August Alsina and Will’s infamous 2022 Academy Awards slap spurred by a comment Chris Rock made over his wife’s hair. On a 2020 episode of Red Table Talk, the pair discussed Jada’s relationship with Alsina, which we now know occurred around when they first separated.
“I started a friendship with August. We actually became really, really good friends,” the actress said. “It all started with him just needing some help, you know? Me wanting to help his health, his mental state. [Will] and I were going through a very difficult time.”
After that moment, the couple gave every indication that they had decided to get back together after Jada’s “entanglement” and their separation. In his 2021 self-titled memoir, Will discussed the ups and downs of their relationship, as well as the fact that Jada has “never believed in a conventional marriage.”
“Jada had family members that had an unconventional relationship,” he wrote. “And for the large part of our relationship, monogamy was what we chose, not thinking of monogamy as the only relational perfection.”
Jada’s memoir, which releases next week, will likely give more insight into just how their separation played out—especially as they were regularly seen at major events together and spoke highly of one another in that time frame. As to why they waited over six years to announce the news, the actress attributed it to feeling unready to face public scrutiny.
“Just not being ready yet [and] still trying to figure out between the two of us how to be in partnership,” she explained. “In regards to, how do we present that to people? We hadn’t figured that out.”