Jada Koren Pinkett-Smith ; September
18, 1971) is an American actress, producer, director, author,
singer-songwriter and businesswoman. She began her career in 1990, when
she made a guest appearance in the short-lived sitcom True Colors. Her
success began to build when she starred in A Different World, produced by
Bill Cosby. She earned recognition for her role opposite Eddie Murphy in
The Nutty Professor (1996), and starred in dramatic films such as Menace
II Society (1993) and Set It Off (1996). She has appeared in more than 20
films in a variety of genres, and gained wider recognition for her roles
in the films Ali, The Matrix Reloaded, and The Matrix Revolutions.
Pinkett-Smith launched her music career in 2002, when she helped create
the metal rock band Wicked Wisdom, for which she is a singer and
songwriter. She created a production company. She also created her own
clothing line. She is the author of a children's book, published in 2004.
In 1997 she married actor Will Smith; they have two children, Jaden and
Willow. Pinkett Smith is the stepmother to Smith's son from a previous
marriage, Willard "Trey" Smith III.
Together, the couple have founded the Will and Jada Smith Family
Foundation, a charity organization which focuses on urban inner city youth
and family support. The foundation has worked with non-profit
organizations such as YouthBuild and the Lupus Foundation of America.
Before her marriage to Will Smith, Pinkett was a close friend to the late
West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur until his death.
Jada Pinkett-Smith was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and named after her
mother's favorite soap opera actress, Jada Rowland. Pinkett-Smith is of
West Indian, Creole and Portuguese Jewish ancestry. Her parents are
Adrienne Banfield-Jones (née Banfield), the head nurse of an inner-city
clinic in Baltimore; and Robsol Pinkett, Jr., who runs a construction
company. Banfield-Jones became pregnant in high school. The couple married
but divorced after several months. Banfield-Jones raised Pinkett with the
help of her mother, Marion Banfield, who was employed as a social worker.
Banfield noticed her granddaughter's passion for the performing arts and
enrolled her in piano, tap dance, and ballet lessons.
Pinkett-Smith is also the older sister of actor Caleeb Pinkett.
Pinkett-Smith remains close to her mother and said, "A mother and
daughter's relationship is usually the most honest, and we are so close."
She participated as the maid of honor in Banfield-Jones' 1998 wedding to
telecommunications executive Paul Jones. Pinkett-Smith has shown great
admiration for her grandmother, saying, "My grandmother was a doer who
wanted to create a better community and add beauty to the world."
Pinkett-Smith majored in dance and theatre at the Baltimore School for the
Arts, graduating in 1989. She continued her education at the North
Carolina School of the Arts, but dropped out after a year. She moved to
Los Angeles, California to pursue an acting career. She is an honorary
member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the first Greek-lettered
sorority established and incorporated by African-American women.
In Los Angeles, Pinkett-Smith applied for the choreographer position for
the television series In Living Color, created by actor Keenan Ivory
Wayans. Although she failed to get the job, Wayans helped her find an
acting agent and the two became close friends. She began her acting career
in 1990, when she starred in a television pilot for supernatural drama
Moe's World. Although the pilot was never aired, she received guest roles
in television shows such as True Colors (1990), Doogie Howser, M.D.
(1991), and 21 Jump Street (1991). After auditioning for comedian Bill
Cosby's NBC television sitcom A Different World in 1991, she earned the
role of college freshman Lena James, a character based on Pinkett-Smith's
own style and personality. She played the role for two years until the
show ended in 1993.
Pinkett-Smith made her feature film debut in 1993 in the
critically-acclaimed drama film Menace II Society as Ronnie, a young
single mother in Watts, California. She then appeared in several romance
films, reuniting with her Menace II Society co-star Larenz Tate to star in
The Inkwell (1994) as his love interest, Lauren Kelly. She also played the
role of Lyric in the film Jason's Lyric (1994).
In 1994, Pinkett-Smith finally acted with Wayans in the action and comedy
film A Low Down Dirty Shame. "He busted my ass," she told Entertainment
Weekly. "I had to read twice, no three times, for him!" She described her
character, Peaches, as "raw" with "major attitude", and her acting
garnered positive reviews. The New York Times noted, "Ms. Pinkett, whose
performance is as sassy and sizzling as a Salt-n-Pepa recording, walks
away with the movie."
