The Untold Truth Of Jada Pinkett Smith's Mom, Adrienne Banfield-Norris

The following article includes references to substance abuse and domestic abuse.

Is there anything the Smith family can't do? Take Jada Pinkett Smith. The actor and entrepreneur's career started in the 1980s, when she landed a recurring role on "A Different World." Over the years, she's starred in more than 20 feature films, from "Set It Off" to "Girls Trip." She married Will Smith in 1997 and gave birth to kids Willow and Jaden shortly after. 

In 2018, Pinkett Smith kickstarted an extremely candid series on Facebook Watch, called "Red Table Talk." The show features Pinkett Smith, her mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris, and her daughter Willow, along with famous guests like Snoop Dogg and Toni Braxton. Over the course of each episode, no topics — from race to polyamory — are off-limits. In a July 2020 episode, Pinkett Smith even opened up about her marital affair with August Alsina. According to Variety, the episode racked up a staggering 15 million views in 24 hours and etched Will into the annals of meme history.

It seems the Smiths have struck a chord, especially Pinkett Smith's mom, who The New York Times even dubbed "the voice of reason you're seeking." So what else is there to know about Adrienne Banfield-Norris? Let's find out. 

Adrienne Banfield-Norris struggled with addiction

Adrienne Banfield-Norris once revealed on "Red Table Talk" that for most of her daughter's childhood, she was a heroin addict. She even struggled with addiction while getting her nursing degree.

"I think I didn't find out my mother was addicted to heroin until I was in my teens," Jada Pinkett Smith said on the episode. "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. However, the strain on her relationship with her daughter remains. "I think people have this idea that Jada and I are so close and it's this amazing mother-daughter relationship," Banfield-Norris said in an interview with The New York Times. "It absolutely is not. And I don't think that we've ever tried to portray it that way. I think people want to believe that it is that."

Adrienne Banfield-Norris still goes to sobriety meetings

Adrienne Banfield-Norris is making up for lost time. She bought a home in Los Angeles, California (where the Smith family also lives), with her fourth husband, Rodney Norris, according to The New York Times. It's good to be nearby as, in 2019, "Red Table Talk" was Facebook Watch's number one original series in the U.S., based on viewership (per the Times). 

During the coronavirus pandemic, Banfield-Norris has spent her days staying fit and working on her continued sobriety. She posted a pre-gym selfie to Instagram, writing, "Trying to motivate myself to get back in the gym. A good look in the mirror always does the trick! Elliptical here I come."

Banfield-Norris is also still meeting with sobriety groups, according to Oprah Mag. "The quarantine, believe it or not, has actually put me back in touch with going to meetings," she told the magazine. "My sponsor actually called me and let me know there were meetings online. I went to my old home group back in Baltimore. It was such a good feeling."

Adrienne Banfield-Norris had Jada Pinkett Smith in her teens

The age gap between Jada Pinkett Smith and Adrienne Banfield-Norris isn't large. Banfield-Norris had Pinkett Smith when she was just 17 years old. According to an episode of "Red Table Talk" dubbed "The Invincible Black Women Epidemic," Banfield-Norris faced discrimination during her delivery. Her father was even a senior doctor at the facility, but that did not protect her from victimization, where her pain was downplayed by those tending to her. Nevertheless, Banfield-Norris had to be there for Pinkett Smith, a task that wasn't easy.

Parenting at such a young age was a nightmare for the new mom. "They were the worst years of my life," she revealed. "Because I was just so confused. So in a rebellious state, I wasn't getting along with mommy and daddy, just being really uncomfortable in my own skin."

Because of this difficulty, Banfield-Norris and Pinkett Smith did not have a close relationship, and in fact had one devoid of touch. Pinkett Smith found comfort in her grandmother, though unfortunately, when she was 13, her grandmother died. Pinkett Smith then shared she had to re-raise herself. "Her house was safe. And so once she was gone, there was no safety. So then I went into the world and created my own safety," she disclosed in a conversation about motherhood.

