Jada Pinkett Smith's Tragic Real-Life Story

Judging from the sprawling estate that Jada Pinkett Smith enjoys with her husband Will Smith and their two kids (you might have seen it in the opening of her Facebook Watch show, "Red Table Talk"), it's hard not to wonder: Exactly how many bargains with God does one need to make to get 150 acres in Malibu? Nobody knows. But we do know that nothing comes without a price, and Pinkett Smith has been through more adversity than you might think, having fought for every blessing she's been given. 

Today, she's all about "self mastery" and encouraging others to evolve as well. "We are all a bunch of open wounds slamming into each other all day ... everyday," she said in a 2018 motivational message on Instagram. "Successful relating is not for the weak at heart. This is why I believe relationships ARE a spiritual endeavor." 

Let's take a closer look at the tragic real-life story and stunning rise of Jada Pinkett Smith.

Jada Pinkett Smith grew up with a heroin-addicted mom

Jada Pinkett Smith told PopSugar that her mom, Adrienne Banfield Norris (above right), gave birth to her at a "very young age." The mother-daughter duo also revealed in an early episode of "Red Table Talk" that Norris had been a heroin addict for most of Pinkett Smith's childhood. "I think I didn't find out my mother was addicted to heroin until I was in my teens," said Pinkett Smith. "I could tell when my mother was high. She couldn't make it on time to pick me up from school. Or, she's nodding off, falling asleep in the middle of something. You just realize, oh that's not being tired. That is like, a drug problem."

Banfield Norris has been sober since the '90s — but says the scars on her daughter remain. "The emotional damage, and the spiritual damage that I did to myself, and to her — that was devastating," Banfield Norris said.

Thankfully, Pinkett Smith and her mom have a close relationship today. Banfield Norris even traveled with her daughter more than once to help take care of her kids — something that Pinkett Smith expressed gratitude for on "Red Table Talk," telling her mom: "It helped me so much, because if I didn't have you, I wouldn't have been able to do The Matrix. I wouldn't have been able to keep working. You went with me everywhere. And because of you, I was able to have my children with me. So, thank you."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

The actor was a drug dealer in high school

When asked about her relationship with the late rapper Tupac Shakur on Sirius XM's Sway's Universe, Jada Pinkett Smith casually dropped a bomb. "When I first met Pac, when we first met, I was a drug dealer," she said. She didn't elaborate much on the topic during that interview, because she said she was planning to "write a book about it."

However, the next day, Access Hollywood was able to pull a few more details out of the "Bad Moms" star. Citing her desire to clear up misconceptions about this period of her life, Pinkett Smith revealed that her mother "saved" her. "My mother got me out of Baltimore — I had gotten a scholarship ... to go to North Carolina School for the Arts, and something really horrible had happened to me that she found out about. And, you know, one day she just packed the car and was just like, 'You're getting outta here.'"

This was the turning point in Pinkett Smith's life, and one that also served as a fundamental change in her relationship with Tupac. "I had started out one way, and Pac, you know, started out one way, and we kinda switched roles," she told Access Hollywood, adding, "It was the thing that bound us, but it was also the thing that broke us apart."

She was devastated by Tupac's death

Jada Pinkett Smith and Tupac Shakur quickly became friends after they met on her first day at Baltimore High School for the Arts. Pinkett Smith once said that she didn't feel he was the type of guy she'd normally hang out with, but he eventually drew her to him "like a magnet." They maintained a platonic friendship, even after Pinkett Smith moved to Los Angeles and Shakur went to prison. But once Shakur was released, his outlook on life seemed to change, causing a rift between them. 

As Pinkett Smith told Howard Stern: "We had a very hardcore disagreement ... I just wasn't in agreement with the direction that he was taking. He felt as though I had changed ... Looking back now, I totally understand where Pac was, because at that particular point in time, that mentality was part of his survival ... [but] it was a mentality that he started to come out of before he was murdered." This wasn't their first big blowout where they "stopped speaking," but after Shakur was fatally shot and killed in 1996, Pinkett Smith regretted "not having the opportunity to tell him that [she] loved him."

To this day, she is still emotional about losing her friend, telling Sway's Universe that their friendship filled a deep need for her at that time in her life. "When you have somebody that has your back when you feel like you're nothing — that's everything," she said.

Jada Pinkett Smith once pulled a knife on her ex-boyfriend

Jada Pinkett Smith says that while she's never been in a physically abusive relationship, she did feel threatened by one of her exes. On a November 2018 episode of "Red Table Talk," she told the story of how an ex-boyfriend, who she described as "a sweet guy" but with "tendencies of violence," deeply frightened her one night with his aggressive demeanor. He didn't hit her, but Pinkett Smith wasn't about to let it escalate. Instead, she grabbed the biggest knife she could find to keep him away from her.

