Smith may be one of the most common names in America, but this Smith family is anything but ordinary. Will Smith is known as "Mr. July" for the box office bucks he rakes in every summer for his blockbuster films. His wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, does it all—she's a singer as well as the star of the TNT series Hawthorne. And together, they're raising three kids—Trey, Jaden and Willow—and have created one of the most talented families in Hollywood.
Will and Jada say they created what they call a marriage business plan early on. "If you don't have a purpose for your relationship, if you don't have a place that you're going, something that you want to accomplish, something that you want to do, you can really get lost in the murk of the journey," Will says. "There has to be a vision. Like, why are we together?"
The tough part is when two independent visions need to come together as one, Jada says. "I had my vision and he had his, so we had to join it," she says. "Once we started to see how the children were growing and, you know, Willow and Jaden and Trey were becoming their own beings we decided, 'Okay, we want to make a family business. How do we incorporate all the talent that we have in this family?' So that's our vision—to create a place where their dreams can come true as well."
Will's oldest son, Trey, is from a former marriage, but Jada says she and Sheree, Trey's mother, made a conscious effort early on to get along. "Sheree and I both had to make that decision, because at the end of the day, we had Trey and that had to be the primary focus," she says. "So we had to put aside our own craziness, our stuff, all the baggage that comes with it. She and I just had to focus on, 'What does he need?'"
Sheree says that while getting to that place took time, it was extremely important. "You realize, [Will and I] had our chance, now it's about those kids."
The adults in this family all agree that the goal for the children is for them to be their best selves. "I just want them to live in service to greatness. I want them to live and to create in a way that when people see it, people are inspired and people become better just by having contact with their excellence," Will says.
The trick, however, is letting the children define their own greatness, Jada says. "We might have a vision for what we see, but at the end of the day, Jaden has to have his own vision, Willow has to have her own vision and so does Trey," she says. "So we are there to help inspire and facilitate their vision, because in order to reach the type of excellence that Will is talking about, you have to be able to reach inside yourself to find that drive. Nobody can put that drive in you, so you have to inspire the individual to find and focus on the goal that they want for themselves."
Stories of infidelity and other marital problems for celebrity couples make headlines every day. Will and Jada say they stay out of the spotlight by focusing on the greater purpose of their marriage. "We found that our purpose for being together reaches far outside of our relationship. I really believe that the higher power put us together for a purpose that's outside of us," Jada says. "I get people on the street that pull me up and want mostly to talk about my relationship, my marriage. How I've inspired people to look at how they raise their children differently or the efforts they put forth in their relationship."
The power couple is inspiring parents because they've managed to raise three grounded children in Hollywood, which is no easy feat. "I tell them all the time: 'Mommy and Daddy are rich. You all are broke,'" he says. "We don't allow them to just sit around. We talk about the concept of the group and the necessity of you adding to the family. Then you have to add to your neighborhood, and then you have to add to humanity."
Will and Jada say they often talk with their kids about the purpose of the entertainment business, beyond just getting the role and acting. "We talk about the idea [that] you create something that is illustrating some aspect of the human spirit," Will says. "It can be funny and it can be exciting. It can be scary. But what you're trying to do, as artists, is to elevate humanity. When you're choosing your work and you're choosing the material that you're putting into the world, you have to understand that somebody else's kids are going to see that. Somebody's grandmother is going to see it. Are they going to be better or worse after they have contact with your material?"
Will Smith may be one of the most famous actors in the world, but Jada says there are things about him that his fans may not know. "He's extremely sensitive. Not just in feeling but his intuition," she says. "People see Will as being very cheesy and happy and everything, but he has got one of the most beautiful, most generous hearts."
Will uses that generosity to serve the world. In fact, he says he's still searching for his place in life. "I just feel like all of the blessings that I have, you know, with my wife and my family and extended family, there's no way that God intended that just for acting," he says. "I feel energized every day by just what the possibilities are. ... So in bringing the kids up, it's like, oh my goodness. It's a whole new burst of energy and burst of possibilities of what we can do in this world as a family."
So far, their family has risen to the occasion. Seventeen-year-old Trey is a varsity star football player, 11-year-old Jaden is an actor and 8-year-old Willow is a singer and actress.
But even amid all their success, Will says he can't shake the survival mind-set of his youth. "I still have a poor person's mentality. I can't shake it, and it gets really detrimental when you can't just shake off the ideas. It's like when I go to sleep at night, right now, I'm as financially nervous as I was 20 years ago," he says. "With my kids, I want them to be able to have the financial comprehension to not be slaves to working and money that way that my mind has."
In order to teach his kids a different mind-set, Will and Trey are reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad. "It's like he's guiding me throughout the whole book," Trey says. "One of the lines that really stuck out to me was that a poor dad says, 'I can't get money.' But when you ask the rich dad, his question is, 'How do I get money?' That doesn't only apply to the money aspect, but life overall. You don't want to just give up. You want to figure out a way to accomplish your dream goals."
Willow says her dad is the disciplinarian in the house. "When I'm in the studio, he keeps me working. He gives me motivation," she says. "He says, 'If you work through this, then you'll get a hit and everybody will buy it and you'll get lots of money.' And he also teaches me that it's not all about money. It's about what you want to do."
But it's not all seriousness in the Smith home, of course. Will made a name for himself as a comic actor, after all. "My parents embarrass me all the time," Jaden says. "When I'm at school, sometimes my dad will just pull his pants down!"
People often ask Will and Jada if they felt uncomfortable putting their kids in the family business, but Will says he's not hesitant at all. "We worked with my father growing up in the family business, and what happens is your kids get to see you in your best light, where you are most proficient," he says. "Your kids get to watch you at work, how you interact with people, how you talk, how you deal with stress. ... I'm totally comfortable with them getting to work and being in the world and understanding the nature of production, producing something for the world. I think sometimes in America in particular we hold the kids from that experience of work and the nature of producing in the universe."
Another common question among parents is what punishment looks like in the Smith home. "That's one of the really difficult struggles because we don't exactly believe in punishment, per se. We believe in restriction, that you can have as much freedom as you can handle," Will says. "You can cut your hair. You can put stuff on your wall. And as soon as you do something that is detrimental to yourself, and when you can't be trusted with your freedom, then you have to be pulled back. But it's not about punishing you for what you did—it's about protecting you from the potential damage that you could do to yourself."
The Smiths traveled to China for the filming of Jaden's film, The Karate Kid. Trey couldn't go on the trip since he had football, so Will took the 13.5-hour flight back every weekend to watch his son's football games. "It's really important. When I grew up, that's how it was with my parents. It's like they were showing up at all the stuff and I just felt like, you know, you have three children and it's dangerous to play favorites or lean one direction or something like that, and it was just hugely important. He had to know his father, even though he doesn't really know how long the flight is and all that, one day he's going to take a flight back and forth a couple of times and he has to know that his father flew home to be at his football games every week."
Will and Jada were both producers on The Karate Kid, and Jada says it was the first time they've worked so closely together. "I think we got over some huge hurdles because we're very different creatures creatively," she says. "In doing this movie, we realized what our strengths and our weaknesses are and in which areas we can depend on each other."