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Jada Pinkett Smith

Pinkett Smith's photograph taken by Jerry Avenaim for Vogue in 2001
Born Jada Koren Pinkett
September 18, 1971 (1971-09-18) (age 38)
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Occupation Actress, singer-songwriter, producer, director, author, businesswoman
Years active 1990–present (actress)
2002–present (singer)
Spouse(s) Will Smith (1997–present) 2 children, 1 stepchild
Official website

Jada Koren Pinkett-Smith (born September 18, 1971)[1] is an American actress, producer, director, author, singer-songwriter and businesswoman. She began her career in 1990, when she made a guest appearance in the short-lived sitcom True Colors. She starred in A Different World, produced by Bill Cosby, and the played opposite Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor (1996). She starred in dramatic films such as Menace II Society (1993) and Set It Off (1996). She has appeared in more than 20 films in a variety of genres, and in the films Ali, The Matrix Reloaded, and The Matrix Revolutions.

Pinkett-Smith launched her music career in 2002, when she helped create the metal rock band Wicked Wisdom, for which she is a singer and songwriter. She created a production company. She also created her own clothing line. She is the author of a children's book, published in 2004.

In 1997 she married actor Will Smith; they have two children, Jaden and Willow. Pinkett Smith is the stepmother to Smith's son from a previous marriage, Willard "Trey" Smith III.

Together, the couple have founded the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation, a charity organization which focuses on urban inner city youth and family support. The foundation has worked with non-profit organizations such as YouthBuild and the Lupus Foundation of America. Before her marriage to Will Smith, Pinkett was a close friend to the late West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur until his death.

Contents

Family and early life

Jada Pinkett-Smith was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and named after her mother's favorite soap opera actress, Jada Rowland.[2] Pinkett-Smith is of West Indian, Creole and Portuguese Jewish ancestry.[3] Her parents are Adrienne Banfield-Jones (née Banfield), the head nurse of an inner-city clinic in Baltimore; and Robsol Pinkett, Jr., who runs a construction company. Banfield-Jones became pregnant in high school. The couple married but divorced after several months.[4] Banfield-Jones raised Pinkett with the help of her mother, Marion Banfield, who was employed as a social worker.[5] Banfield noticed her granddaughter's passion for the performing arts and enrolled her in piano, tap dance, and ballet lessons.[6]

"[My mother] understood what I wanted and never stood in my way."

Pinkett Smith[7]

Pinkett-Smith remains close to her mother and said, "A mother and daughter's relationship is usually the most honest, and we are so close." She participated as the maid of honor in Banfield-Jones' 1998 wedding to telecommunications executive Paul Jones.[8] Pinkett-Smith has shown great admiration for her grandmother, saying, "My grandmother was a doer who wanted to create a better community and add beauty to the world."[9]

Pinkett-Smith majored in dance and theatre at the Baltimore School for the Arts, graduating in 1989.[10][11] She continued her education at the North Carolina School of the Arts, but dropped out after a year. She moved to Los Angeles, California to pursue an acting career.[5] She is an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.,[12] the first Greek-lettered sorority established and incorporated by African-American women.

Acting career

Early work (1990–1995)

In Los Angeles, Pinkett-Smith applied for the choreographer position for the television series In Living Color, created by actor Keenan Ivory Wayans. Although she failed to get the job, Wayans helped her find an acting agent and the two became close friends.[4] She began her acting career in 1990, when she starred in a television pilot for supernatural drama Moe's World. Although the pilot was never aired, she received guest roles in television shows such as True Colors (1990), Doogie Howser, M.D. (1991), and 21 Jump Street (1991). After auditioning for comedian Bill Cosby's NBC television sitcom A Different World in 1991, she earned the role of college freshman Lena James, a character based on Pinkett-Smith's own style and personality.[4] She played the role for two years until the show ended in 1993.

Pinkett-Smith made her feature film debut in 1993 in the critically-acclaimed drama film Menace II Society as Ronnie, a young single mother in Watts, California. She then appeared in several romance films, reuniting with her Menace II Society co-star Larenz Tate to star in The Inkwell (1994) as his love interest, Lauren Kelly. She also played the role of Lyric in the film Jason's Lyric (1994).