"I remember ... grabbing a big old knife from the kitchen, and hiding in his son's room. And I'll never forget, he came through the back sliding door, like on a creepy creep creep, like he was going to like sneak up on me or something like that ...  I came out of his son's bedroom ... and I was like, 'Don't come near me.' And he said the quintessential line you hear in movies all the time: 'You think I would hurt you? I would never do that to you.' And I mean, I was like, 'Oh my god, I'm in trouble.' I was in trouble."

The star said she credits Spike Lee for helping her get out of that relationship, since he had been calling her about a role in the movie "Girl 6." "I used Spike as an excuse to get on that plane," she said.

The star has battled addiction

Alcohol and other forms of addiction run in Jada Pinkett Smith's family, as she revealed on "Red Table Talk" — and she was no exception. Saying that her addictions tended to vary, she admitted, "I definitely think I had a sex addiction of some kind," adding that at the time, she thought sex was a cure-all. Looking back, she said her behavior around sex gave her addiction away. "It's not what you're doing, but ... why you're doing it. It's the behavior that's attached to it. Because if you want to have a lot of sex, that's great. But why are you having all that sex? That's what you gotta look at."

Describing herself as a person with more than one addictions and someone who binges, the star explained: "I always have to watch myself and just how I can get obsessed with things." She also described what she called a "rock bottom" experience with alcohol. "I was in the house by myself and I had those two bottles of wine and was going for the third bottle, and was like, 'How, hold up. You're in this house by yourself going onto your third bottle of wine. You might have a problem.' So I went cold turkey."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

She contemplated suicide

With drugs and addiction weighing so heavily on her life since childhood, Jada Pinkett Smith eventually hit an emotional low point. On another episode of "Red Table Talk," she opened up about wanting to commit suicide when she was 20 years old, and how she called her mother "in a panic." 

"I had an emotional breakdown that ... affected my mental stability," she recalled. "I had gotten to L.A. and gotten a certain amount of success and realized that [it] wasn't the answer. That [it] wasn't what was going to make everything okay. Actually it made things worse. And I became extremely suicidal."

The star half-joked that she didn't know why she thought she'd be "exempt" from emotional pain once she became successful. She initially managed the situation with Prozac, saying, "They had put me on it to just get me to a place where I could talk about what was happening — where I could function." Little did she know, it would kill her sex drive, which prompted her to eventually quit the medication. Therapy also didn't help, forcing Pinkett Smith to forge her own path to mental health. "I had to uproot some false beliefs," she explained. "I also had to ... let go and just come to terms with what life is." Despite her decision to quit therapy and medication, Pinkett Smith acknowledged that for many, those treatments do work and are necessary.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

She cried on the way down the aisle to marry Will

While her marriage to Will Smith has been #RelationshipGoals for so many of us, Jada Pinkett Smith admits she didn't want to get married at first. "I went crying down the freakin' aisle," Pinkett Smith recalled on "Red Table Talk." The "Girls Trip" star explained that she was three months pregnant at the time and felt pressured to have a wedding. "My first trimester was horrible. And I was so upset that I had to have a wedding. I was so pissed."

She also wasn't a fan of the idea of marriage itself, saying, "I just never really agreed with the construct ... I still don't. 'Til death do us part' is real for me. It's just all of the rules and all of the ideas ... the accepted conventional definition of wife in the paradigm ... I'm not that." Will and Jada prefer to call themselves life partners, rather than being married. As she told People: "I needed a different form to dissolve all the expectations that I had of a marriage. I needed to do that to see Will outside of husband and see him as a human being."

She and Will had serious marital struggles

Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith have had serious marital struggles. On another episode of "Red Table Talk," Jada said that early on in their marriage, she felt she was living a life that was beautiful on the outside, but largely inauthentic. "There was so much that wasn't me that I was living," she recalled. Will, who also appeared on the episode, admitted that his desire to shower her with beautiful things — including a mansion and lavish 40th birthday party — was more about his own needs than hers. "What I realized is I was building a picture," said Will. "I grew up in a household where I was scared and watched my father beat my mother up, right? So, I was gonna build the complete opposite of that ... I had a public perception that I wanted to project of our relationship."

Jada recalled being unhappy and yet confused at the same time, since her life on the outside was picture perfect. "There were times I felt ungrateful. I thought, 'Look at your life! How could you be so unhappy?' I used to think I was crazy," she said.

In the second part of the episode, Will revealed that he and Jada broke up for a while but never actually divorced. The couple reconciled after Pinkett Smith says she learned to make herself happy, and Will learned to stop his ego from getting in the way of their connection.

Her daughter struggled with self-harm

Jada Pinkett Smith was visibly shocked on "Red Table Talk" to hear her then-17-year-old daughter Willow's startling revelation about engaging in self-harm. Willow said that the situation started after her single "Whip My Hair" came out when she was 10, and she felt pressured to make more music. "After the tour and the promotion and all that ... they wanted me to finish my album," she said. "I was just like, no, I'm not going to do that. And then after all of that kind of settled down ... I was just listening to a lot of dark music ... I was just plunged into this black hole and I was like, cutting myself."

