irreversible entanglements

A Timeline of Will and Jada’s ‘Bad Marriage for Life’

How the hell did it come to … this? Let us explain. Photo: Scott Myers/Shutterstock

How’s this for a slap in the face? Jada Pinkett Smith and her husband, Will Smith, have been secretly separated since 2016. The news of their now-seven-year-long separation comes as a shock to the public, which has witnessed the pair booed up on red carpets, oversharing intimate details about their relationship, and standing up for each other when a petty comedian made a stupid joke and got slapped for it. There were a few signs to marital discord that the power couple couldn’t hide, though. In 2020, Jada Pinkett Smith brought herself to the Red Table and revealed that she’d had a relationship with R&B singer August Alsina while “temporarily” separated from her husband.

While Will and Jada promised to lay their cards on the table a few years back, hindsight proves that a lot was left unanswered. Why did the couple separate and keep it a secret? Why did she decide to share the news? Were she and Will in an open relationship before the separation? What exactly is an entanglement? As such, we took it upon ourselves to map out the complete timeline of Will and Jada’s relationship, from meeting on the set of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to sitting across from each other at the Red Table to Jada’s latest act of oversharing.

1994: Will Smith and Jada Pinkett meet on the set of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air when Jada auditions to play Smith’s girlfriend. She ultimately loses the part to Nia Long because she’s too short (heightism strikes again), but a connection is made. At the time, Smith is married to actress Sheree Zampino.

Sometime later in 1994: Will and Jada begin seeing each other romantically. Legend has it that Will called Jada and asked if she was seeing someone. She said no, and he said “Cool, you’re seeing me now.” Both Will and Jada maintain they began seeing each other after Will and Sheree separated.

December 10, 1995: Smith officially divorces his first wife, Sheree Zampino, mother to his oldest son, Trey. He calls the divorce “the worst thing in his adult life” on an episode of Red Table Talk.

December 31, 1997: Will and Jada get married in her hometown of Baltimore on New Year’s Eve. In a 2019 People cover story, Jada recalls “infuriating pressure” to marry Will after getting pregnant with son Jaden. “I never wanted to get married. But my mother was like, ‘You have to get married’ — she’s so old-school — and Will wanted a family. So I said, ‘All right, maybe it’s something I should do.’”

July 8, 1998: Will and Jada’s first child together, Jaden Smith, is born. An unprecedented amount of vibes are unleashed into the world.

October 31, 2000: On All Hallow’s Eve in the first year of the new millennium, Willow Smith is born. She’d one day teach us how to whip our hair to and fro.

August 23, 2011: A decade passes of relative marital bliss between Will and Jada. However, on this day in 2011 the couple releases a joint statement to combat rumors that Jada was dating her Hawthorne co-star, Latin music superstar and J.Lo’s husband at the time, Marc Anthony. “Although we are reluctant to respond to these types of press reports, the rumors circulating about our relationship are completely false. We are still together, and our marriage is intact,” the couple said in a statement to People.

While the couple’s joint statement was strong, a rep for Jada was slightly vaguer, saying, “All the rumors regarding Marc Anthony and Jada are false. Completely untrue. As for [the reports of a split between] Will and Jada, I’m not commenting on their personal life.” No word from Jenny From Da Block.

August 14, 2013: Jada takes to Facebook to address rumors that she and Will have an open marriage. The impassioned post ends with the following message: “Will and I BOTH can do WHATEVER we want, because we TRUST each other to do so. This does NOT mean we have an open relationship … this means we have a GROWN one.”

Sometime in 2013: Rumors surface that Will Smith had an affair with Margot Robbie while filming Focus in 2015. Neither Robbie nor Smith ever directly addressed the rumors, but the internet seems pretty convinced.

June 3, 2015: Jada goes on Howard Stern and discusses her relationship with Will. “I’m not the kind of woman that believes that a man’s not gonna be attracted to other women,” says Jada during the interview. “It’s just not realistic. And just because your man is attracted to another woman doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. And it doesn’t mean he’s gonna act on it.” Got it.

June 28–July 5, 2015: Jada attends the Wireless Festival in London to support Jaden and Willow, who are both performing. There, the 43-year old actress meets a 22-year-old August Alsina for the first time. The entanglement ensues …

August 3, 2015: Will addresses rumors that he and Jada are headed toward divorce in a Facebook post where he refers to Jada as “his queen.” Jada takes to Twitter and simply says “My king has spoken.” The monarchy remains intact.

Sometime in 2016: Unbeknownst to the tabloids, Will and Jada apparently separate. No one guesses they’ve broken up. “We decided that we were going to separate for a period of time, and you go figure out how to make yourself happy and I’ll figure out how to make myself happy,” Smith said in their eventual Red Table Talk.

June 25, 2017: Jada and August Alsina attend the BET Awards together. They seem … cozy! Queen Latifah clearly knows something.