Following a role in Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995),
Pinkett-Smith co-starred with actor and comedian Eddie Murphy in the 1996
remake of The Nutty Professor. It became her biggest box office success,
bringing in more than $25 million in its first weekend and opening in over
2,000 theaters. She subsequently landed a role in the film If These Walls
Could Talk (1996), as Patti. Co-directed by Cher, produced by Demi Moore,
and co-starring Cher, Moore, and Sissy Spacek, the made for television
movie earned nominations for the Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award, and
brought exposure for Pinkett Smith.
Set It Off (1996), a crime drama about four women who rob banks to escape
from poverty, helped to establish Pinkett-Smith as an actor of note. With
Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox, and Kimberly Elise, Pinkett-Smith portrayed
Lida "Stony" Newsom, a young woman struggling to care for her younger
brother after the death of their parents. Her acting in the film prompted
the San Francisco Chronicle to name her as "the one to watch".
Pinkett-Smith took a variety of roles in the late 1990s, including a voice
role in the Japanese anime Princess Mononoke (1997), a cameo in Scream 2
(1997), a supporting role in Return to Paradise (1998), and starring roles
in the comedy film Woo (1998) and the short film Blossoms and Veils
(1998), written and directed by Grey's Anatomy creater Shonda Rhimes.
In 2000, Pinkett-Smith was cast in Spike Lee's film Bamboozled (2000), as
Sloan Hopkins, a personal assistant to the main character portrayed by
Damon Wayans. Although the film met with mediocre reviews, it won the
Freedom of Expression Award by the National Board of Review. She later
starred in the 2001 comedy Kingdom Come with Whoopi Goldberg.
Also in 2001, Pinkett Smith played the supporting role of Sonji Roi, the
first wife of famous boxer Muhammad Ali, in the biographical film Ali.
This marked the first film that she would participate in with her husband,
actor Will Smith, who portrayed Ali. The film received mostly good reviews
from critics and earned her a nomination from the NAACP Image Awards for
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture.
Perhaps her best-known role to date is the part of human rebel Niobe in
the films The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and The Matrix Revolutions (2003),
sequels to 1999's The Matrix. She had met the series' directors, The
Wachowski Brothers, before they had begun to film The Matrix and they
formed a close bond. The character was eventually written, specifically,
with Pinkett Smith in mind. Directly after she filmed her scenes for Ali,
Pinkett Smith flew to Australia to work on the Matrix sequels. The role
brought her into the spotlight, as The Matrix already had a cult following
of fans, and the sequels earned over $91 million and $48 million during
opening weekends, respectively. Her acting in The Matrix Revolutions
earned her another nomination for the Image Award for Outstanding
Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture.
In 2004, Pinkett Smith reunited with director Michael Mann, whom she had
worked with on Ali, to play United States Department of Justice prosecutor
Annie Farrell, in the thriller Collateral, co-starring Tom Cruise and
Jamie Foxx. She later provided the voice of Gloria the hippo in the
DreamWorks animated film Madagascar (2005). Director Eric Darnell stated,
"[Pinkett Smith]'s got all this incredible power and attitude and strength
and confidence, which is just what we wanted for Gloria the hippo." She
reprised her role for the sequel, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, released in
Pinkett Smith returned to drama when she co-starred with Adam Sandler and
Don Cheadle in Reign Over Me (2007). The film revolves around a lost
friendship between Charlie Fineman (Sandler) and Dr. Alan Johnson
(Cheadle) which is rekindled after Fineman loses his family to the
September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Pinkett Smith played
Johnson's wife Janeane.