Willow admitted that only one friend knew she was doing it. When asked why, she replied, "I felt like I was experiencing so much emotional pain, but my physical circumstances weren't reflecting that." She further explained that at the time, cutting seemed to make emotional pain something you could "put your finger on, instead of being a ghost in your mind."

Despite the shock, Jada says she doesn't blame herself and understands why Willow didn't tell her. As she explained to Ryan Seacrest on his radio show: "We can't be there for every dark space ... and I had real understanding about that because there were a lot of dark moments in my own life I kept away from my mother because I didn't want to burden her."

Jada Pinkett Smith has alopecia

While Jada Pinkett Smith looks super stylish in headscarves, it turns out there's a very specific reason she wears them. On another "Red Table Talk" episode, she revealed that she's been struggling with hair loss. Granted, we're aware that Jada's hair loss may not exactly be a "tragedy," but for Jada, the discovery of the condition was traumatic. "I was in the shower one day, and then [there was] just handfuls of hair ... in my hands. I was just like, 'Oh my god. Am I going bald?' It was one of those times in my life where I was literally shaking with fear," said the star.

She also revealed that her hair loss was the reason for her close-cropped, asymmetrical hairstyles. Sadly, even though she's "gotten every kind of test there is to have," Pinkett Smith said the reason for her hair loss remains unknown.

Later, she explained in a video on Instagram that she's been treating her hair loss with "steroid injections," which according to her are "helping, but not curing" it. In late March of 2022, the topic of Pinkett Smith's hair loss battle came up again following a heated moment at one of the most controversial Oscars ceremonies to date. During the show, comedian Chris Rock joked "Jada, I love you. 'G.I. Jane 2,' can't wait to see it," referencing the film "G.I. Jane," in which the female lead sports a clean-shaven head. Pinkett Smith's husband, Will Smith, reacted by getting up from his seat to slap the comedian in an attempt to defend his wife. 

Domestic violence was part of her childhood

Jada Pinkett Smith also saw her mother, Adrienne Banfield-Jones, endure domestic abuse from her father throughout her childhood. During an episode of, "Red Table Talk," the "Set It Off" star recalled asking her mother about a scar on her back. She explained that this was the first time she realized her mother was a victim of domestic abuse.

Banfield-Jones went on to recall a terrifying incident where she had to flee her own home to escape the abuse. "He was pissed off about something," she said of Pinkett Smith's father, Robsol Pinkett Jr. "I don't even remember what the argument was about. He started hitting me, and he was in a rage. I was backing out of Daddy's den into the master bedroom, and you were still in the den, and I said, 'Oh my god, we left Jada.' I knew that he wasn't going to hurt you." Pinkett Smith was later brought to tears after hearing a family friend's heartbreaking experience in an abusive relationship. It seems the star was moved by the guest's story because of her own tragic childhood.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

She had a complicated relationship with her father

In an episode of "Red Table Talk," Jada Pinkett Smith opened up about struggling to forgive her late father, Robsol Pinkett Jr., who passed away of an overdose. Pinkett Jr. was not there throughout his daughter's childhood. He instead reached out after Pinkett Smith beat the odds and achieved great success in her career. "The issue for me was when I got into the position I got in and then he wanted to have a relationship. That hurt me," she said. "So when he died from that overdose I got the call from Caleeb," she said, referencing her half-brother, Caleeb Pinkett. "And the most difficult thing about him dying like that is that he and I had had a horrendous fight when I found out that he relapsed."

Caleeb went on to speak about his relationship with Pinkett Jr. He had an eye-opening conversation with his father about his drug use prior to his passing. "I was furious. And he told me, 'That's what the disease is. This is who I am.' And that was deep," he said. "Because he's saying that's who I am but I am still who I am to you. He said, 'I'm still your father.'" Pinkett Smith later admitted that her complicated relationship with her father impacted her romantic relationships as an adult. "You don't really realize it but you expect your intimate partner to in some way be the thing that your father wasn't," the mother of two said.

Jada Pinkett Smith 'cried for 45 days straight'

The problems in Jada Pinkett and Will Smith's marriage have come to light over the years. Will's memoir, "Will," and Jada Pinkett's "Red Table Talk" have let fans in on some of the darkest moments in the couple's relationship. Will joined Jada Pinkett on an episode of "Red Table Talk" to open up about a low point in their marriage that left his wife in tears. "There was a period where mommy woke up and cried for 45 days straight. I started keeping a diary," Will told his daughter, Willow, who sat at the table with her parents. "It was every morning," he continued. "I think that's the worst I've ever felt in our marriage. I was failing miserably."

Fans may recall that Pinkett Smith previously revealed she was romantically involved with singer August Alsina during a period of separation in her marriage. "It had been so long since I felt good and it was really a joy to help heal somebody," she said on "Red Table Talk," referencing her relationship with Alsina. It appears that the infamous "entanglement" brought the couple closer together in the end. "One of the things that I'm deeply grateful for in this whole process between you and I is that we have really gotten to that new place of unconditional love," Pinkett Smith shared on the show. Still, the famous couple's seemingly turbulent relationship continues to raise concern.