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She was a victim of domestic abuse

Adrienne Banfield-Norris' woes did not end at parenting Jada Pinkett Smith as a teenager. She equally had to endure an abusive relationship with Pinkett Smith's own father, a situation the actor got to witness. "I knew that my mother and my father had a very violent relationship," she recalled during an episode of "Red Table Talk." The sit-down was one of the most requested topics for the "Red Table Talk" women at the time of shooting, and would also be significant, because it'd be the first time Willow Smith heard these stories about her grandfather.

Asked what was the worst incident she experienced at the hands of Robsol Pinkett Jr., Adrienne Banfield-Norris said, "Oh! There was so many. Like, I have a scar on my back now." The mark, according to Pinkett Smith, was from when her father threw Banfield-Norris over a banister. These acts of violence often happened when Pinkett Jr. was intoxicated, a struggle that would later drive Pinkett Smith to quit alcohol altogether herself.

"He gave me a black eye once, and I tried to hide it from mommy, but she saw it," Banfield-Norris shared. Ironically, her mother — Pinkett Smith's grandmother — worked as a social worker and had told her to stay away from Pinkett Jr. during their first meeting. When the beating worsened and Banfield-Norris finally had enough, she ran away to save her life.

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.

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 struggled with low self-esteem

In a talk with best-selling author Michael Pollan, Adrienne Banfield-Norris opened up about her struggle with self-acceptance. As an adult, she had to deeply reflect on why she constantly didn't feel good enough. It had nothing to do with her childhood or upbringing, she explained, rather, she felt it was innate to who she was as a person. These thoughts were further echoed when Tina Knowles-Lawson was a guest on the podcast Banfield-Norris hosted, "Positively Gam."

While Knowles-Lawson emphasized that she owed her success to having a bucket list and growing more confident as she got older, Banfield-Norris brought to light that confidence wasn't her strongest suit. "I had very low self-esteem, and very insecure. I didn't do anything that my sister didn't do," she shared. This kind of thinking often prevented her from moving forward, so much that she felt dwarfed at "Red Table Talk." 

Being at the table with her daughter and granddaughter, who are so articulate in front of the camera, only heightened her levels of insecurity. "Sometimes I'm sitting at the table and I actually shrink. I can't find my voice. I can't find my words to fit into the conversation," she revealed during an episode of "Positively Gam" in which she discussed self-doubt with psychologist Dr. Alfiee Breland-Noble.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Adrienne Banfield-Norris celebrated 31 years of clean living in 2021

In December 2021, Adrienne Banfield-Norris had been free from her heroin addiction for a little over three decades. Having been vocal about her journey to get clean, she paused to reflect, and let her followers in on her journey with a reflective video on Instagram

"31 years. One day at a time," Banfield-Norris shared, appearing in a sort of meditative state and surrounded by the calmness of nature. Her tone, subtle yet powerful, was a blend of gratitude and resounding triumph.

Banfield-Norris shared that she owed much of the milestone to giving in, an act that wasn't easy to get to early on: "I've spent so many years in that insanity of active addiction, running in and out, and just that revolving door — you know — trying to get my life back together. And, you know, that surrender was a struggle." Accompanying the post was a passage from Narcotics Anonymous, recited as Banfield-Norris captured the serene scenery of a hill and a Buddhist statue. 

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).

Red Table Talk was a significant career shift for her

Prior to being a familiar face on "Red Table Talk," Adrienne Banfield-Norris was a practicing nurse. She had graduated top of her class from Coppin State University and worked her way through the profession for a solid 35 years, per The New York Times. But on "Red Table Talk," she was thrust into unfamiliar territory. It definitely changed her life, starting with its conception way back in 2013, when the first video was unofficially posted on YouTube. The show's official pilot episode, which aired in 2018, was an in-depth exploration of motherhood.

Jada Pinkett Smith thought highly of her mother's career shift. As she said in an interview with Harper's Bazaar, "As a woman, it's such an amazing story, because women feel like as they get older their lives are over. It's not. It's never over. I don't care how old you think you're getting. My mother is 65 and her first freaking photoshoot is freaking 'Harper's Bazaar'!"

Banfield-Norris validated Pinkett Smith's sentiments during a 2018 episode of "Red Table Talk," mentioning that the platform allowed her to explore her own internal self more easily. She continues to grow a massive social media following, to the tune of over half a million on Instagram, and has gone on to find her own voice through the "Positively Gam" podcast.

