Brow Beat

What Exactly Is Going On With Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith?

Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith on the red carpet for Gemini Man.
The Smiths. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

It seems that something is happening with Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith.

It sure does!

Is it bad? Tell me more.

All right, here’s the deal. If you aren’t aware, Jada Pinkett Smith; her mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris; and her daughter, Willow Smith, have a talk show on Facebook Watch called Red Table Talk, where three generations of women discuss the topics of the day.* Past episodes have included interviews with stars like Tiffany Haddish, Don Lemon, and Alicia Keys, as well as discussions of colorism, unconventional relationships, and … infidelity. Here’s the basic idea:

Infidelity, you say! I’m hearing something about Margot Robbie. Would you say that the latest episode of Red Table Talk features the show’s frankest discussion of infidelity yet?

The latest episode of Red Table Talk features the show’s frankest discussion of infidelity yet! Pinkett Smith and Smith have a candid conversation about their marriage, and specifically a relationship Jada Pinkett Smith had with singer August Alsina while the couple was separated. You can watch the entire thing right here:

Couldn’t you just tell me about it instead?

Sure! Smith and Pinkett Smith’s marriage has long been a subject of public fascination, both because of their relatable corniness—Slate’s Rachelle Hampton called them “the goofy uncle and bougie aunt of Black celebrity culture”—and because there have been all sorts of rumors about them over the years, ranging from whispers that the couple had an open marriage to stories about a supposedly impending divorce that were public enough that Smith denied them on Facebook.

One of the many rumors about the Smiths—yes, there was also one about Margot Robbie—was that Jada Pinkett Smith had had an affair with 27-year-old singer August Alsina. Alsina supposedly alluded to their relationship in the music video for his song “Nunya,” in which he responds to texts from a spurned former lover named “Koren,” which is Pinkett Smith’s middle name.

OK, but that music video is from the spring of 2019. Why are people talking about this now?

Because last week, Alsina sat down for an interview with Angela Yee of Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club for an interview about his new album, and talked frankly about his relationship with Pinkett Smith. You can watch the whole thing here:

I believe I’ve already made my position on watching the whole thing clear.

Fine, fine. At 16:30, Yee asks Alsina about the rumors of his relationship with Pinkett Smith. He responds by confirming that they had a relationship, says he’s lost friendships and other relationships over it, and says that despite the rumors, Will Smith “gave [him] his blessing” to pursue a romantic relationship with Jada Pinkett Smith. Here’s his answer in full:

Here’s what I’ll say. People can have whatever ideas that they like, but what I’m not OK with is my character being in question. When certain things are questionable that I know is not me, or that I know that I hadn’t done, you know? Contrary to what some people may believe, I’m not a troublemaker, you know? I don’t like drama. Drama actually makes me nauseous, you know what I’m saying? And I also don’t think that it’s ever important for people to know what I do, who I sleep with, who I date, right? But in this instance, it’s very different, because as I said, there are so many people who are side-eyeing me, looking at me questionable about it. I’ve lost money, friendships, relationships behind it, and I think it’s because people don’t necessarily know the truth, that I’ve never done anything wrong. I love those people, literally like my family. I don’t have a bad thing to say about them. They’re beautiful people. When something starts affecting my life, and not only affecting my life, but affecting my wellness and my well-being, and also starts to block my heart, my heart space is blocked, I don’t really have a choice but to express my truth.

I actually sat down with Will and had a conversation due to the transformation from their marriage to life partnership, that they had spoken of several times, and it, you know, not involving romanticism. He gave me his blessing. And I totally gave myself to that relationship, for years of my life. You know. And I truly, and really, really deeply loved and have a ton of love for her. I devoted myself to it. I gave my full self to it. So much so to the point that I can die right now and be OK with it, knowing that I truly gave myself to somebody.

What’s Alsina talking about with all that life partnership stuff?

The Smiths have said in the past that they think of themselves as “life partners” rather than husband and wife, which is one of the things that has sparked so much talk about the state of their marriage. Here’s a rundown from Page Six of some of the things they’ve said over the years.

Wait, I’ve just heard Armie Hammer is getting divorced?

Yes, but stay on topic.

So what did Will and Jada Pinkett Smith have to say about this other relationship on Red Table Talk?

The gist is that the couple confirmed that Pinkett Smith and Alsina had a relationship, but that the Smiths were separated at the time. Or as Will Smith put it to his wife during the interview, “I was done with your ass.” As far as the implication that Smith had given Alsina “his blessing,” here’s what Jada Pinkett Smith had to say:

One thing I want to get clear about and clean up, one of the things that was kind of swirling in the press about you giving permission, which is, uh, you know, the only person that could give permission in that particular circumstance is myself. But what August was probably trying to communicate—because I could actually see how he would perceive it as permission, because we were separated amicably. And I think he also wanted to make it clear that he’s not a homewrecker, because he’s not.

What euphemisms did the Smiths use to refer to the relationship?

Will Smith referred to it as “an interaction” at one point, but the blue ribbon goes to Jada Pinkett Smith for saying “as time went on, I got into a different kind of entanglement with August.” Will Smith wasn’t buying “entanglement” and made her clarify that it was a relationship.

Did Will Smith seem happy to be discussing all this on camera at this point in time?

No, he did not! Both Smiths seemed unhappy that Alsina brought this up, because according to them, it was all over years ago. “It is a little weird that all this stuff is coming up now,” said Jada Pinkett Smith. “It happened so long ago.”

Will this episode of Red Table Talk finally stop people from speculating about Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s marriage once and for all?

Definitely. That’s all behind us now.

For more of Slate’s culture coverage, listen to Taffy Brodesser-Akner discuss her philosophy of celebrity profile writing on the Working podcast.