Expert Unpacks For Us How Will Smith & Jada Pinkett Smith's Body Language Changed Over Time

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith were once the ultimate Hollywood power couple. Will churned out one box office hit after another, and impressively brought over $100 million per film in revenue from 2002 to 2008. Jada was not only the supportive wife, but also a go-getter who wowed heavy metal audiences as the lead of the band Wicked Wisdom and showed exemplary acting skills in shows such as "Hawthorne." To the public, the Smiths appeared to be a tight-knit unit. But as both Will and Jada would later reveal, there were major and minor separations in their union.

One such time was after Jada's 40th birthday in 2011, when Will told the "All of Us" actor to seek her own joy, as he shared on "The Oprah Conversation." Five years later, what was left of the love between the Smiths as they knew it crumbled, and the public didn't learn about their seven-year separation until Jada's explosive October 2023 disclosure on "Today". "It wouldn't have made any sense to talk about what we were going through," Jada remarked in an interview with The Associated Press. "And nobody is entitled to that information ... And I decided to talk about it when Will and I were solid." 

According to Jada, divorce is not an option. But the question remains whether the signs of tension between the couple were there all along. With the help of celebrity body language expert and author of "A.W.E.S.O.M.E," Jess Ponce III, Nicki Swift exclusively uncovers a change in the Smiths' body language over the years.

The couple was all over each other when they began dating in 1995

At the time Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith began dating in 1995, the "Gemini Man" actor was fresh off of a relationship with his first wife, Sheree Zampino. "Sheree filed for divorce," Will recalled on an episode of "Red Table Talk." "She hit me hard. Sheree filed for divorce on Valentine's Day." 

A few months after Will and Sheree broke up, Will and Jada started dating. In September of that year, Will and Jada showed up to "The Devil in a Blue Dress" premiere at the Academy Theatre together. By all accounts, the Smiths served the public a dose of the kind of young love that fairytales are made of.

Jada was dressed in a revealing sky-blue dress, in line with the flick's title, while Will donned a gray-striped suit. Together, the couple walked the red carpet hand in hand, and couldn't so much as leave each other's side to take a solo picture. Will's mother, Carolyn Smith, was also in tow. The trio posed together, despite Will's insistence that they were running late. According to our celebrity body language expert Jess Ponce III, the ease with which the Smiths were holding hands showed that they were very much in love.

Will and Jada appeared to be in sync during the premiere of The Nutty Professor

At the June 1996 premiere of "The Nutty Professor," Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith seemed even more comfortable on the red carpet. Sporting a signature short hairdo, Jada, who starred in the film, was enthusiastic when answering journalists' questions. She jokingly even asserted that "The Nutty Professor" would rake in bigger numbers than Will's movie "Independence Day," which was released earlier.

Although Will happened to be engaging a crowd in the background, a somewhat faux stern-faced Jada kept an eye on him. "See, he's over there, trynna charm up Eddie Murphy," she told reporters."[He's] thinking that 'Independence Day' is gonna blow up but it's not gonna happen." Will then turned to Jada for a joint interview. He playfully grabbed the actor's arm, while simultaneously calling her out for making him run late at his own movie. Thereafter, Jada nodded in agreement as Will marveled at her co-star Eddie Murphy's incredible talent. When joined by Jada's mom, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, for a picture that evening, Will couldn't get his hands off his then-girlfriend.

Body language expert Jess Ponce III told Nicki Swift that the subtle touches, loud laughs, and Jada using a pet name to refer to Will put emphasis that they were an in-sync power couple at work.

The pair struck a fun pose at the 1997 Metro premiere

At the January 1997 "Metro" premiere, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith brought a much goofier side to the red carpet. The lovers dazzled in coordinated his and hers all-black outfits: a velvet head-to-toe ensemble for the "Wild Wild West" star and gleaming leather bottoms for Jada, which she paired with matching boots and a matte jacket. In a cute moment, Will wrapped his left arm around Jada's waist and dipped her down. She lifted one leg up toward Will, bringing into focus the surface of her boot.

Will and Jada attended the Annual Soul Train Music Awards together in March of the same year wearing similar white and off-white numbers. While Will leaned toward a much shorter Jada, the duo pursed their lips into the popular Instagram pout, as if to air kiss each other — long before the internet caught on to the trendy pose.

As body language expert Jess Ponce III put it in a chat with Nicki Swift, the Smiths "really seemed to enjoy one another's company" on both occasions — they had a lot of fun and liked spending time together.

Jada and Will kissed on their wedding day, although she wasn't happy

In December 1997, Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith tied the knot. Jada would share a picture of their big day on X (formerly Twitter) years later. In the monochrome shot, Will leans toward Jada, who's wearing a turtleneck long-sleeved wedding dress. With Jada's open palm raised a bit, the sweethearts lock lips with their eyes shut. On the surface, they looked like two just-married partners who were soaking in the weight of commitment ahead, but the reality was much harder to swallow

"I never wanted to be married," Jada revealed on "Red Table Talk." "I didn't want a wedding either ... I just wanted it to be the two of us on a mountain 'cause I was like, 'This is serious business.”'