Navigating friendships became difficult for her with her newfound fame

Being ushered into the limelight meant that Adrienne Banfield-Norris' private life would undergo a drastic change. All of a sudden, the genuineness of the people around her became questionable. By virtue of being Jada Pinkett Smith's mother and a regular on the Emmy award-winning show "Red Table Talk," she attracted all sorts of people from all walks of life. Unfortunately, some of them didn't have the best of intentions.

"Even for me as an adult, you know, you want to believe that people want to be your friend because they like you. I want people to want to be my friend because I'm Adrienne," she voiced on a 2019 episode of "Red Table Talk." Similarly, Banfield-Norris' granddaughter, Willow Smith, was vocal about the challenges of being famous, including a stalking experience she faced that lasted a number of years and resulted in a break-in.

As such, Banfield-Norris and her family take the enforcement of boundaries seriously, with fans and strangers alike. In fact, they take security so seriously that when a drone was spotted at the Smiths' residence in March 2022, the Los Angeles Police Department swung into action (per ET). Family is also unfortunately not exempt from these requirements, according to a "Red Table Talk" discussion about boundaries.

She's a huge fan of Gabrielle Union

Gabrielle Union and Jada Pinkett Smith ended a long-lasting industry feud on an episode of "Red Table Talk." Pinkett Smith revealed that the pair, who hadn't talked for 17 years, were associates before, but they had a falling out. Although they couldn't pinpoint a specific reason for ghosting each other over the years, Pinkett Smith eventually reached out.

During her introduction of Union on "Red Table Talk", Pinkett Smith advised Adrienne Banfield-Norris — who is a staunch fan of Union's — to behave. "Don't fan out on me asking for autographs and all that," she instructed her mom. Banfield-Norris gave her daughter her word: "You know you have taught me well. I don't — I try not to ask for pictures, or autographs, and try not to act goofy."

When she did eventually meet the "Being Mary Jane" actor, Banfield-Norris maintained her cool, welcoming her with a warm hug. However, once Union and Pinkett Smith had walked away, Banfield-Norris expressed her excitement silently, cheering and smiling widely. And while she wasn't involved in the actual conversation at the table, at the end of the episode, the fan in Banfield-Norris came out. "So, Gab, before you leave, can I get a picture?" she asked. Union agreed, and of course, Pinkett Smith joined in on the fun shoot!

Working out became her second obsession

In 2014, Adrienne Banfield-Norris set the internet ablaze when Jada Pinkett Smith posted a picture of her at the ocean. The Facebook post read: "Willow took this shot of her grandmother, my mother, emerging from the ocean today. She is 61!I wanna be her when I grow up. Happy Friday..." 

Four years later, the three-generation trio set tongues wagging yet again with a since-deleted Instagram post that highlighted their killer abs and flat tummies (via the Daily Mail)."Working out almost became my new obsession after my addiction. It kind of replaced one with the other," Banfield-Norris said in an interview with Harpers Bazaar. "I have a trainer back in Maryland where I live, but when I come out here, Jada is the trainer."

Banfield-Norris' active lifestyle is splashed all over her Instagram account. Sometimes she's hanging by a thread on a difficult day, trying to have a strong finish to the year, or simply offering advice on perfect form. She accompanies working out with healthy eating, and an occasional Queen Afua cleanse. During a Smith family intervention on "Red Table Talk," the doctor's analysis showed that Banfield-Norris was, in fact, one of the healthiest amongst the family, so much that he thought her age was a typo.

Adrienne Banfield-Norris knows she's judgmental

While Jada Pinkett Smith and Willow Smith tend to bring a more modern approach to "Red Table Talk," Adrienne Banfield-Norris has always kept a reserved demeanor, although she tries have an open mind. During an episode titled "Why Are Women Mean To Each Other?" Banfield-Norris admitted to having a level of bias. "People will say that I'm mean. They will definitely say that I'm mean. There's a difference in the meanness 'cause I'm not for the nonsense. ... Probably one of my worst character defects is being judgmental."

