Jada Pinkett Smith is an actress, a singer, a mother (to 20-year-old Jaden, 18-year-old Willow, and 26-year-old "bonus son" Trey), and, oh yeah: she's married to Will Smith. If that didn't keep her busy enough, the 47-year-old star launched her very own Facebook Watch show called Red Table Talk last year. The series is hosted by Jada, Willow, and her mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, and explores a series of intimate issues such as motherhood, sexuality, body image, and loss. What makes this show interesting, though, is its unique format. Red Table Talk brings three generations of strong women to the table who have very different viewpoints and experiences, as well as celebrity guests. The audience is also able to chime in on the conversation by posting comments and sharing their own personal stories on Facebook, as well as joining a Facebook Live with Jada, Willow, and Adrienne every Wednesday after that week's episode.
I got the chance to chat with Jada over the phone last year, and can I just say, that woman is full of wisdom. Given that Jada has been in the entertainment industry for almost three decades, it makes sense that she's figured out the secret on how to be both successful and happy in Hollywood, but her wisdom goes far beyond the spotlight. Jada is in tune with herself; she's confident and has a firm grasp on what's truly important in life. From Red Table Talk, to her family life, to the #MeToo Movement, Jada and I talked about pretty much everything.
POPSUGAR: What was the inspiration for the concept behind Red Table Talk?
Jada Pinkett Smith: I feel like we all need a place where we can discuss what's happening in our lives. We do so much discussion about what's going on outside of us, but not enough discussion about that what's going on inside of us during a time where the world is changing at such a rapid pace and we're all just trying to figure out how to live this thing called life: how one is supposed to be in a relationship, how to parent, what is it to be a woman? During this particular time, there are so many freedoms that we are grabbing by the horns — how do we do all the things that we're trying to do? Being a professional woman, a family woman . . . how do we create the lives that we want? I just felt like, "Wow, we really need a platform where we can discuss all these issues with depth, not just five minute or two-second conversations."
PS: Exactly, and Facebook allows viewers to have these conversations while they’re watching the show. What is the one thing you hope the audience takes away from Red Table Talk?
JPS: The idea that you're not alone. I don't care who you are. I don't care what economic status, what nationality, what language you speak — everybody is going through something. We’re all in this thing called life together; there's not one thing that separates us. Even though we try to act like color or economics or gender separates us, it doesn't. That would be the takeaway.
PS: What other guests and topics can we expect to see on the show?
JPS: Gabrielle Union is coming on and we're going to be talking about the necessity for women to treat each other well, especially during this time when we're asking men to treat us better. Tiffany Haddish is coming to play, so that’ll be fun. She's just hilarious. And Cesar Millan, who’s been a long-time friend of mine and is the Dog Whisperer. I've known Cesar longer than I've known Will. He's coming and we're going to talk about our friendship and talk about dogs. Will's going to come to the red table, and we're going to talk about our unique union. I'm also going to do a really special show with my mother and [singer] August Alsina about addiction and what addiction looks like for his generation versus what addiction looked like for my mother's generation, which I'm really excited about. We're also doing a show about sex and what sex looks like for three different generations of women. We really are trying to dive into topics that aren't easy to talk about, which is why we’re bringing them to the red table. The red table symbolizes the idea of purification, passion, truth, and transparency, so we're trying to bring topics to the red table that aren’t easy to talk about to help people start conversation with whomever they feel like they need to talk to about certain topics that are deep. And we also have fun shows, too. It’s not all serious and sad, we have fun shows.
PS: Was it about Facebook Watch that intrigued you? Why Facebook and not a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu?
JPS: It was really the idea of community. If I was going to do something so intimate, I wanted to be able to have direct communication with the audience and I wanted to create a space where we could actually create a community. I've been a strong Facebooker for a long time, and I'm very aware of what people want to talk about and what that particular audience is. I just felt really safe to have this kind of communication on Facebook, specifically with bringing in my mother and my daughter. I felt that they were such great partners with the amount of control and the amount of collaboration that we have because this is a very, very sensitive show and it's a passion project for me. There were quite a few people that wanted the show, and to me, it was really about having a partnership that I thought was going to be sensitive to do what we were trying to do and give us the road to create exactly what we wanted and have that [sense of community].
PS: It's clear that you and your mom are very close. How would you describe your relationship?
JPS: My mom had me at a very young age, so we've been able to do a lot of growing together. I think the difference is that we've had to be very human together, if that makes any sense? We had to do a lot of hard growing up together and that has brought a different closeness and a different ability to share a lot of realness together. It's the same thing that I try to do with Willow, as well.
PS: Speaking of your kids, what would you say is the biggest lesson you've learned from your mother that you've now passed on to Willow and Jaden?
JPS: I just remember when I was in high school, she really allowed me to do what I wanted in regards to my hair and clothes that I would wear. I know that might sound like something small, but I really was able to develop my sense of self at a very early age and live and die by own hand and that really gave me a lot of self-confidence.
PS: You and Will have been in the industry for so long, what's the most critical piece of advice you have given Willow and Jaden as they embark on their own careers?
