Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith separated in 2016. It's just been a secret until now


After years of controversy and scandal, Jada Pinkett Smith revealed that she and Will Smith separated in 2016. Photo: Tribune News Service

Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith, one of Hollywood's most popular couples, have been living separate lives for years.

After years of controversy and scandal, Jada revealed on Wednesday (Oct 11) that she and the Bad Boys star separated in 2016. The Matrix Reloaded actor broke the news in an interview with The Today Show's Hoda Kotb while promoting her memoir, Worthy.

"The thing that surprised me the most, that I actually had to reread... was that in 2016 you and Will decided you were going to live separate lives," Kotb said.

"Yes," Jada responded. She confirmed Kotb's takeaway and clarified that she and Will have just been living separately for years. They have not officially divorced.

"I think by the time we got to 2016 we were just exhausted with trying," she told Kotb later in the interview. "I think we were both just kinda stuck in our fantasy of what we thought the other person should be."

Jada, 52, and Will, 55, married in December 1997 and share kids Jaden, 25, and Willow, 22. Will shares son Trey, 30, with ex-wife Sheree Zampino.

For years, Jada and Will kept up appearances at public events, including red carpets and awards shows. They held off on going public with their separation as they were unsure how to present that to people, Jada said.

In recent years, the couple faced a number of rocky moments – including Jada's "entanglement" with August Alsina and the King Richard star's controversial slap of Chris Rock at the 2022 Academy Awards – but presented a united front.

After seven years of living separately, Jada said she could not bring herself to go through the legal process to divorce Will. She said it was a "promise" she made.

"We will work through whatever, and I just haven't been able to break that promise," she told Kotb.

A representative for Will Smith did not immediately respond to the L.A. Times' request for comment. The Emancipation actor has not publicly addressed Jada's announcement.

In addition to announcing her separation from Will on Wednesday, Jada told People that comedian Chris Rock once asked her out on a date as rumors of her split swirled "every summer."

She did not say exactly when the Madagascar star reached out but claimed he thought the former couple were getting a divorce.

"'No, Chris, those are just rumors,'" she told People. "He was appalled. And he profusely apologised and that was that."

During the 2022 Academy Awards, Rock poked fun at Jada's shaved head, likening it to Demi Moore's hairstyle in the 1997 film G.I. Jane. In recent years Jada has been vocal about her experience with alopecia, which causes temporary or permanent hair loss. Will Smith took issue with the joke and slapped Rock onstage.

Jada told People she hasn't spoken to Rock since the incident.

"Here's my desire: I just hope that all the misunderstanding around this can be cleared up and that there can be peace," she said. – Los Angeles Times/Tribune News Service

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