The Smiths recall their bestselling product: the “unique union” that is Will and Jada’s marriage

Product recalls seem to be rampant these days, don’t they? Last week alone, the Family Dollar discount retail chain recalled hundreds of products sold in stores across 23 states. In Canada, Costco issued a recall of its Kirkland Signature brand oatmeal cranberry white chocolate cookie due to an “oopsie” wherein pieces of wood wound up in the dough.

Perhaps the most shocking recall of all impacted millions of consumers, who whether they intended to or not, had swallowed another product: Jada Pinkett Smith’s marriage to Will Smith, which functionally if not legally ended in 2016. The news broke Wednesday by way of a People magazine cover story and an excerpt of an interview teased on “Today,” where co-host Hoda Kotb said of the revelation, “I actually had to reread it because I said, ‘Is this true?’”

Yes, Jada confirmed, her smile sparkling as brightly as her platinum pixie coif as she pantomimed their status of living entirely separate lives by placing her two manicured index fingers together and pulling them apart with a flourish. The internet erupted in shock and fury, mostly of the feigned variety because, honestly, who cares? Maybe Black Twitter (which will always be called that despite the platform having been renamed X), which responded with a raging river of jokes, reaction videos and memes. Most involved the common sentiment of wishing the Smith family would remove all of us from the group chat.

That won’t be happening any time soon, I’m sorry to say.

The Smiths are a high-output manufacturing concern whose main product is their image. They’re also scrupulous investors, primarily in their own family. Their eldest, Jaden, is a musician, actor and fashion chameleon who founded JUST Water when he was only 12 years old (staked by his gazillionaire parents, naturally). That product hit a $100 million valuation in 2019, according to Fast Company.

Willow is a pop punk musician and actor, who co-hosts “Red Table Talk” with her mom and whose 2022 album “Coping Mechanism” landed her a musical guest slot on “Saturday Night Live.”

Will requires no introduction, though who he was before the 2022 Oscars and after The Slap are fundamentally different properties. His televised assault on Chris Rock transformed him from a box-office hero into a navel-gazing multimillionaire lacking impulse control.

In the year and a half since that happened, you may have noticed that Jada has said next to nothing about The Slap, despite Will’s claim that it was in defense of her and the honor of all Black women. Though “Red Table Talk” viewers expected Jada to address the controversy on her show, the only response came via a title card: “The Smith family has been focusing on deep healing. Some of the discoveries around our healing will be shared when the time calls.”

The Smiths are a high-output manufacturing concern whose main product is their image. They’re also scrupulous investors, primarily in their own family.

It turns out that the time is now. Jada’s memoir “Worthy” hits shelves on Oct. 17, and it comes out just shy of two years following her husband-on-paper’s biography “Will.” To those monitoring developments within the Smith Family Concern, this timing doesn’t feel accidental. “Will” emerged concurrent with the release of “King Richard,” for which he won the Academy Award for best actor, accepting the golden statue mere moments after slapping the spit out of Rock’s mouth and subsequently being banned from attending the Oscars for the next decade. He also resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Will apologized for his behavior on social media, then appeared on one of Trevor Noah’s final episodes of “The Daily Show” to seek the public’s forgiveness. Aside from those failed attempts at reputational repair and toplining a box office bomb in last winter’s prestige drama “Emancipation,” the actor has laid low for the most part.

Jada’s confession has been the most significant event in the family’s life for months. It also coincides with Will and Jada’s production company Westbrook Studios’ search for a new home for “Red Table Talk” after Meta gave it the boot along with all other Facebook original content in April.

If Westbrook can’t land a place for the show, the production company may be able to land a new show for its host. Thus, we have this final admission about Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s marriage, which they referred to as a “unique union” in a 2018 episode of “Red Table Talk,” and about which Will observed in a 2021 GQ profile, “I don’t suggest our road for anybody. I don’t suggest this road for anybody.”

They’re not divorced on paper, yet their separation in 2016 was, for all intents and purposes, a divorce.

They’re not divorced on paper, as Kotb repeated to Jada, yet their separation in 2016 was, for all intents and purposes, a divorce.

The end of the five-month strike by the Writers Guild of America, as well as the eventual resolution of the SAG-AFTRA strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, will bring about a realignment of the film and TV landscape. (Salon’s unionized employees are represented by the WGA East.) That leaves openings for performers to shift roles and meet the needs of this next era.

As I’ve pointed out before, no talk show host has fully stepped into the daytime vacancy left by Oprah Winfrey — that is, the job of celebrity confessor and comforter who is also devoted to making the audience feel better.

