Jada Pinkett Smith Reveals That She and Will Smith Separated in 2016

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Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have sparked plenty of speculation over the course of their decades-long relationship. And while the iconic Hollywood couple hasn’t shied away from addressing rumors and speaking about the ups and downs of their romance, coining terms like “relational perfection,” “life partners,” and, well, “entanglement” along the way, it seems they haven't always been an open book about the state of their marriage (nor should they have to be). Until, perhaps, now. Pinkett Smith, who's in the midst of promoting her new memoir Worthy, has made the bombshell reveal that she and her Oscar-winning husband have been separated for seven years, since 2016.

Keep reading to learn more about Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s relationship, from the infamous “entanglement” to where things stand now.

Related: Who Is Denzel Washington’s Wife? Get to Know His Leading Lady, Pauletta Washington!

Are Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith separated?

Yes, and they have been since 2016. Pinkett Smith revealed as much in an interview with Today's Hoda Kotb released Oct. 11. As for why she and Smith kept their separation a secret, she told Kotb, "I think just not being ready yet, still trying to figure out between the two of us how to be in partnership and in regards to how do we present that to people. And we hadn't figure that out."

Addressing the reason for their split, she said, "Why it fractured, that's a lot of things. I think by the time we got to 2016, we were just exhausted with trying. I think we were both stuck in our fantasy of what we thought the other person should be."

Are Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith divorced?

Although separated since 2016, the couple has not divorced.

"I made a promise that there will never be a reason for us to get a divorce," Pinkett Smith told Kotb. "We will work through whatever, and I just haven't been able to break that promise."

Interestingly, in a 2018 interview, Smith said on Tidal’s Rap Radar podcast that he and Pinkett Smith "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," he said. "There's no deal breakers. There's nothing she could do—ever—nothing that would break our relationship. She has my support 'til death, and it feels so good to get to that space.”

How did Will and Jada meet?

Now this is a story all about how… Will and Jada became a couple! The pair first met in 1994 when she auditioned to play his girlfriend on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, a part which ended up going to Nia Long. Pinkett Smith told Extra in 2017 that she was passed up for the role because, at 5 feet tall, she was deemed “ too short” to play the 6-foot-2 star’s girlfriend. While she told PEOPLE in 1996 that she was initially “ticked off” that she didn’t get the job, the tables soon turned. “You know, once I got on my feet, and you know I was doing my thing... I had done a couple of movies and I did Different World, then Fresh Prince wanna come back and be like, 'We need you on the show,’” she added to Extra. “I was like, 'No, I'm a movie star, I don't have time.’”

She didn’t play the part of Smith’s girlfriend in real-life right away either, as he was still married to his first wife, Sheree Zampino, at the time. However, Smith said in a 2018 Red Table Talk episode he knew after watching Pinkett Smith star in the series A Different World that “there was something in our energy that would be magic”

During a dinner date with Zampino, he recalled having “a realization I wasn’t with the person I was supposed to be with.” The actor continued, “I was sitting in a stall and I was crying and laughing uncontrollably, and I knew [Jada] was the woman I was supposed to be with, but I was never getting divorced... I went back out, sat down with Sheree and started going back on with my life." After Zampino and Smith eventually split in 1995, he asked Pinkett if she was “seeing anyone.” When she answered no, he says he told her, “Cool, you’re seeing me now.”

When did Will and Jada get engaged?

The couple got engaged in November 1997, right before they found out they were expecting their first child. “One day we got engaged,” Pinkett Smith told PEOPLE, “and the next day we found out we were pregnant.” Smith gushed to PEOPLE of his then-girlfriend in 1996, “You don’t know about all the walls you build up in your mind and heart until someone comes along and tears them down. Outside of my mother, Jada’s the first person with whom I can share what I think and what I feel so freely.”

Related: Find Out All About Will Smith's Net Worth, From Fresh Prince to King Richard to the Movie That Made Him $100 Million 

When did Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith get married?

The Hitch star got hitched to Pinkett Smith on Dec. 31, 1997, at the Cloister, a then 65-year-old mansion in Pinkett Smith’s hometown of Baltimore. The ceremony was private, and the couple reportedly didn’t send out invitations to prevent it from getting leaked to the press. The newlyweds read love letters to each other at the ceremony, according to PEOPLE, and Pinkett, who was pregnant with future son Jaden Smith at the time, stunned in a silk velvet Badgley Mischka gown.

Despite the romantic setting, however, Pinkett Smith—who has openly grappled with the construct of marriage—revealed on a 2018 episode of her Facebook Watch show Red Table Talk that she cried during the wedding. "I was so upset I had to have a wedding," she said. "I was so pissed. I went crying down the freaking aisle, crying the whole way."