In 1994, Pinkett-Smith finally acted with Wayans in the action and comedy film A Low Down Dirty Shame. "He busted my ass," she told Entertainment Weekly. "I had to read twice, no three times, for him!"[13] She described her character, Peaches, as "raw" with "major attitude",[13] and her acting garnered positive reviews. The New York Times noted, "Ms. Pinkett, whose performance is as sassy and sizzling as a Salt-n-Pepa recording, walks away with the movie."[14]

Breakthrough (1996–2000)

Following a role in Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995), Pinkett-Smith co-starred with actor and comedian Eddie Murphy in the 1996 remake of The Nutty Professor. It became her biggest box office success, bringing in more than $25 million in its first weekend and opening in over 2,000 theaters.[15] She subsequently landed a role in the film If These Walls Could Talk (1996), as Patti. Co-directed by Cher, produced by Demi Moore, and co-starring Cher, Moore, and Sissy Spacek, the made for television movie earned nominations for the Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award, and brought exposure for Pinkett Smith.

Set It Off (1996), a crime drama about four women who rob banks to escape from poverty, helped to establish Pinkett-Smith as an actor of note. With Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox, and Kimberly Elise, Pinkett-Smith portrayed Lida "Stony" Newsom, a young woman struggling to care for her younger brother after the death of their parents. Her acting in the film prompted the San Francisco Chronicle to name her as "the one to watch".[16]

Pinkett-Smith took a variety of roles in the late 1990s, including a voice role in the Japanese anime Princess Mononoke (1997), a cameo in Scream 2 (1997), a supporting role in Return to Paradise (1998), and starring roles in the comedy film Woo (1998) and the short film Blossoms and Veils (1998), written and directed by Grey's Anatomy creater Shonda Rhimes.

In 2000, Pinkett-Smith was cast in Spike Lee's film Bamboozled (2000), as Sloan Hopkins, a personal assistant to the main character portrayed by Damon Wayans. Although the film met with mediocre reviews, it won the Freedom of Expression Award by the National Board of Review.[17] She later starred in the 2001 comedy Kingdom Come with Whoopi Goldberg.

International success (2001–present)

Also in 2001, Pinkett Smith played the supporting role of Sonji Roi, the first wife of famous boxer Muhammad Ali, in the biographical film Ali. This marked the first film that she would participate in with her husband, actor Will Smith, who portrayed Ali. The film received mostly good reviews from critics and earned her a nomination from the NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture.

Perhaps her best-known role to date is the part of human rebel Niobe in the films The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and The Matrix Revolutions (2003), sequels to 1999's The Matrix. She had met the series' directors, The Wachowski Brothers, before they had begun to film The Matrix and they formed a close bond. The character was eventually written, specifically, with Pinkett Smith in mind.[18] Directly after she filmed her scenes for Ali, Pinkett Smith flew to Australia to work on the Matrix sequels. The role brought her into the spotlight, as The Matrix already had a cult following of fans, and the sequels earned over $91 million and $48 million during opening weekends, respectively.[19][20] Her acting in The Matrix Revolutions earned her another nomination for the Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture.

In 2004, Pinkett Smith reunited with director Michael Mann, whom she had worked with on Ali, to play United States Department of Justice prosecutor Annie Farrell, in the thriller Collateral, co-starring Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. She later provided the voice of Gloria the hippo in the DreamWorks animated film Madagascar (2005). Director Eric Darnell stated, "[Pinkett Smith]'s got all this incredible power and attitude and strength and confidence, which is just what we wanted for Gloria the hippo." She reprised her role for the sequel, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, released in November 2008.

Pinkett Smith returned to drama when she co-starred with Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle in Reign Over Me (2007). The film revolves around a lost friendship between Charlie Fineman (Sandler) and Dr. Alan Johnson (Cheadle) which is rekindled after Fineman loses his family to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Pinkett Smith played Johnson's wife Janeane.