Photo: Getty Images for BET

July 21, 2017: While promoting her upcoming film Girls Trip, Jada goes on Watch What Happens Live! and says that the craziest rumor she’s ever heard about her and Will is that they’re swingers. “That’s the craziest one,” says Jada. “It’s constant. And I’m like, ‘Yo, I wish. I wish.’” Careful what you wish for …

December 21, 2017: Will posts a long, emotional Instagram for his 20th wedding anniversary with Jada. “Love is Like Gardening … I have learned to focus on HELPING you to BLOSSOM into what YOU want to be (into what you were born to be) … Rather than Demanding that you become what my Fragile Ego needs you to be.”

July 11, 2018: August Alsina takes a seat at the Red Table next to Jada to discuss his issues with alcohol, sex, and drug addiction. Jada introduces him as “a dear family friend.”

April 10, 2019: August Alsina drops a music video for his remix to Kehlani’s “Nunya.” In the video, his Animoji is texting someone named “Koren <3" which is Jada Koren Pinkett Smith’s middle name. He also uses a GIF of Jada in the video right after singing the lyric “You got me feeling like it was an act, you’re just an actress / Putting on a show ’cause you don’t want the world to know / That you lost a man who loved you all along / Baby, couldn’t we just let this go?” At the time, Alsina denied claims that the video was about Jada, but I mean … come on.

June 30, 2020: The entanglement begins to unravel. While promoting his upcoming album The Product III: stateofEMERGEency, August Alsina sits down with The Breakfast Club’s Angela Yee and claims that he “gave years of his life” to Jada in a romantic relationship with Will Smith’s blessing. Later that day, reps for Jada calls Alsina’s claims “absolutely not true.” Okay, Jada …

July 2, 2020: Jada takes to Twitter to announce the inevitable. “There’s some healing that needs to happen … so I’m bringing myself to the Red Table.” The internet goes wild.

July 10, 2020: The now infamous Red Table Talk occurs. Jada confirms that she had a relationship with August, but denies that Will ever gave his blessing, claiming the two were separated at the time. Will Smith glaring becomes a meme. The world Googles what the word entanglement means. “We ride together, we die together. Bad marriage for life!” they chanted in the style of Bad Boys.

7:16 p.m. on July 10, 2020: Somehow, Keke Palmer gets wrapped up in this mess. After tweeting about watching the Red Table Talk, a fan “this you’d” her and posted a photo of Palmer with August Alsina. “Yes girl,” Palmer tweets in response. “August was never my man lol. That’s why you’re still reaching to this day to figure out nothing.”

August, most likely in his feelings, took to Twitter to confirm that he was, in fact, never Keke’s man. Things are getting messy.

7:48 p.m. on July 10, 2020: August Alsina, still in his feelings it seems, continues to post about the entanglement on Twitter. “If you have something to say, say it w/ ya CHEST kids. It’s always very perplexing cause I real deal be showing people genuine love. Whole time that envy eating ya lil heart. Anyway, NEXT!!” Feelings seem to be hurt.

July 11, 2020: Famed troll 50 Cent posts a screenshot of a DM conversation he allegedly had with Will Smith about the talk around the Red Table. In the DMs, Will says “We broke up so she did her and I did me.” 50 Cent follows what appears to be genuine concern for Will with a joke about August and Jada’s entanglement. Will did not appreciate it.

July 13, 2020: Somehow, Keke Palmer gets the last laugh.

July 18, 2020: Alsina released “Entanglements,” a song with Rick Ross that gets to the core of his heartbreak over Jada. Several lyrics seem to reference her, including, “That ain’t my girl, but I got they key to the crib and to the car,” as well as, “You left your man just to fuck with me and break his heart.” His lyrics also defined “entanglement” in very clear terms: “The definition of entanglement / It’s when you’re tangled in the sheets.” Very subtle.

March 29, 2022: Alsina shares an Instagram post following Will’s Oscars slap. “Choose peace; trusting that life’s intricate puzzle pieces 🧩 are all forming together for the greater good and mastering of the seasonally sometime chaotic nature of your life’s art piece that’s being formed and painted by birthing life to your internal masterpiece; grown through external chaos-metamorphosing alchemy, dark turned 2 light and beauty within,” he writes. “Then turned Master P (i) E^CE shown without, from your life’s own whimsical & colorful art-piece, being co created and displayed through living while/after being broken to peace’s/pieces.🖼 🤞🏽💫 🕊.”

“🗣 I’m A Walking Billboard & Network Simply Desiring To Televise & Broadcast Love, the love, grace and healing embrace of God, Good Music that’s healing (w/ a lil bit of nasty),” he adds. It’s unclear whether this is a backhanded critique of throwing hands on TV or spiritual life coaching.

April 6, 2022: Alsina can’t keep Jada’s name out of his mouth, either. He released a song on April 5 in the aftermath of Will Smith’s slap at the Oscars, titled “Shake the World,” which appeared to reference their “entanglement.” The song seems to pull directly from Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé’s “Feeling Myself,” where Beyoncé addresses the elevator incident with Jay-Z and Solange. “I heard it’s some shit that’s bound to go down when you got a billion dollars on the elevator / Well of course some shit was bound to go down when you tangled up with the world’s favorite.”