She further explained her feelings about marriage in an interview with The Guardian in 2019. “I knew that I was not built for conventional marriage,” she said. “Even the word ‘wife’: it’s a golden cage, swallow the key. Even before I was married, I was like, ‘That’ll kill me.’ And it damn near did!” She clarified, however, that her emotions weren’t related to marrying Smith specifically. “Will is my life partner and I could not ask for a better one. I adore him, I never want people to think it was Will I didn’t want to marry,” she explained. “But I can assure you that some of the most powerful women in the world feel caged and tied, because of the sacrifices they have to make to be in that position.”

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Did Jada Pinkett Smith have an affair with August Alsina?

In July 2020, Pinkett Smith “took herself to the table” on Red Table Talk to address rumors that she had an affair with August Alsina. On the episode, which was reportedly viewed more than 15 million times in its first 24 hours of release, she revealed that she and Smith were going through a “very difficult time” about four-and-a-half years ago and decided to “separate for a period of time.” During that time, she says she “got into a different kind of entanglement” with R&B singer Alsina.

“Through that particular journey, I learned so much about myself and was able to really confront a lot of emotional immaturity, emotional insecurity and I was really able to do some really deep healing,” she said, after squashing rumors that Smith gave her permission to pursue Alsina.“The only person that can give permission in that particular circumstance is myself,” she explained, saying she doesn’t see her involvement with Alsina as a “transgression.”

Given the latest news of the Smiths' split, it would seem the couple may have already been separated (or were about to separate) at the time of the so-called entanglement.

Related: Jaden Smith Shows Off Impressive Body Transformation in Side-by-Side Shirtless Photos

Do Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have an open marriage?

While the couple’s relationship has generated buzz for decades, one of the longest-running rumors centers on whether they have an open marriage. “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,'” Pinkett Smith told HuffPost Live in 2013. “Because at the end of the day, Will is his own man. I'm here as his partner, but he is his own man." She later clarified the much-discussed comments, reportedly writing in a Facebook post at the time that she did "NOT mean we have an open relationship" just that they have a “GROWN one.”

Her husband spoke on the subject again years later, post-"entanglement" news, and seemingly confirmed the open marriage rumors. "Jada had family members that had an unconventional relationship,” Smith said. “So she grew up in a way that was very different from 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."

He added, “I don’t suggest this road for anybody. But the experiences that the freedoms that we’ve given one another and the unconditional support, to me, is the highest definition of love.”

It also seems Pinkett Smith wasn’t the only one with an entanglement, or something of the sort, as writer Wesley Lowery wrote in a GQ cover story of Smith, "Because the impetus for the Red Table Talk was Alsina’s disclosures, a viewer could have walked away thinking that Jada was the only one engaging in other sexual relationships, when that was not, Smith delicately explained to me, in fact the case."

Smith told Lowery, “I want to help you, I want you to succeed, I want you to have a headline. But by the same token, I don’t want to deal with the backlash of that in the world."

How many times has Will Smith been married?

Smith has been married twice, first to Zampino and then to Pinkett Smith. In June 2020, Smith called his divorce from Zampino “the ultimate failure for me” on an episode of Red Table Talk. “I’ve been hurt a lot in my adult life, but I don't think anything touches the failure of getting divorced from my 2-year-old son’s mother," he said, calling it “the worst thing in my adult life.”

Zampino herself appeared on the series premiere of Red Table Talk, where she sat down with Pinkett Smith to chat candidly about their past and their experiences raising a blended family. Smith quipped about the conversation at the time, writing on Instagram, “If your Wife sits down to talk to your Ex-Wife in a forest and you’re not there... are you still in trouble?” It wouldn’t be the first time Smith’s wife and ex-wife joined forces on Red Table Talk, as she returned to the show for a holiday cooking segment in 2020.

"When I think about our relationship now, there's a real sisterhood there," Pinkett Smith said on the show in 2021. "But it took 20-some years. It was really a transformation for all of us, having a blended family and getting to a place where there was ease with it and having complete, utter acceptance. Ree has acceptance for me and all my nonsense. I have acceptance for her and all her nonsense.”

Who are Will and Jada’s kids?

Maybe now he gets why “Parents Just Don’t Understand!” The Smiths share two kids: Jaden Smith, 25, and Willow Smith, 22. The Fresh Prince actor also has a 30-year-old son, Trey Smith, from his marriage to Zampino.

Willow and Jaden have both followed in their parents' famous footsteps in the entertainment industry. Willow, known for hits like “Whip My Hair,” co-hosted Red Table Talk alongside her mom and her grandmother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris. On one episode of the show, the three generations of women even got matching tattoos. Show business is also a family affair for Jaden, who has starred alongside his father in films like Pursuit of Happyness and After Earth in addition to a role in the remake of Karate Kid.

When it comes to his parenting philosophy, Smith once told BET: “I feel that the greatest gift that I can give my children is the freedom to be who they are. Jada and I are very serious about finding what they are, and encouraging them to be what they are because you can never be happy being what you’re not. As a parent, if it’s an oak tree, I want it to grow as an oak tree. I’m not going to try to force it to be an apple tree.”

Next, Jada Pinkett Smith Announces New Family Member With Sweet Snapshot