In 2008, Pinkett Smith portrayed Alex Fisher, a lesbian author, in The Women. The film co-starred Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, and Debra Messing, and was directed by Emmy Award-winner Diane English. Pinkett Smith's directorial debut was The Human Contract; she also wrote and acted in the movie. Starring Paz Vega and Idris Elba, it debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2008.[21] As of January 2009, she has been working on the TNT medical drama Time Heals, in which she is executive producer and a starring cast member.[22] The show has been greenlit for 10 episodes.[23] The title of the show has since changed to Hawthorne and it premiered on June 16, 2009.l nn

Musical career

"I listened to all kinds of metal as a kid. Metallica, Guns N' Roses. I would always look at Axl Rose and say, 'Why aren't there any chicks out there doing this now?' I always wanted an opportunity to get out there and rock out."

Pinkett Smith on why she created Wicked Wisdom[24]

Under the stage name Jada Koren, Pinkett Smith formed the metal rock band Wicked Wisdom in 2002.[24] The band consists of Pinkett Smith performing lead vocals, Pocket Honore (guitar, vocals), Cameron "Wirm" Graves (guitar, keyboard, vocals), and Rio (bass, vocals). The band is managed by James Lassiter and Miguel Melendez of Overbrook Entertainment, a company co-founded by Pinkett Smith's husband Will Smith.[25]

The band's debut album, Wicked Wisdom, was released on February 21, 2006, by Pinkett Smith's production company 100% Women. Will Smith served as the project's executive producer.[26] The album made it to Billboard's Top Heatseekers chart, and peaked at number 44 during the week of March 11, 2006.[27] Allmusic reviewer Alex Henderson said of the album, "[Pinkett Smith] shows herself to be an expressive, commanding singer" and that "[Wicked Wisdom] shows considerable promise".[28] The band promoted the album in 2006, touring with heavy metal band Sevendust.[29]

The Onyx Hotel Tour

Wicked Wisdom landed a slot on Britney Spears' Onyx Hotel Tour in 2004, one of the year's highest-profile tours. The band opened for Spears for eight dates in April and May 2004, during the European leg of the tour.[30]

In a video interlude after Showdown, Pinkett Smith appears as a silent woman leading Spears to a club. The only words spoken are: "Wanna join me?" She then leads Spears into the club where, on stage, Spears proceeds to sing ...Baby One More Time.

Ozzfest 2005

In 2005, Sharon Osbourne went to see Wicked Wisdom perform at a small night club in Los Angeles, California. She said, "I was blown away. When you see and hear Jada with her band it's apparent that she has nothing but love and respect for this genre of music."[25] In May 2005 organizers announced Wicked Wisdom would perform on the second stage of 2005's Ozzfest.[31] Fans of the festival were outraged, claiming the band did not have the credibility to perform at the music festival. A petition was created at PetitionOnline, garnering 501 signatures. Aware of the questions about the band's addition to Ozzfest, Pinkett Smith said, "I'm not here asking for any favors. You've got to show and prove. And not every audience is going to go for it."[32] Wicked Wisdom's guitarist Pocket Honore said while early dates of the tour were rocky, "once word got out that we weren't a joke, people started coming out and by the sixth or seventh gig we were on fire."[24] Pinkett Smith agreed, saying, "After seven dates within the Ozzfest tour, the whole attitude of it started to turn around once the word of mouth started getting out."[29]

Marriage and children

Pinkett Smith married actor Will Smith in 1997, and appeared with him in the 2001 biopic Ali.

