I remember vividly the first time I came to know the name Jada Pinkett. It was in the last days of “A Different World,” when the “The Cosby Show ” spin-off sitcom set on a Historically Black College campus was struggling to keep its freshness as it transitioned in to the early 90′s. Beloved characters Dwayne Wayne & Whitley Gilbert were all grown-up and professional, and the show’s once authentic connection to college life, youth culture and energy was dwindling. Insert Jada Pinkett’s Lena James, a powerful pint-sized freshman who boomed with energy and breathed new life in to cast. She joins the cast as a freshman, Lena James, introducing her self to the common area with a not so humble solo step routine: “L to the E, to the N, to the A, Step off, you ain’t getting no play!” From that moment on, in my 9 year-old mind, I was pretty sure I wanted to be her. She exemplified the spirit of what largely came to define the creative Black experience in the 90′s: loud, colorful and unapologetically proud. That was 20 years ago.
Since then, Jada Pinkett Smith has played dozens of roles, amassing a solid and impressive body of work. But these days, she may be known most for is her own personal matrix: wife to Will Smith and mother to their Hollywood whiz kids Jaden & Willow, step-mom, Godmom and imaginary auntie to all of us who subscribe to her Facebook page and follow her on Twitter. And despite the media’s relentless speculation about her marriage and parenting skills, Jada remains steadfastly and resolutely Jada, a quality she attributes to growing up fiercely independent and having the freedom to pursue her wants and dreams. And despite her penchant for provoking conversation and pushing the dialogue of change, when it all comes down to it, Jada Pinkett Smith is likely to tell you this one simple thing: “Do you.”
I find myself on the phone with Jada on a Thursday afternoon about a month ago. She’s in the process of doing promotions for “Free Angela And All Political Prisoners,” the brilliant documentary directed by Shola Lynch. After a friend shared the film with her, Jada came on as a producer using her hollywood muscle to help get the film distributed in select AMC theaters nationwide. What I thought would be the typical 15-minute movie junket interview (abruptly ended by publicists listening in on the other end), turned in to a 90-minute phone call with the real Mrs. Smith about everything from her early relationship with her husband to why people should lay off Rihanna.
In what #TeamBEautiful has deemed the Best.Jada.Interview.Ever., we speak with the stylish and brutally honest A-lister about about parenting, dating, marriage, Black hollywood, and why America loves to hate on little girls.