JPS: To simply stay true, and to remember that all [throughout] the game. And to balance yourself and keep yourself grounded; you can play the game, but never let the game play you. That's been some of our biggest advice.
PS: You and Will have been married for over 20 years now. What is the one thing Will does that always makes you smile?
JPS: Oh, just being himself. I don’t know if you’ve seen his Instagram, but he just has the happy gene. I've been telling people this for years: Will is always trying to figure out a way to put a smile on your face 24/7. He's just playful all day long, and as much I love it, sometimes he drives me crazy. He's full of jokes, he's full of all kinds of antics, and that's just what it's like to be in his world, which I think is great because sometimes I can be so serious and so grounded, so it makes for good opposites. I’ve definitely learned to honor humor big time.
PS: You recently returned to Instagram and Will took credit for getting you back on. How did he finally convince you to return?
JPS: He was just like, "Stop playing! Everybody's on the ‘Gram but you. Stop being so anti!" I had feelings about returning because my team kicked me off the first time because all I posted was cats and throwback pictures of my children. I decided to just give in and stop being stubborn. I can't post cats, even though Jaden told me, "Mom, I thought that was really cool, the fact that you only posted cats and pictures of us. I actually think that's exactly what you should be doing." I'm just trying to figure out what my Instagram voice is going to look like because I actually hate selfies and posting about me. I'm kind of sick of me, so I got to figure out another lens.
"You can play the game, but never let the game play you."
PS: Moving on to a more serious note, you've been a strong advocate for women's rights and you recently praised Jessica Chastain for standing up for pay equity. Do you think we're starting to see a change in the industry, especially now that we have the #MeToo Movement and Time’s Up?
JPS: I definitely think there's change happening for sure, but to be real with you, I think that we, as women, have to focus a lot more on how we treat each other. I think that if we took the time to put aside our issues in regards to however we view each other — because there's many different layers to that whole topic in regards to how women relate — I really do think that we would make an even greater difference.
Coming together in regards to the #MeToo movement has just proven what I've known always: that you can't just have white women in one corner, Latin women in another corner, black women in one corner, Native American women in another corner, Asian women . . . if we all come together and unite, how much power will we have? The #MeToo movement, to a certain extent, has been an example of that. We need to dive into that concept more deeply because men will follow, as you can see. They'll have no choice. So the more that we can really focus on how we relate and unifying ourselves strongly, deeply, and authentically, all the rest will happen.
PS: I totally agree. I feel like so many women have this mindset that we have to compete against each other, but we can accomplish so much more if we work together and empower one another.
JPS: Absolutely, and I agree with you completely. And that's one of the things that Gabrielle Union and I talk about in our episode because it had been a long time that she and I didn't really communicate for really stupid reasons. Just old stuff like young, dumb stuff, ego. Just like, "Now, I'm the baddest b*tch in the room.” “No, I'm the baddest b*tch in the room.”
PS: Yeah, and then you don't even know why you're fighting anymore.
JPS: Exactly, and so I gave Gab a call, and I was just like, "Hey, man. Let's talk about this." Once I started to see what she was doing in the world and how she was growing as a woman and a lot of changes that I'd made in my life, I was saying to myself, "You know what, Jada? In all honesty, you can't ask women from all different walks of life to unify. You need to look at your own world and see where are some of your relationships with females in your life are not the best and you need to start on that journey of fixing that, your little small arch." Gab was one of them and I just called her, and I was like, "Man, let's talk." And we did and it was great. We talked about the necessity of us, women in general, needing to put aside their insecurities and all of the bad messaging that we've been told that women don't get along, that we're supposed to compete, and all of that nonsense, and how we, as individuals, have to work on that even in our world outside of movies, you know what I mean?
PS: You've been in the business for such a long time! You've done TV, film, you've worked as a writer, a producer, and now you have this show. What dreams do you want to pursue next?
JPS: At my age, I've just gotten to a place where I'm just like, "Whatever the universe brings." I've gotten to a point in my life [where] I'm starting to listen more to the calming of the universe. Red Table Talk wasn't a goal, it was something that [producer] Ellen Rakieten brought my way, so I just listened to the universe and I went with the flow and the flow manifested this opportunity. So I'm just flowing with the universe at this point.
PS: If you weren't in the entertainment industry, what else do you think you'd be doing?
JPS: I'd probably be a lawyer. I remember calling my mother when I was at North Carolina School for the Arts. I went there for a year for college. I had already gone to Baltimore School for the Arts for five or six years because I went to a program before I got into the high school. So I'm like, "Man, I've been studying acting for a long time." And I was like, "Mom, I don't feel like I need four more years of acting classes." I was like, "If I'm going to do this, you've got a choice. I can either go to California and figure out if I'm really cut out for this or I'm going to go to law school." My mother said, "Well, I guess we're going to California." I went to California that Summer and got an audition for a gig within three months of being there. Thank goodness, knock on wood, I've been working ever since. But I was definitely going to [go to] law school, and I think I would have been a great lawyer.
PS: I think so, too.
JPS: Thank you.
Catch new episodes of Red Table Talk every Monday on Facebook Watch.