Pinkett Smith married actor Will Smith on December 31, 1997. They met in 1990 on the set of Smith's television show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, when she auditioned for the role of his character's girlfriend, Lisa Wilkes. She was considered too short (Pinkett Smith is 5'0" and Smith is 6'2"),[33] and the role went to actress Nia Long. Pinkett and Smith became friends, however, and began dating in 1995. About 100 guests attended their wedding at the Cloisters, near her hometown of Baltimore, Maryland.[34] Regarding her marriage, Pinkett Smith said that they are "private people"[35] and told one interviewer, "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."[36]

Pinkett Smith and Smith have two children, Jaden Christopher Syre Smith[34] (born July 8, 1998 in Malibu, California)[37] and Willow Camille Reign Smith[34] (born October 31, 2000 in Los Angeles, California).[5] Pinkett Smith is also the stepmother of Willard "Trey" Christopher Smith III (born November 11, 1992), Smith's son from a previous marriage. All three children have appeared onscreen alongside Smith: Trey starred in the music video for Smith's song "Just the Two of Us" from his album Big Willie Style (1997); Jaden co-starred in The Pursuit of Happyness (2006); and Willow made a cameo appearance in I Am Legend (2007).

Pinkett Smith commented in 2008 on their parenting skills: "We're not strict but we definitely believe it's a very important component for rearing children. It creates safety for them. They understand that they need guidance."[38] Trey attends Oaks Christian High School in Westlake Village, California,[39] while Jaden and Willow are homeschooled.[9] The family resides in a 27,000 square foot (2,500 m2) home, on 100 acres (40 ha), in Malibu.[7]

Business ventures

After opening her music company 100% Womon Productions,[22] Pinkett Smith created her own fashion label, Maja, in 1994. The clothing line features women's T-shirts and dresses embellished with the slogan "Sister Power", sold primarily through small catalogs.[6]

In 2003, Pinkett Smith and Smith helped to create the television series All of Us, which originally aired on UPN. The sitcom starred Duane Martin and LisaRaye and revolved around Martin's character juggling relationships with his ex-wife (LisaRaye), his 5-year-old son (Khamani Griffin), and his fiancée (Elise Neal). Pinkett Smith and Smith served as executive producers and guest-starred in several episodes; they said that the show is "very, very loosely" based on their life.[40] The show was moved to The CW in 2006 after the merger of the UPN and WB networks, but was cancelled the following year.

Pinkett Smith published her first children's book, Girls Hold Up This World, in 2004. The cover of the book features Pinkett Smith and her daughter, Willow. Pinkett Smith told USA Today, "I wrote the book for Willow and for her friends and for all the little girls in the world who need affirmation about being female in this pretty much masculine world. I really tried to capture different sides of femininity. I want girls in the world to feel powerful, to know they have the power to change the world in any way they wish."[41]

In 2005, Pinkett Smith became one of many celebrities to invest a combined total of $10 million in Carol's Daughter, a line of beauty products created by Lisa Price.[42] She became a spokesperson for the beauty line, and said, "To be a part of another African American woman's dream was just priceless to me."[43] Both Pinkett Smith and Smith had been regular customers of Carol's Daughter before an investment plan had been made.[44]

In 2007, Pinkett Smith appeared alongside numerous celebrities in various infomercials sponsoring a line of home spa products that have since become defunct.

Charity work and politics

Together with Smith, Pinkett Smith has created the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation in Baltimore, Maryland, a charity which focuses on youth in urban inner cities and family support. Their family helps to run the charity; her aunt, Karen Banfield Evans, is the foundation's executive director.[45] The charity was awarded the David Angell Humanitarian Award by The American Screenwriters Association (ASA) in 2006. John E. Johnson, executive director of the ASA, said, "Will and Jada exemplify the principles of the David Angell Humanitarian Award through their support of projects focusing on urban and inner city youth, family wellbeing, violence prevention and education. Their philosophy of leading a positive lifestyle and sincere interest in helping people everywhere is inspirational."[46] The Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation has provided grants to non-profit organizations such as YouthBuild,[47] and Pinkett Smith has made significant personal donations to organizations such as Capital K-9s.[48]

While attending the Baltimore School for the Arts, Pinkett Smith met and became friends with classmate Tupac Shakur. They maintained a close friendship until the night of his death in September 1996. In December 2006, she donated $1 million to the Baltimore School for the Arts in his memory. Donald Hicken, head of the school's theater department and Pinkett Smith's former teacher, said, "It means a lot when you're a teacher and your most famous alumnus comes back to give a donation. It really says a lot to the community that the school matters in people's lives."[45]