April 7, 2022: Shortly after The Sun pens a story that Alsina is nearing a book deal about his time with Jada, August goes on Instagram to (ahem) slap that rumor down. Alsina posted a screenshot of a text he seems to have sent to someone in his phone named “Stupid People 🤢 Stupid Rumors 🤮.”

“[T]hey’ve written several fantasies, hypotheticals & fictions based about me on wattapad [sic],” Alsina writes, implying that he’s aware of rpf fit of him and Jada on Wattpad. What a time to be alive! “If you’re looking for that kind of entertainment, go read those! Read the book called ‘HOLY BIBLE’ while you’re at it too.”

October 11, 2023: Jada confirms her separation from Will in a clip from her forthcoming NBC News prime-time special with Hoda Kotb promoting her memoir, Worthy. She and Will live “completely separate lives” and function as divorced people do. She adds that the marriage ruse persisted because they were “just not ready yet” and “still trying to figure out between the two of us how to be in partnership … In regards to how do we present that to people? We hadn’t figured that out.” Their breakup had many contributing factors, Jada says.

“Why it fractured … that’s a lot of things. By the time we got to 2016, we were just exhausted with trying. I think we were both kind of just still stuck in our fantasy of what we thought the other person should be,” she explains. “I made a promise that there will never be a reason for us to get a divorce. We will work through … whatever. I just haven’t been able to break that promise.”

That same day, People publishes an exclusive interview with Jada, where she claims Chris Rock previously attempted to ask her out amid rumors that she and Will were calling it quits, without mentioning when exactly. “And this particular summer, Chris, he thought that we were getting a divorce,” she says. “So he called me and basically he was like, ‘I’d love to take you out.’ And I was like, ‘What do you mean?’ He was like, ‘Well, aren’t you and Will getting a divorce?’ I was like, ‘No. Chris, those are just rumors.’ He was appalled. And he profusely apologized, and that was that.”

October 13, 2023: NBC milks the clips from Jada’s upcoming prime-time interview with Hoda Kotb for all it’s worth. In a new teaser, viewers are treated with new details regarding the Slap. Jada says she didn’t initially realize that Smith actually made contact, assuming that Rock had ducked away. In the full interview that airs later that night, Jada also describes being shocked to hear Will’s infamous call to “Keep my wife’s name out your f—ing mouth!” After all, she and Will haven’t “called each other husband and wife in a long time.” Jada also recalls a conversation she had with Rock immediately following the incident at the 2022 Oscars. They spoke as the best documentary reels played. “Chris looks to me and he says, ‘Jada, I meant no harm,’” she remembers. “I’m just out of it because I’m really worried about Will. And Will’s still talking. Now he’s mad because Chris is talking to me.” She believes the Slap doesn’t represent Will as a person: “It’s not him whatsoever.” She says she and Will have not spoken to Rock since.

The jaw-dropping event led some to believe that Jada was the “bad guy” in the aftermath. “My honest opinion about that is that narrative had more to do with the false narrative that I helped to create on the Red Table,” she says. In her eyes, the public viewed her as “the adulterous wife” who “forced him to go to the table and sit there.”

“And now look at what she’s done,” she continues. “She has the power with an eye roll to make him go up and slap somebody onstage.”

Ultimately, Jada is asked why she and Will don’t just get an amicable divorce. “We don’t want to,” she answers. “We love our family. And we love each other. It’s more of a life partnership. Now, ten years from now, Hoda, who knows?” She adds that the pair are currently focused on “deep healing” because of “everything that’s transpired.” And as for the possibility of a full reconciliation in the future? “He’s getting old!” Jada says with a laugh. “Who’s going to be there for him, Hoda? It’s going to be me.”

October 14, 2023: Will Smith responds to the separation revelations in an email to the New York Times included in a profile about Jada’s memoir. “When you’ve been with someone for more than half of your life,” he writes, “a sort of emotional blindness sets in, and you can all too easily lose your sensitivity to their hidden nuances and subtle beauties.”

October 16: 2023: Jada takes herself to the Today show once again for a live, in-studio interview following her explosive prime-time NBC special with Hoda Kotb. This time, she says she is no longer divorced in theory … i.e., the couple in question is getting back together. “This whole journey, as difficult as it’s been, has brought Will and I closer in such an authentic way,” she tells the morning show. “Instead of trying to be a thing, it’s tearing all of that down and finding what’s true between us. It’s been difficult but beautiful.”

Kotb asks Jada to be “100 percent clear.” Are she and Will really reconciling? “Yes, we are working very hard to bring our relationship back together … back to a life partnership,” she explains, expressing frustration that this fact was glossed over in the original prime-time interview. “Here’s the thing about husband-wife marriage for me, my healing process. I came into that with very specific ideas that blocks me from seeing Will as who he is. He can’t be this perfect, idealized husband. I have to be able to accept him for the human that he is. He accepts me for the human that I am, and we want to love each other there.” She suggests they might even “live in the same house” now.

This post has been updated throughout.

A Timeline of Will and Jada’s ‘Bad Marriage for Life’