In an interview with NBC‘s Hoda Kotb this week, Pinkett Smith said that she and Smith, whom she married in 1997, had lived “completely separate lives” since 2016, after becoming “exhausted with trying” to maintain their high-profile marriage.
Speaking while promoting her upcoming memoir Worthy, which is to be released on October 17, Pinkett Smith described the separation as “a divorce,” despite it not being a “divorce on paper.”
“By the time we got to 2016, we were just exhausted with trying,” Pinkett Smith said. “I think we were both kind of just still stuck in our fantasy of what we thought the other person should be.”
“I made a promise that there will never be a reason for us to get a [legal] divorce,” she added. “We will work through whatever…And I just haven’t been able to break that promise.”
Pinkett Smith said her relationship status had not been previously revealed in public because neither she nor her husband were “ready” to “present that to people.”
The news came as a shock to many, not least because the couple had been photographed arm-in-arm at a number of events in the years since Pinkett Smith revealed that she and Smith had decided to separate.
As news of the separation circulated, a number of celebrities shared their reactions, including Kotb, who told Pinkett Smith while interviewing her that she was so surprised she “actually had to re-read it, because I said, ‘Is this true?'”
Political commentator Candace Owens dedicated the first nine minutes of her podcast to the news on Wednesday, as she branded Pinkett Smith “plausibly the most unlikable woman in Hollywood.”
“None of this is brave, in fact, all of this is incredibly basic,” Owens said of Pinkett Smith’s revelation about her marriage. “Let me tell you something: you are a better person than both Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith if you get up every day and you live an honest life, if you get up every day and you earn an honest living and you come home to your family. That’s it. That’s all it takes for you to be better than these people.”
“You mean to tell me that since 2016, they’ve been putting on an act?” Owens, who has criticized the Smiths’ marriage in the past, said. “Hitting red carpets together, showing each other affection. Better yet, preaching to the rest of us about how we should live our lives.”
“Wasn’t that the purpose of [Pinkett Smith’s show] Red Table Talk?” Owens asked. “Something cool, something cultural. Bring it to the table, we’ll talk about these things that are so real and so honest and so brave and so straightforward. There was nothing brave, nothing straightforward about anything that she demonstrated.”
Elsewhere in her podcast, Owens touched upon Pinkett Smith’s extramarital relationship with musician August Alsina, which the actor confessed to during a special episode of Red Table Talk as she sat down with Smith back in 2020.
Kathy Griffin also reacted to news of the separation, writing on X, formerly Twitter. “Wait. What???” The comedian rounded out her post with the eyes emoji.
Budget airline Ryanair weighed in on the matter in an X post that advertised how passengers are able to switch seats at a cost.
A mock image showed Smith and Pinkett Smith’s names as booked to be seated together for a flight from Dublin, Ireland, to Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
“Pay to keep your marriage alive,” read an accompanying caption.
The Smiths’ marriage endured scrutiny in 2022 after Smith bounded onto the stage at the Academy Awards and slapped presenter Chris Rock in response to a joke the comedian made about Pinkett Smith. Rock compared her shaved head to G.I. Jane, the 1997 film for which Demi Moore famously sheared her long locks.
In an interview with People, published on October 11, Pinkett Smith discussed the infamous slap and revealed that Rock had once asked her out after hearing rumors that her marriage was over.
“He called me and basically he was like, ‘I’d love to take you out,'” the Nutty Professor star said. “And I was like, ‘What do you mean?’ He was like, ‘Well, aren’t you and Will getting a divorce?’ I was like, ‘No. Chris, those are just rumors.'”
Rock “profusely apologized” for making such a move at the time, Pinkett Smith said. The revelation has led to social media users questioning whether there was more to Smith slapping Rock at the Oscars.
Newsweek has contacted representatives of Smith, Pinkett Smith, and Rock via email for comment.
The marital breakdown was also a talking point on Wednesday’s installment of ABC‘s The View, where the panelists shared their various reactions.
“Why do I know so much about these people’s marriage?” Ana Navarro said. “I kind of feel like I know more about their marriage than I know about my own damn marriage. I don’t need to know all of this. You know what, I just want to watch reruns of [The] Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Bad Boys… Just leave it out of my head. I don’t need to know.”
“People are fascinated by this particular couple,” Joy Behar said in response.
“I’m fascinated,” Sunny Hostin told her fellow panelists. “I don’t think anybody knows what goes on in any marriage, but they have lived every public lives. And the slap heard around the world, I definitely thought was a reaction of Will’s to sort of protect her honor somehow. And that entanglement she had with her son’s friend…”
“So he slapped Chris Rock on the Oscars… But couldn’t it be that he was just defending… his ex-wife?” Behar posed.
Alyssa Farah Griffin then brought up the possible “plot twist” of Rock purportedly asking Pinkett Smith out. “Chris didn’t deserve the slap, by the way,” she added.
Sara Haines chose to discuss how all of the news surrounding their marriage could affect their children. Smith and Pinkett Smith are the parents of Willow Smith, 22, and Jaden Smith, 25. Will Smith also has a son, Trey Smith, 30, from his previous marriage to Sheree Zampino.
“Usually I say whatever works for couples, but I don’t know if this is working,” Haines said. “When you hear each of them talk, there sounds like there’s so much pain and trauma… The kids are living through this. I don’t pretend that marriage is perfect, but you are the example to your children of what love and loving relationships look like. They’re having other relationships, they’re living apart.”
After suggesting that Pinkett Smith “drops these bombshells” for the benefit of her “bank account,” Navarro said: “I will tell you this: be careful of anybody who pretends to have a perfect marriage.”
Hostin countered that Pinkett Smith sharing the news was “a very brave thing to do, a very courageous thing to do. I think it has less to do with money. She has plenty of money.”
“I think once you’ve had Tupac, you never go back. That’s what this ultimately comes down to for me,” said Griffin, in reference to Pinkett Smith’s previous close friendship with rapper Tupac Shakur, who was shot and killed in 1996.
The Smiths’ separation was also discussed on Loose Women, a U.K. talk show similar in format to The View.
Panelist Jane Moore attempted to put the announcement in context, explaining that when the Smiths first got together, they were each individually famous. Over time, Moore opined, Pinkett Smith may have lost herself in the marriage, becoming “Mrs. Will Smith.”
“It’s up to them what they want to do, it’s none of our business,” said moderator Kaye Adams. “But that kind of act of pretense is the bit that I find kind of odd for seven years.”
“I wouldn’t be able to keep up the pretense,” said co-host Linda Robson. “If something is not right in the relationship then I find it very hard to disguise it. And things haven’t been right in my relationship for quite a long time, I’ve been very honest about it.”