When Pinkett Smith's aunt, Karen Banfield Evans, was diagnosed with lupus,[49] the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation, in association with the Lupus Foundation of America and Maybelline, held the first annual "Butterflies Over Hollywood" event on September 29, 2007 at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles. With a list of over 300 celebrities and guests, Pinkett Smith helped raise funds for LFA public and professional educational programs.[50] The Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation was presented with an award in 2007 at the 4th Annual Lupus Foundation of America Awards.[51]

After meeting famed Scientologist Tom Cruise during the filming of Collateral in 2004, Pinkett Smith and Smith donated $20,000 to the Hollywood Education and Literacy Program (HELP), Scientology's basis for homeschooling.[52] The couple came under fire in 2008 when they decided to fund New Village Leadership Academy, a private elementary school located in Calabasas, California. The school employs teachers dedicated to the Scientology religion and features methodologies like study technology, created by Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. The couple, who are close friends with Cruise and wife Katie Holmes,[53] have denied claims that they are themselves Scientologists. Jaqueline Olivier, an administrator of New Village Leadership Academy, insists that the school has no religious affiliation.[54][55]

A supporter of Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, Pinkett Smith said in an interview, "I love Michelle [and] would play her any day," when she was asked if she would play Michelle Obama in a biopic. She added, "I'm voting for Michelle. I'm always telling people I'm voting for Michelle to get into the White House and Obama is just going to follow her lead. She is smart and committed, and I just love her."[56] Pinkett Smith joined her co-star from The Women, Meg Ryan, in speaking about Alaskan governor and Republican Party vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, and said, "It's nice to see that women in America are being extremely vocal about politics this year. But her being a woman hasn't made me sway to that side. Not one bit."[57]

Filmography

Year Title Role Other notes
1993 Menace II Society Ronnie
1994 The Inkwell Lauren Kelly
Jason's Lyric Lyric
A Low Down Dirty Shame Peaches
1995 Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight Jeryline
1996 The Nutty Professor Carla Purty
If These Walls Could Talk Patti Made for television movie
Set It Off Lida "Stony" Newsom
1997 Princess Mononoke Toki Voice
Scream 2 Maureen Evans Cameo
1998 Woo Woo
Blossoms and Veils Mary Short film
Return to Paradise M.J. Major
2000 Bamboozled Sloan Hopkins
2001 Kingdom Come Charisse Slocumb
Ali Sonji
2003 The Matrix Reloaded Niobe
The Matrix Revolutions Niobe
2004 Collateral Annie
2005 Madagascar Gloria Voice
2007 Reign Over Me Janeane Johnson
2008 The Women Alex Fisher
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa Gloria Voice
The Human Contract Rita Debuted at Cannes Film Festival in May 2008.[21]
Written and directed by Pinkett Smith.
2009 Merry Madagascar Gloria Voice

Television

Year Title Role Other notes
1990 Moe's World Natalie Television movie
1990 True Colors Beverly 1 episode
1991 21 Jump Street Nicole 1 episode
1991 Doogie Howser, M.D Trish Andrews 1 episode
1991–1993 A Different World Lena James 36 episodes
2009–present Hawthorne Christina Hawthorne 10 episodes

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Film/TV Show Result
1997 Image Award Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Set It Off Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Television Movie or Mini-Series If These Walls Could Talk Nominated
1998 Blockbuster Entertainment Award Favorite Supporting Actress – Horror Scream 2 Nominated
2001 Black Reel Award Theatrical – Best Actress Bamboozled Nominated
Image Award Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Nominated
2002 Image Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Ali Nominated
2003 Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Actress – Drama/Action Adventure The Matrix Reloaded Nominated
2004 Image Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture The Matrix Revolutions Nominated
2005 BET Comedy Award Best Performance in an Animated Theatrical Film Madagascar Nominated
Black Reel Award Best Supporting Actress Collateral Nominated
Image Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Nominated
2010 Image Award Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series Hawthorne Won
(Source: IMDb.com)

See also

References

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