Will Smith and Oprah Winfrey. Picture: Instagram
Will Smith and Oprah Winfrey. Picture: Instagram

Will Smith gave Oprah Winfrey first dibs on a tell-all interview about his memoir, ‘Will’

By Debashine Thangevelo Time of article published Nov 12, 2021

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There is a maelstrom of headline-grabbing stories on Will Smith. A lot of this has to do with him releasing his unflinchingly candid memoir, “Will”.

Earlier this year, his post about “being in the worst shape of his life” went viral with fans and industry friends being most supportive.

But the microscopic gaze of the media has never been more intense as Smith unpacks his childhood trauma, insecurities, career highs and lows, parenting style and marital woes.

His overshare when it comes to his sexual appetite hasn’t gone down as well, though.

What really threw fans for a loop, aside from the entanglement saga which he addressed with wife Jada Pinkett Smith on “Red Table Talk” last year, was the revelation that his then 14-year-old son Jaden Smith wanted to be emancipated from his parents.

Jaden didn’t follow through with it but it stung nonetheless.

Actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith arrive at the 73rd Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California January 10, 2016. Picture: Picture: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

Back to the memoir, it has everyone chomping at the bits for every juicy detail. After all, Will is one of Hollywood’s biggest – and most bankable – stars.

On the one hand, his is a rags-to-riches Hollywood story, the kind that movies are written about. But, behind the fame and the fortune, there is a brokenness that is still healing on several fronts.

And it is little surprise that Will trusted Oprah Winfrey with the first interview about his memoir on “The Oprah Conversation” on Apple TV+.

He’s been on the talk show queen’s couch many times in the past and the process of unburdening is, of course, easier when it is to someone who lends an empathetic ear and comforting words.

And right off the bat, Oprah gave the autobiography her stamp of approval.

She said: “I think it’s the best memoir I ever read.”

Having read a lot of memoirs, she praised Smith’s one because, “it’s your voice, it’s comedic, it’s inspiration, it’s like self-help”.

And she admitted to being unsure if she would be able to do the book justice in the hour and a half they had to chat.

She also praised him for his role in “King Richard” and said: “It’s the best film about a black family that I have witnessed in my life.”

After cracking a joke that they can wrap up the interview as Oprah loves everything, Will dialled the narrative back to his childhood and his father’s abusive behaviour, which garnered a different response for his siblings and him.

Will Smith, Saniyya Sidney, and Demi Singleton in King Richard. Picture: Warner Bros.

He said: “Harry was fight, Ellen was flight and I was freeze.”

Known for his self-deprecating humour, he explained how he found that to be the perfect elixir to cross all divides.

During their chat, Oprah read out a few poignant quotes.

One of which was: “Over the past 30 years, like all of us, I have dealt with failure, loss, humiliation, divorce, and death. I’ve had my life threatened, my money taken away, my privacy invaded, my family disintegrated – and every single day, still, I got up, mixed concrete, and laid another brick.

“No matter what you’re going through, there is always another brick sitting right there in front of you, waiting to be laid. The only question is, are you going to get up and lay it!”

James Avery, Will Smith and Janet Hubert in a scene from the ’Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’. Picture: AP/NBC.

Despite his parents having reservations about him becoming a rapper (which wasn’t viewed as a career back then) instead of going to college, he chased his dream and it bore fruit with “Girls Ain't Nothing but Trouble”, his first single with childhood friend Jeffrey “DJ Jazzy Jeff” Townes, propelling him into the limelight.

But he got caught up in the hype and the lifestyle and when the taxman came to collect, he found himself trapped in the vortex of a downward spiral.

This was prior to him landing the hit sitcom, the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, thanks to Quincy Jones pushing him to deliver an impromptu audition at his house party.

Will also shed light on his box-office successes and the “subtle sickness of material success”, how he dealt with that whole sex symbol status following that unforgettable “Bad Boys” scene, where he is running down the street, unbuttoned shirt billowing in the wind and that taut six-pack stealing the scene.

Of course, Oprah tacitly broached the whole entanglement issue, which happened after Jada’s 40th birthday bash.

He said: “We never officially separated. What happened was we realised it was a fantasy illusion that we could make each other happy and we agreed that she had to make herself happy and I had to make myself happy.

“And then we were going to present ourselves back to the relationship already happy versus demanding that the other person fill the empty cup.”

Will admitted to it being more contentious on his side.

And, last but not least, Will shed light on his spiritual journey and healing with ayahuasca, a spiritual ritual medicine administered by a shaman in Peru.

At the end of the day, the ebb and flow of life is truly about the pursuit of happiness and, Will’s journey is no different. But growth isn’t with life lessons.

So, no, Will isn’t going through some kind of life crisis. He’s simply found his peace and purpose!

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