Though there was a lot of love, supposedly the Smiths' nuptials were a train wreck due to Jada's lack of involvement and pregnancy-related symptoms. "My first trimester was horrible. I was so upset that I had to have a wedding," Jada continued. "I went crying down the freakin' aisle."

Will Smith was proud of Jada's baby bump

Jada Pinkett Smith knew the exact moment her son, Jaden Smith was conceived. "It was almost like, you know, those big locks on a bank?" She recounted on "Red Table Talk." "I could feel that in my womb." According to Will Smith, her proclamation of "I'm pregnant" only came four seconds after the couple was intimate, which made him dismiss the thought.

Jada was right, though, and Will Smith was beaming with pride when they showed up to the 4th Annual Blockbuster Awards in March 1998. The pair was photographed in a side pose in which Will's arms gently rested on Jada's growing belly. She, in turn, leaned on Will's shoulder with her eyes closed. Jada's smile was so broad, one could count her teeth.

The previous month, Jada had been photographed freely laughing hard at the Grammys as Will, who was standing next to her, also cracked up. Per our body language expert, Jess Ponce III, "There was no doubt that these two were a romantic leading couple" at both events.

The pair kissed publicly at the 1999 MTV movie awards

At the 1999 MTV Movie Awards in April, Will Smith was up against Ben Affleck, Jim Carrey, Tom Hanks, and Adam Sandler in the Best Man award run for "Enemy of the State." Will may have suffered a loss to Carrey that night, but he was winning in his romance with Jada Pinkett Smith. The heartthrobs were spotted brushing their lips against each other publicly. Will had his arms tightly wrapped around Jada's waist, while she was smiling in the moment. Will's then-collaborator DJ Jazzy Jeff looked on fondly.

A little under two months earlier, Will and Jada co-presented the Song of the Year Award at the Grammys. The super-couple walked onto the stage side by side, and the couple couldn't stop charismatically joking with each other — like when Jada slipped on her glasses to read the notecard. "She got them pretty eyes, they just don't work," the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ” alum joked. He held back a laugh, while Jada retreated back and made a startled expression. From an audience standpoint, it was a light moment that a couple who were comfortable and on good terms were sharing — a sentiment that our body language expert Jess Ponce III affirmed.

They laughed their hearts out at the 2002 MTV movie awards

At the 2002 MTV Movie Awards, Will Smith was set to battle it out with Russell Crowe, Vin Diesel, Josh Hartnett, and Elijah Wood for Best Male Performance. Will's portrayal of Muhammad Ali earned him the coveted award. In his acceptance speech, Will first made an Ali impression, which was met with a roar by the audience. Next, the movie star gestured toward Jada. "First and foremost I wanna thank my lovely wife, baby, who put up with so much ... you supported me the whole time," he started, adding that it wasn't entirely an agonizing time for Jada since he got a ripped body out of training for "Ali." The playful remark was met with a ton of zealous nods from Jada.

That same night, the couple were pictured backstage in the middle of what appeared to be a very funny joke. Although Jada's arms were folded, she seemed to let out a loud guffaw, as did Will, who was bent over with his hands placed on his lap. By this time, the Smiths were a family of five: their daughter Willow Smith was born in October 2000. Once again, they openly looked like they loved being around each other, as our body language expert Jess Ponce III pointed out.

Will Smith was undoubtedly proud of Jada at the 2007 SAG awards

At the 2007 Screen Actors Guild Awards, Will Smith was nominated for an Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role award for his portrayal of Chris Gardner in "The Pursuit of Happyness." Will lost to Forest Whitaker, whose role as former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland" was gripping and certainly award-worthy.

One of Will's most viral red-carpet acts ever was at those SAG Awards, during which he overdramatically stretched his arms out as if he were presenting Jada Smith to the world. "My wife, everybody!" his demeanor seemed to say. Dressed in a strapless, long, pink gown that she paired with golden accessories, Jada gracefully posed for the cameras. It was clear that for him, Jada was the star of the night. According to our body language expert Jess Ponce III, the Smiths were a playful couple, a sign that their love was still strong.

The Smiths were more publicly affectionate well into the mid 2010s

The Smiths' PDA extended well into the mid-2010s. The duo's kisses were captured at a number of events, including the "Final Flight of the Osiris" world premiere in 2003, the 2004 Vanity Fair Oscars party, "The Karate Kid" premiere in 2010, and the "Focus" movie premiere in 2015.

The couple also attended several sports games within that period, and their warmth toward each other suggested that all was well in their household. Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith were passionate at the Boston Celtics vs Los Angeles Lakers June 2008 NBA Finals, during which they smooched at the beginning of the fourth quarter of Game Four. The same script played out at the Miami Heat vs. Philadelphia 76ers game in Will's own backyard of Philly, where the couple was pictured while talking in secrecy, acknowledging others, and roaring with laughter. Body language expert Jess Ponce III told us that nothing seemed to have changed with the way the Smiths appeared publicly — that is, not until 2016.