In 2008, Pinkett Smith portrayed Alex Fisher, a lesbian author, in The
Women. The film co-starred Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, and Debra
Messing, and was directed by Emmy Award-winner Diane English. Pinkett
Smith's directorial debut was The Human Contract; she also wrote and acted
in the movie. Starring Paz Vega and Idris Elba, it debuted at the Cannes
Film Festival in May 2008. As of January 2009, she has been working on the
TNT medical drama Time Heals, in which she is executive producer and a
starring cast member. The show has been greenlit for 10 episodes. The
title of the show has since changed to Hawthorne and it premiered on June
Under the stage name Jada Koren, Pinkett Smith formed the metal rock band
Wicked Wisdom in 2002. The band consists of Pinkett Smith performing lead
vocals, Pocket Honore (guitar, vocals), Cameron "Wirm" Graves (guitar,
keyboard, vocals), and Rio (bass, vocals). The band is managed by James
Lassiter and Miguel Melendez of Overbrook Entertainment, a company
co-founded by Pinkett Smith's husband Will Smith.
The band's debut album, Wicked Wisdom, was released on February 21, 2006,
by Pinkett Smith's production company 100% Womon. Will Smith served as the
project's executive producer. The album made it to Billboard's Top
Heatseekers chart, and peaked at number 44 during the week of March 11,
2006. Allmusic reviewer Alex Henderson said of the album, "[Pinkett Smith]
shows herself to be an expressive, commanding singer" and that "[Wicked
Wisdom] shows considerable promise". The band promoted the album in 2006,
touring with heavy metal band Sevendust
Wicked Wisdom landed a slot on Britney Spears' Onyx Hotel Tour in 2004,
one of the year's highest-profile tours. The band opened for Spears for
eight dates in April and May 2004, during the European leg of the tour.
In a video interlude after Showdown, Pinkett Smith appears as a silent
woman leading Spears to a club. The only words spoken are: "Wanna join
me?" She then leads Spears into the club where, on stage, Spears proceeds
to sing ...Baby One More Time.
In 2005, Sharon Osbourne went to see Wicked Wisdom perform at a small
night club in Los Angeles, California. She said, "I was blown away. When
you see and hear Jada with her band it's apparent that she has nothing but
love and respect for this genre of music." In May 2005 organizers
announced Wicked Wisdom would perform on the second stage of 2005's
Ozzfest. Fans of the festival were outraged, claiming the band did not
have the credibility to perform at the music festival. A petition was
created at PetitionOnline, garnering 501 signatures. Aware of the
questions about the band's addition to Ozzfest, Pinkett Smith said, "I'm
not here asking for any favors. You've got to show and prove. And not
every audience is going to go for it." Wicked Wisdom's guitarist Pocket
Honore said while early dates of the tour were rocky, "once word got out
that we weren't a joke, people started coming out and by the sixth or
seventh gig we were on fire." Pinkett Smith agreed, saying, "After seven
dates within the Ozzfest tour, the whole attitude of it started to turn
around once the word of mouth started getting out."
Pinkett Smith married actor Will Smith on December 31, 1997. They met in
1990 on the set of Smith's television show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,
when she auditioned for the role of his character's girlfriend, Lisa
Wilkes. She was considered too short (Pinkett Smith is 5'0" and Smith is
6'2"), and the role went to actress Nia Long. Pinkett and Smith became
friends, however, and began dating in 1995. About 100 guests attended
their wedding at the Cloisters, near her hometown of Baltimore, Maryland.
Regarding her marriage, Pinkett Smith said that they are "private people"
and told one interviewer, "I will throw my career away before I let it
break up our marriage. I made it clear to Will. I'd throw it away
Pinkett Smith and Smith have two children, Jaden Christopher Syre Smith
(born July 8, 1998 in Malibu, California) and Willow Camille Reign Smith
(born October 31, 2000 in Los Angeles, California). Pinkett Smith is also
the stepmother of Willard "Trey" Christopher Smith III (born November 11,
1992), Smith's son from a previous marriage. All three children have
appeared onscreen alongside Smith: Trey starred in the music video for
Smith's song "Just the Two of Us" from his album Big Willie Style (1997);
Jaden co-starred in The Pursuit of Happyness (2006); and Willow made a
cameo appearance in I Am Legend (2007).
Pinkett Smith commented in 2008 on their parenting skills: "We're not
strict but we definitely believe it's a very important component for
rearing children. It creates safety for them. They understand that they
need guidance." Trey attends Oaks Christian High School in Westlake
Village, California, while Jaden and Willow are homeschooled. The family
resides in a 27,000 square foot (2,500 m2) home, on 100 acres (40 ha), in