When I think about Will Smith's career, I'm kind of at a loss for words. I mean, he starred in major movies like Bad Boys, Independence Day, and Men in Black. Then, gave us motivational art through Ali, Pursuit of Happyness and I Am Legend. Not to mention, as a master of his life and career, he turned down roles Django Unchained and The Matrix, two major successes. Can you imagine having a career that successful? Where you can define the bags you need versus what bags need you? And as time progresses, the 53-year-old only continues to adapt and flourish. During the production of Apple TV's Emancipation, Smith had a beautiful conversation with GQ to discuss the film and his upcoming memoir, Will.
Emancipation is different from typical projects we've seen him in since he's always seemed to stay away from films discussing slavery. He told GQ:
"I didn't want to show Black people in that light. I wanted to be a superhero. So I wanted to depict Black excellence alongside my white counterparts... This [Emancipation] was one that was about love and the power of Black love. That was something that I could rock with. We were going to make a story about how Black love makes us invincible."
The big screen isn't the only place we'll be seeing something new from the King Richard star. His memoir, which will be released in November, reveals a different version of himself.
"I just really wanted to totally destroy the clinging to 'Will Smith, I'm trying to separate the image of Will Smith from who I actually am."
During the interview, Smith explained how his struggle with perfection and need "to be the biggest movie star in the world" fueled his career success but stifled his personal relationships and caused contention in his marriage. For example, he details how Jada never wanted a traditional wedding but he pressured her until she gave in. He admits:
"This would be the first of many compromises Jada would make over the years that painfully negated her own values."
His relationship wasn't the only strained area in his life. His need to please people and be the character of himself that he had created, was emotionally harming him. In a draft of his book he writes, "Will Smith,' the alien annihilating M.C., the bigger-than-life movie star, is largely a construction—a carefully crafted and honed character—designed to protect myself."
At nine years old, Will Smith saw his father aggressively punch his mother in the side of her head. He recalls his brother trying to fight back and his sister running away to hide. However, he was frozen in fear. And that moment in some part changed the trajectory of his life. For years after, he felt the need to people-please, to make sure that others around him were entertained so they wouldn't respond negatively or violently.
He also felt by making his mother proud, he was somehow apologizing for the day he couldn't stand up for her. Smith admits that he would never have been able to share this truth when his father was alive and has a great deal of affection for him.
"He was one of the greatest blessings of my life, and also one of my greatest sources of pain."
Many of his values about loyalty and ambition come from his father. These emotions stuck with him for decades even as his career soared. It wasn't until his 50's when he went on an emotional journey that his mindset started to shift.
Smith spent time in solitude traveling to Utah, visited Peru for ayahuasca rituals, and even met with an intimacy coach where he confessed that he'd be very happy leading a harem.
"The idea of traveling with 20 women that I loved and took care of and all of that, it seemed like a really great idea."
He even name-dropped a few women who he'd like to be a part of it, such as Misty Copeland and Halle Berry. Although after healthy conversations with the coach, he realized that probably wouldn't work. "After we played it out a little bit, I was like, 'That would be horrific.'"
Speaking of women, we'd be remiss if we didn't discuss his beautiful wife Jada Pinkett Smith and the highs and lows of their relationship. After a viral episode of Red Table Talk, where the couple discussed Jada's infidelity, many were curious about where the couple currently stands. And while he admits major struggles in the past, it seems like the two are in a happy place now. He tells GQ:
"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. (He repeats) 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."
Today, Will is embracing a whole new mindset by embracing social media. Because as we know, being perfect is kinda boring online. His freedom of authenticity and truth in his creative endeavors and relationship has him feeling a new level of freedom and happiness:
"The pursuit of truth is the only way to be happy in this lifetime."
Featured image by Jason Merritt/Getty Images