The spotlight was thrust once again on Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith‘s marriage this year after the now-infamous Oscars incident, where he slapped comedian Chris Rock for making her the butt of a joke. But the incident overshadowed something that happened earlier in the same ceremony, when co-host Regina Hall appeared to take a dig at the couple’s unconventional marital arrangement.
Will and Jada tied the knot in 1997, but for several years, rumours about them being in an open marriage followed them unwaveringly. At the Oscars ceremony earlier this year, Regina Hall seemingly made a reference to this when she said that Will was on her ‘list’ of eligible bachelors and that Jada had ‘approved’ it.
Will first spoke about their arrangement in a 2021 GQ profile. “Jada never believed in conventional marriage.… Jada had family members that had an unconventional relationship. So she grew up in a way that was very different than how I grew up. There were significant endless discussions about, what is relational perfection? What is the perfect way to interact as a couple? And for the large part of our relationship, monogamy was what we chose, not thinking of monogamy as the only relational perfection,” he said. “We have given each other trust and freedom, with the belief that everybody has to find their own way. And marriage for us can’t be a prison. And I don’t suggest our road for anybody. I don’t suggest this road for anybody. But the experiences that the freedoms that we’ve given one another and the unconditional support, to me, is the highest definition of love.”
Jada also spoke about the rumours of them being in an open relationship back in 2013. She wrote in a Facebook post, “Let me first say this, there are far more important things to talk about in regards to what is happening in the world than whether I have an open marriage or not. I am addressing this issue because a very important subject has been born from discussions about my statement that may be worthy of addressing.” She continued, “Do we believe loving someone means owning them? Do we believe that ownership is the reason someone should ‘behave’? Do we believe that all the expectations, conditions, and underlying threats of ‘you better act right or else’ keep one honest and true? Do we believe that we can have meaningful relationships with people who have not defined nor live by the integrity of his or her higher self? What of unconditional love? Or does love look like, feel like, and operate as enslavement? Do we believe that the more control we put on someone the safer we are? What of TRUST and LOVE?”
Jada concluded, “Will and I BOTH can do WHATEVER we want, because we TRUST each other to do so. This does NOT mean we have an open relationship…this means we have a GROWN one.”
In 2020, Jada invited her husband to her show Red Table Talk, and spoke about her ‘entanglement’ with rapper August Alsina. “We decided that we were going to separate for a period of time and you go figure out how to make yourself happy and I’ll figure out how to make myself happy,” Will said, while Jada added, “From there, as time went on, I got into a different kind of entanglement with August.…Yes, it was a relationship, absolutely.”
Jada never wanted to be married in the first place, she told People in 2020. “But my mother was like, ‘You have to get married’—she’s so old-school—and Will wanted a family. So I said, ‘Alright, maybe it’s something I should do,’” she said.
While several reports after the slap have suggested that the couple is stronger than ever, and that they’re supporting each other during the tumultous period, Will had previously alluded to their unconventional set-up and said that he wouldn’t recommend it to others.