Winfrey achieved that status by sharing every aspect of her origin story down to her ugliest memories, making herself an example that it’s possible to live your best life regardless of where you start.

Jada also wasn’t born rich but has resided on the golden end of that rainbow for decades, requiring her to approach her story of overcoming from another angle. Instead of relaxing in her golden cage and allowing her husband to parade her around the world in order to keep up the façade of their devoted coupledom, she’s stepping out of his shadow.

To put it another way, she’s re-releasing the product that is her marriage as a cohabitation agreement based on mutual support and unconditional love — the kind that’s offered from opposite ends of the house, country and/or planet.

For those claiming to be incensed that the couple was duping us all this time, allow us to turn any demands made of them back on you: Stop kidding yourselves.

Assuming that most people judged their marital status by the smiling red carpet photos of Jada posing at Will’s side at various industry events, this revelation was probably legitimately shocking. As for those claiming to be incensed that the couple was duping us all this time, allow us to turn any demands made of them back on you: Stop kidding yourselves.

Celebrities have remained in loveless, business-driven marriages since the concept of royalty was invented. Did you ever believe in Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes? What about the pop royalty match of Lisa Marie Presley and Michael Jackson? Were you shocked to find out that Prince Charles and Princess Diana were never actually in love? Come on, people.

I’ll grant you that these comparisons aren’t entirely fair since Will’s pursuit of Jada was organic, not arranged, thereby giving hope to a generation starved for an example of what being rich, Black and in love looks like.

Will and Jada were and are a pair of gorgeous movie stars who found each other when they were young and built their empire around and through their family from the ground up. They were Jay-Z and Beyoncé before Jay-Z added Mrs. Carter to Queen Bey’s list of titles (and way before the rapper’s alleged extramarital affairs may or may not have inspired “Lemonade”). Like said power couple, they’re also loaded to the degree that remaining married is simply smart wealth management.

Like Jay-Z and Beyoncé, they’re also loaded to the degree that remaining married is simply smart wealth management.

But this duo has been serving breadcrumbs about the true nature of their relationship since those “Red Table Talk” episodes in 2018 when Will admitted how much Jada had dimmed her light in order to let him shine not only in public but also in private.

“Externally, everything was beautiful,” Will said in the first of those two episodes. “As a couple, we are magical. We win in the material world. We do it together. We win . . . Externally, our family was winning, right? And there was a period where mommy woke up and cried 45 days straight. I started keeping a diary.”

“You missed some days,” Jada deadpanned.

“It was every morning. I think that’s the worst I’ve ever felt in our marriage,” Will said. “I was failing miserably, but on the outside, I was winning.”

Will has told versions of this story on various occasions, repeating it to GQ and in interviews related to “Will.” He talks about the elaborate 40th birthday celebration for his wife that he spent three years planning, including commissioning a documentary about her family. He also talks about the giant house he built on a 256-acre compound for Jada, which he named Her Lake, as well as his failure to recognize that these gifts were not for her but entirely about him.

These anecdotes and others paint Will as a man newly enlightened in middle age, augmenting the show’s epiphanic tone. Together, they make their marriage sound resilient if unconventional, as if it’s a race they’re still winning. “Divorce was never even an option,” they declared in unison, a phrase Jada has repeated in other episodes, as well as to Kotb.

If you re-watch those old “Red Talk Talk” unburdening sessions, Will was the one leading the narrative — not his wife. Jada’s version of her 40th birthday blow-up is a tale of determination to self-actualize. As for the way their marriage was going, she said, “I had to have the courage to unravel it, and just realizing this next 40, I got to do it my way. This next half has to be directed by my picture for myself.”

She later continued: “There was so much that wasn’t me that I was living, so much inauthenticity. I do think that there are a lot more people living lives that aren’t true for them because of their fear; so I understand, and there’s no judgment. I did it, right?”

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There it is, folks: the thesis statement for a new daytime talk project. After all, how many people are sharing cohabitation agreements that have devolved from loving marriages into practical partnerships? Enough, at least, for The New York Times to publish a 2022 story titled “Separated but Under the Same Roof.”

“I made a promise that there will never be a reason for us to get a divorce,” Jada told Kotb. “We will work through whatever, and I just haven’t been able to break that promise.”

The Smiths may not be like us in many ways, but in this respect, lots more people may be able to relate than one might think. Such clarity can only benefit whatever Jada does next. Regardless of what that may be, it will transpire under the light she generates entirely apart from the glow of her husband-on-paper’s fame. That product had been temporarily removed from circulation, pending repair.

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