Jada Pinkett Smith's Co-Mothering Conversation With Will Smith's Ex-Wife Was Powerful

Jada Pinkett Smith

Jada Pinkett Smith released a new series today (May 7) that she hopes will inspire families to be vulnerable and forthcoming with each other. Red Table Talk, which lives on Facebook Watch, features Sheree Fletcher (husband Will's ex-wife) as its first guest.

Through their conversation, Jada and Sheree reveal their personal struggles, with plans to encourage women to harmonize for the benefit of their children.

Last week, xoNecole had the chance to celebrate the launch of the new series at the Jeremy Hotel in West Hollywood with Jada and her mother, Adrienne.

Journalist Jaleesa Lashay pictured with Jada Pinkett Smith and Adrienne Banfield-JonesxoNecole

While the family has managed to build a healthy blended relationship, with Jada and Will serving as everyone's #relationshipgoals, Jada explained that it wasn't always that easy:

"Sheree and I started a blended family, before it was even a popular idea. We didn't have a blueprint and we had both come from broken families."

Jada was in her early 20s when she first met Sheree, who at the time was going through a divorce with Will and raising their son Trey, all while struggling with her own healing process.

"I remember when Jada came into the picture, and I was in the process of dealing with the breakup. It was a lot. In retrospect, we'd all probably make different choices."

Throughout their struggle, Jada and Sheree still managed to come together. A testimony that will hopefully resonate with women in similar situations. There's an abundance to be learned from these women and their maturity and ability to focus on the true priority - the children.

During our interview with Sheree, she mentioned that Jada loved Trey from the beginning. She even recalled the moment, when Trey and Jada first met:

"I remember Will said to me, 'I'm going to introduce him (Trey) to Jada this weekend.' When he came home, I asked him, 'So you met Ms. Jada? What did you think?' He said, 'Mommy. I really like her. I want to buy her a present.' And that didn't make me sad or jealous. That was music to my ears. So, we got her a gift. I wrapped it beautifully, and I put a card in there from myself. It simply said, 'Thank you for making a great impression on my son. Love, Sheree.' And that was our first interaction as blended. It was of gratitude."

It is that same gratitude and love that Jada desires for women throughout the world to unite and find. In fact, while the two have managed to maintain a healthy blended family for the past 22 years, Jada said their Red Table Talk conversation was necessary because it was the first time they both opened up to discuss the past.

"That conversation between us really brought deep healing, in regards to a lot of things that have transpired and brought us closer. We're hoping that people can feel like they can have their own red tables. The red table is a place where we can let it go and just be – our most vulnerable truthful selves."

Realistically, everyone's situation is different. However, as someone who comes from a blended family, I know that it is possible to build a healthy friendship when women are able to separate their ego from their purpose. I will never forget, at 16 years old, when my bonus mother and mom both joined me in the restroom at my sweet sixteen to help me change into my second dress. It was a moment of love and respect, that I understood even at sixteen.

In a 2013 post to social media, Jada alluded to just how difficult the beginning of their 22-year relationship was. Furthermore, she also emphasized that blended families are never easy and that take work, but for the sake of the well-being of the children involved, it's work that's always worth it. Always.

"Blended families are NEVER easy, but here's why I don't have a lot of sympathy for your situation because, we CHOOSE them. When I married Will, I knew Trey was part of the package…Period! If I didn't want that, I needed to marry someone else. Then I learned if I am going to love Trey, I had to learn to love the most important person in the world to him: his mother. And the two of us may not have always LIKED each other, but we have learned to LOVE each other."
"I can't support any actions that keep a man from his children of a previous marriage. These are the situations that separate the women from the girls. We can't say we love our man and then come in between him and his children. THAT'S selfishness…NOT love. WOMAN UP… I've been there…I know. My blended family made me a giant. Taught me so much about love, commitment, and it has been the biggest ego death to date. It's time you let your blended family make you the giant you truly are."

When women are able to put their differences aside, it makes a greater impact on children because it shows us what love is really about.

Love is not about ego. Love is not about insecurity.

It's about unconditional love and understanding. Jada and Sheree understand that. Sheree shared:

"It wasn't about me. It wasn't about her. She didn't need me to like her. That's ego and insecurity. I didn't need her to like me. I didn't need her to validate me. It wasn't about that, so we came in as women who kind of had a sense of self."

As we celebrated the launch in West Hollywood, I observed the undeniable way Jada and Sheree interacted with love. Jada walked in and acknowledged Sheree first, while gifting her with an early Mother's Day present – a Cartier necklace. Sheree showed her support, while expressing continuous gratitude for the relationship Jada has with her son.

And while many people would have their fear about releasing this episode, Jada and Sheree had no hesitation. Jada explained that she "wanted people to have an inside of our life, but with integrity," while Sheree felt comfortable because of their history:

"We have 22 years [of] history, so I trust this woman. I know her heart. I know what she's about. So, when she asks, I'm like, 'Let's do it.' We were two women, imperfect women who just were willing to try to make the situation work. And we love our kids and wanted to put them first. If we can do it, they can do it. Y'all can do it."

While we can't force women to put their feelings aside for their families and children, we can only hope that stories like ours of healthy blended families will inspire and spark new images of what families can be. 2018 is the year of women empowerment, and we hope that translates not only across friends and family, but also with ex-wives and baby mothers.

Red Table Talk, the weekly 10-episode series, is hosted by three generations of women at the Smith home. The show will feature several celebrity guests, including Tiffany Haddish and Gabrielle Union. Make sure to tune into the first episode featuring Sheree Fletcher on Facebook Watch now by clicking here or watching the episode down below.

Featured image via Red Table Talk still

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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