At the table, a number of uncomfortable topics have come up in the past, many of which Banfield-Norris has had a tough time navigating. When Willow opened up about adopting a polyamorous lifestyle in 2021, her grandmother took a tolerant approach. Later in the episode, however, when polyamory activist Gabrielle Smith — who has had several partners, including a married man — came to the table, Banfield-Norris said she found the concept confusing.

Her more conservative nature was further tested when sex was discussed on "Red Table Talk." She expressed her desire to leave Willow out of the discussion, but Pinkett Smith overruled her. "Lord have mercy! You're trying to kill me here," Banfield-Norris expressed. And just when she thought all the touchy topics were done and dusted, she had to give her opinion on pornography, a subject that made her say, "I just want y'all to know, this is a lot for me."

She was in charge of Jada Pinkett Smith's wedding

In his memoir, "Will," Academy Award-winning actor Will Smith — now famed for the historic Oscars altercation with comedian Chris Rock —gave away early details of his much-publicized relationship with Jada Pinkett Smith. Tired of Hollywood and all it had to offer, Pinkett Smith had set her sights on Baltimore. She'd said goodbye to the glitz and glam, and fully embraced life on a farm when she got a call from Smith, asking her to be his girlfriend. Not a night was spent at the farm Pinkett Smith had purchased.

The couple got married in 1997, an occasion that was perhaps the most underwhelming in Pinkett Smith's life. "Gammy had to handle everything. Jada agreed to show up, walk down the aisle, eat some cake, yell 'Happy New Year!' and be out," Smith wrote. Pinkett Smith's reluctance to get married was brought about by the fact that she had doubts about monogamy and how sustainable it was over a lengthy period of time.

Again and again, rumors of a Smith divorce have made its rounds on the internet. Banfield-Norris' reaction to them has always been to get lawyers involved, but Pinkett Smith isn't losing sleep over fabricated stories. Her relationship with Will is beyond marriage, in a way that not even an entanglement with August Alsina could crush. "It's more of a life partnership, so it's not steeped in that [wedding] day," Pinkett Smith said on "Red Table Talk."

She only dated men without children

The relationship between Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith's first wife, Sheree Zampino, was fully dissected on the first episode of "Red Table Talk." Pinkett Smith's entry into parenthood was through Smith and Zampino's son, Trey Smith — who Pinkett Smith calls her bonus child. Early attempts at co-parenting for the trio weren't void of drama, however. "The beginning between us was rough," Pinkett Smith shared. "Because I did not understand marriage, I didn't understand divorce, I will say that I probably should have fell back."

Adrienne Banfield-Norris had foreseen this erratic future, and didn't want her daughter to go through the experience. In her own life, she intentionally opted to stay as far away from baby mama drama as she could. "I've not had to deal with it because I purposely, purposely dated men that did not have children," she disclosed on a "Red Table Talk" Q&A.

Zampino and Pinkett Smith have since found their rhythm as co-parents, and have worked together at it for more than two decades. Zampino spends holidays with the Smith family, and Banfield-Norris maintains that she doesn't play in the kitchen: "I love Ree so much. She taught me how to make macaroni and cheese recently, right? 'Cause, she cooks so well."

Adrienne Banfield-Norris has been married four times

Adrienne Banfield-Norris is experienced with marriage. She first tied the knot with Robsol Pinkett, Jr. when she was in high school. The union, Banfield-Norris made known during a 2021 interview with Dear Media Studio, was a result of the strictness of her traditional family. "That marriage lasted for about a year," she explained. Her second marriage began when Jada Pinkett Smith was 8 years old. After four years, however, the couple called it a day. 

Her third marriage took off at the onset of her recovery journey. It was her longest and made it to the 20-year mark, but the relationship had taken a turn for the worse. "I was unhappy in the marriage. And I just really started thinking that 'You know, I have more years behind me than I do in front of me, and I gotta be happy.'"

The love story between Rodney Norris and Banfield-Norris goes a long way back, 30 years to be specific. The pair had dated when they were younger, but weren't in the right mindset to make it work. "Now we've come back together and we are totally different people," she shared during an episode of "Positively Gam" named "4th Time's a Charm." That definitely seems to be the case, and the loved-up couple appears to be plenty happy together, sharing their affection for one another on social media. That they were able to find their way back to each other is simply divine.