The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on April 15, 2001 · Page 53
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 53

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Salina, Kansas
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Sunday, April 15, 2001
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Page 53
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the Smiths are now the town's highest-profile couple. Will, 32, is following up mega-hits like Independence Day and Men in Black with a Muhammad Ali biopic. Jada, 29, has built a career on meaty dramas (Jason's Lyric, Menace II Society) and popcorn crowd-pleasers {The NvMy Professor, Scream 2). Now she's back onscreen in a bittersweet comedy. Kingdom Come. She's also busy filming back-to-back Matrix sequels. It's a crazed life for a couple with two Mds — son Jaden, 2, and Willow, 5 months — plus Trey, 8, a son from Will's first marriage. Jada is aware of the burdens on a Hollywood marriage, and the hazards of working in far-flung locations. She says her "heart broke" when she heard of the break-ups of Bruce and Demi and Tom and Nicole. Does she worry that their busy careers could lead her and Will to divorce? "I'm not going to let that happen," she insists. "I will throw my career away before I let it break up our marriage. I made it clear to Will. I'd throw it away completely" Jada was reared in Baltimore by her young mother and her grandmother, a social worker. After attending They didn't drop out of the sky" Obviously, her chil- ' dren will be given many things. "Some things," she corrects. "But that's also a journey for Will and me, to understand the balance of how much to give or not to give, because working hard is what creates character." Because their kids are "blessed," Jada says, they need to be grateful, and aware of how others live. Trey visits a nursing home once a week to play bingo with residents. They don't know he's Will Smith's son. "It's something he does on his ovm, not because he's Will's son or Jada's bonus son. He loves doing it, and the old people love him. He completely entei-tains them." America knows Will as a charmer onscreen, and he can charm his own kids, Jada says. "But he's a hard disciplinarian. We both are. Our kids are so polite it's ridiculous. 'Thank you, ma'am.' 'Yes, sir.' We demand it." Jada speaks frankly about her disappointment in some people who should be moral role models. Jesse Jackson's fathering a baby out of wedlock was "a big letdown. There's no excuse." Will she say something to Jackson next time she sees him? "You don't have to say jada data On the presidential election: "For people of color, it didn't really matter who got into office. It won't matter until we as a community decide to pull ourselves together. There's nothing Democrats or Republicans can do for us if we're not willing to do for ourselves first.... If we don't make ourselves a priority, how can we expect others to?" On why African Americans should research their roots: "We need a stronger sense of self and a stronger connection to our culture. We can't just say,'We're from Africa.' I mean, geez, Africa is a huge continent with [more than] 500 languages and cultures. We need to know who we are." (Pinkett's roots are also partly in Jamaica and Barbados.) On why women's magazines have so few black people on their covers: "They'll tell you straight up,'We love Jada, but we don't put black women on these covers.' People tell me I'm crazy when I say we haven't come that far. But there are still barriers we have to break. Beauty comes in all shapes, all colors, all cultures." On TV's place in the home: "We have one TV, in the family room. You want to watch TV, everybody has to come together.The bedroom is not for watching TV. We've got better things to do: talk, make love — all types of stuff." Ill 5'2" dynamo roles. But manniage - commands stiellan TV and movie if celebnity threatened hen high-pnofile - sHe'd throw her career awav- a school for the arts, she headed for Los Angeles at age 19. By 20, she was starring in the Cosby Show spaioE A Different World. She and Will met in 1990 and in time they became friends, counseling each other through relationships. Friendship led to love, then marriage on New Year's Eve 1997. At under 5-foot-2, Jada is a dozen inches shorter than her husband, but those who know her call her a towering presence, opinionated and strong- willed. "You could hear her mouth from anywhere," recalls Jerome Stephens, who owns a plumbing company in Baltimore and dated Jada in high school. "She'd never lie down and let you walk over her. She was tmy in stature, but she was one of the biggest people I've known." Jada hadn't seen Stephens in years, but when he called to say he would be visiting LA with his wife and baby, Jada sent a car to pick them up at their hotel. Now they're with Jada as she smiles her way through a photo shoot and gets fitted for the wraparound sunglasses shell wear in the Matrix sequels. Stephens tells her he proudly supports her career by seeing her movies both in theaters and on video. Just in case Jada earns a piece of each rental fee, he says, "I turn it in late." She laughs hard at that. RecaJling the lean years in Baltimore, Jada talks about how she'll try to avoid spoiling her kids. "Will and I both came from the bottom of the bottom. We understand you have to work hard to get rewards. anything to Jesse. He knows. He's not stupid." What can he do to make up for his mistake? "He'd better think of something, because black folks ai-e mad." She's also disheartened by millionaire athletes and actors who don't give back to the community "If we came up with a basic agenda — blacks. Latinos, all of us — and each took just one school, we could make a difference." The Smiths have a foundation, and when they film on location, Jada finds a local cause to help. When Will was making The Legend of Bagger Vance in Savannah, Ga., the couple donated a computer lab Left, a pregnant Jada last summer with Will Smith, her husband of three years. In our picture gallery at usaweekend.com, see more great shots like the one below from our photo session with the actress. and library to a homeless shelter for children. Will visited and the kids went nuts. "People have to see you if you want to be effective," Jada says. Hollywood Mends admire the Smiths' marriage. Vivica A. Fox, Jada's fi-iend and Kingdom Come costal*, acted with Will in Independence Day. Wherever they filmed, "he'd fly Jada in and romance her," Fox says. Jada counseled Fox through a bad relationship. "I was teary, and Jada said, 'Girl, stop banging yom- head against a brick wall. Until you find a guy who ti-eats you like a queen, you'll never find your king.'" Fox later met and married rapper Sixx-Nine. "Jada told me, 'Finally, you listened!'" Kingdom Com£ is a PG-rated family film, and during shooting, Jada "infused the set with a family feeling," says Doug McHenry, the directijr. "She had two kids there, and she was pregnant. And Will spent a lot of time on the set. He wanted to let her know her work was important to him." WiU realizes he's not the perfect man. In an earlier USA WEEKEND interview, he said he learned about himself through the mistakes he made in the relationships he had before Jada. They "shaped me into the person I am, to be successful for the rest of my life with Jada." He considers her the family leader. "Families are like a business. The key is one person having a vision of what it needs to be and being able to pull everyone together. That's Jada for sure." ca Contributing Editor JEFFREY ZASLOW is a Chicago Sun-Times advice columnist. USAWEEKEND-April 13-15,2001 7

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