The couple's red carpet allure declined in 2016

In 2016, the Smiths' ever-glowing and playful red carpet persona took a back seat. "Moments of the two of them caught in photos were very different," body language expert Jess Ponce III told us. It appeared that any show of romance from the once-admired couple was out of duty to the occasion. At the NAACP Image Awards in February of that year, the Smiths were dressed flawlessly as usual, but Will Smith's attempt at recreating his classic "My Wife, Everyone!" pose lacked the vigor and flare of its original. The actor's knees weren't as bent to depict his past high-spirited nature, nor were his hands as wide. At the EMA Awards in October that year, Jada Pinkett and Will Smith appeared together, but the hand-holding and mischievous poses were nowhere to be seen.

Two years prior, when they had been married for close to 17 years, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith sought the wisdom of Ruby Dee, who'd been together with Ossie Davis for more than five decades until he died in 2005. The result of the meeting was a focus on tapping into their own individuality, which Will explained on "Rap Radar" in 2018. "We were both trying to force a marriage," he admitted. "Me and Jada sorta found ourselves into that space where we don't even say we are married anymore. We refer to ourselves as life partners."

Though separated, Will and Jada still showed up as a family

Behind closed doors, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith were separated, but they still functioned as a family unit. In September 2018, Jada was amongst family and friends who showed up to Will's daring bungee jump off of a helicopter at the Grand Canyon in celebration of the "After Earth" actor's 50th birthday. Months later, Jada and Will went skydiving in Dubai as part of his birthday bucket list. When the couple casually walked through the airport, they appeared to be cordial with each other. Their demeanor was synonymous with friendship, not love. Yet again, the hand-holding and silliness they displayed at the beginning of their relationship had vanished.

In both instances, Jess Ponce III observed in his chat with us, "They began to appear as two people who somehow joined together for some common cause." According to Jada's conversation with "Today," the time hadn't come to announce their separation just yet. "[We were] 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," she shared.

Will Smith seemed unimpressed when Jada filmed him without permission

Ahead of inviting psychologist Esther Perel to appear on an episode of "Red Table Talk" to discuss infidelity, Jada Pinkett Smith shared a post of herself and Will Smith that stirred the hornet's nest. "You know Esther Perel is coming to the table. Would you say she had been instrumental in you and I redefining our relationship?" the "Bad Moms" actor asked. Will, who already looked uninterested by avoiding eye contact with the camera and rubbing his lower cheek, expressed his disapproval.

"I would say don't just start filming me without asking me if you could film," he expressed. Jada then turned the camera to herself. In response, she remarked, "Esther come help us again. I'm still dealing with foolishness." Will hardly smiled when he declined to answer Jada's original question for a second time. He went on to explain that his boundaries were being breached. Jada ended the clip by asking fans to tune in on her episode with Perel.

According to our body language expert Jess Ponce III, around this time the Smiths "no longer seemed as connected to one another. In fact, one might wonder if they enjoyed being next to one another."

The actor's sad face became a meme in 2020

After August Alsina's surprising revelation that he'd been in a relationship with Jada Pinkett Smith, the latter took herself to the table on her Facebook Watch show "Red Table Talk" to address the claims along with Will Smith. The couple sat across each other, and almost instantly, the public was drawn to Will's worn-out demeanor. The actor appeared to be jaded and fatigued as they unpacked the circumstances that led to Jada's relationship with Alsina. "They no longer had the same gleam in their eyes or warm smiles," body language expert Jess Ponce III told Nicki Swift.

Will's sad face went viral on social media. His fans were under the impression that he'd been crying. He eventually explained the reason for his tired look on his YouTube channel. "It was midnight. We were shooting at midnight 'cause we were trying to rush to go to the airport in the morning," the actor recalled. "I said [let's] re-shoot it but it played out ... Everybody is like, 'Poor Will.'" Jada laughed at that; at least the pair could still joke about the tense table talk.

Will and Jada Smith were romantically disconnected at the 2022 Oscars

Although Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith shared a montage of themselves acting silly ahead of the 2022 Oscars, they seemed less like the romantic couple they once were, and more like friends who'd come together for a big day. On the red carpet, the couple's initial cute and touchy play had become a thing of the past. "They looked like two different powerhouse performers but no longer like a power couple," body language expert Jess Ponce III told Nicki Swift.

Jada admitted that she and Will were still separated at the time during an interview with "On Purpose with Jay Shetty." She showed up to the Oscars as family, and she was as astonished as the public during Will's infamous altercation with comedian Chris Rock — at Will's impassioned "Keep my wife's name out your f—ing mouth," Jada told Jay Shetty she thought, "Wife? Me?" 

Our expert Ponce III weighed in on Will and Jada's relationship afterward, and concluded on their change over the years: "The signs of their separation were evident, yet somehow, we all may have overlooked it." 

After Jada's revelation of their separation, she disclosed in another sit-down with "Today" that she and Will were focused on amending their relationship now. "We really have been working hard," she told talk show host Hoda Kotb.