Things You Might Not Know About Will SmithPublished on September 15, 2016. Updated September 15, 2020
Will Smith has been a popular figure in the music and acting industry since the late ’80s. His energetic charisma, funny laid-back attitude and outgoing personality make him a fan favorite among viewers. It’s no wonder he holds the title of the most Teen Choice Awards! He’s literally one of the most popular actors in Hollywood! He’s also one of those actors in who just gets better with age. Not only did he master the music industry by winning four Grammy Awards, he’s also become one of the most profitable actors in Hollywood. He’s earned five Golden Globe Awards and two Oscar nominations for his role in Ali and The Pursuit of Happiness. He’s got a string of box office hits. Will Smith is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon and we don’t want him to! Now his kids are weening into the music and acting business and contributing to the Pinkett-Smith empire. In honor of his upcoming 49th birthday, here’s a look at 10 things you might not have known about Will Smith!
Born Willard Carroll “Will” Smith Jr. in 1968, he was raised in Philadelphia in the ’70s along with his three siblings, an older sister named Pamela, and twins Harry and Ellen who are three years younger. His mother, Caroline Bright was a school board administrator and his father, Willard Carroll Smith Sr. was a refrigeration engineer. He was surrounded by religion as a child, with the majority of his neighborhood being Jewish, the next neighborhood over was Muslim and his family household was Baptist. He then attended a primarily white Catholic school. Music has been a big part of his life from a young age. When he was only 12-years-old he was performing rap music at parties with his friends and by the age of 20 he was in the number seven spot on the Billboard hits and had won a Grammy.
9. He’s Really Good at Math
Deep down inside, Will Smith is secretly a nerd! He has publicly stated that if he wasn’t an actor, he’d be a computer engineer! His favorite subject in school was math and he was actually quite good at it. “If I weren’t a musician/actor, I’d be a computer engineer. I was always good at math. I probably would have been the guy who invented the remote control if I’d been around then,” he said. Smith didn’t go to post-secondary school, but if he did he said he would have likely gone to MIT. That’s a bold statement! “I had pretty high SAT scores and they needed black kids, so I probably could have gotten in. But I had no intention of going to college,” he said in an interview with the Readers Digest back in 2006. He didn’t want to go to college because by high school he already knew he was destined for greatness. He released his first record in high school and when he graduated, the deal with his parents was that he’d spend a year making music and then he would go to college; of course he never followed through with the second part of the bargain.
8. Trouble with the IRS
In the late ’80s, Smith was experiencing success as a musician and was becoming financially success in his early twenties. Unfortunately, he was also extremely irresponsible with his finances and would spend money freely. In 1988 and 1989 he underpaid his taxes and so the Internal Revenue Service assessed a $2.8 million tax debt against him. They took many of his possessions and he nearly went bankrupt. Things turned around for Smith in 1990 when he was offered a contract with NBC to build a sitcom. The only reason Will Smith agreed to take on the lead role in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was because he owed all this money to the IRS. During the first three seasons of the show he was forced to hand over 70 percent of his pay check.
7. He’s Good at Solving Puzzles
Will Smith has a secret talent that not many people share. He has mastered the difficult task of unscrambling a Rubik’s Cube! Not only can he solve the puzzle, he can do it in under 55 seconds! Now that’s impressive! He even went as far as proving himself on live television. We’ve also seen him solve them in two of his biggest roles on-screen. He solved a Rubik’s Cub on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and The Pursuit of Happiness.
It’s no secret that Will Smith has got some money in the bank. What’s more impressive than his $260 million net worth is the fact that he made his first million by the time he was 20! It all stems from his success as an actor and musician. Starting from his role in the 2002 film Men in Black and ending with Hancock in 2008, Smith consecutively starred in eight films that grossed over $100 million. He is the only actor have ever achieved this! Smith has also been ranked in Forbes as the most bankable star worldwide. As of 2014, his films grossed $6.6 billion at the global box office and 17 of the 21 films he held leading roles accumulated over $100 million each, five of which had over $500 million on a global scale. He’s also been consistently listed in Fortune Magazine under “Richest 40” as being among the wealthiest Americans under the age of 40.
5. How He Met Jada
Will Smith met his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, on the set of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. She auditioned for the role of his love interest, but she didn’t get the part. Instead it went to Nia Long, but lucky for Jada, she got the part off set! Will and Jada kept in touch afterwards and once they had formed a friendship, they began dating. Initially Jada didn’t understand Will’s sense of humor, but she soon changed her mind. They were married in 1997 and had their first child together a year later. The couple now have two children together, Jaden, 18, and Willow, 15. Their relationship has been riddled with rumors of infidelity or that they have an open marriage, but together they’ve never addressed these rumors. What fuels the rumors are their responses to these tabloids. For example, Will was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying: “Our perspective is, you don’t avoid what’s natural. You’re going to be attracted to people. In our marriage vows, we didn’t say ‘foresaking all others.’ The vow that we made was that you will never hear that I did something after the fact. If it came down to it, then one can say to the other, ‘Look, I need to have sex with somebody. I’m not going to if you don’t approve of it – but please approve of it.'”
4. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
Will started becoming successful as a musician when he was in high school and after he graduated he took some time off to pursue a career in music. When he was 16-years-old he met Jeffrey Townes at a party and they became fast friends. One key thing about their friendship was that they both shared an interest in music. So when he graduated, he joined forces with his childhood friends, Jeff and Clarence Holmes, and created the hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. Smith was the MC, Jeff was a turntablist and producer and Clarence, also known as “Ready Rock C,” was the human beat box. The group did incredibly well gaining critical acclaim. They won the first Grammy ever awarded in the Rap category in 1988 for their song “Summertime.”
3. Sheree Zampino
Today, Will Smith is happily married to Jada Pinkett Smith and has been for quite some time. But some might have forgotten he was actually married before he met Jada. Smith met Sheree Zampino at a taping for the movie A Different World in 1991. She was a fashion design student at the time. Their marriage didn’t last long, and the two got divorced in 1995. They had one son together, Willard Smith III (Trey Smith), born on November 11, 1992. Smith has publicly stated that he regrets his first divorce and that he could have tried harder to make it work. “That is probably the most painful loss of my life. I quit. I could have fixed it. It really was not that bad,” he said. These two have managed to maintain a friendly relationship while raising their son.
2. He Doesn’t Believe in Traditional Education
Jada and Will Smith have made the conscious decision to not send their two children, Jaden and Willow, into the traditional school system. This isn’t unusual for celebrities who want to avoid putting their children into the spotlight or into a school system where they might be treated differently, but the Smith’s decision isn’t based on that. It’s because they don’t believe their children will be taught what they need to learn. Of course, there are the basics that they understand are necessary, but they have a different idea of what children should be learning in school. “The things that have been most valuable to me I did not learn in school. Traditional education is based on facts and figures and passing tests – not on a comprehension of the material and its application to your life. Jada and I homeschool our children, because the date of the Boston Tea Party does not matter…We have hired teachers who teach what we feel is important. For example, Plato’s Republic — kids need to know that. Why is that not taught in first grade? You cannot be American without reading it and Aristotle’s Politics. That is what the forefathers of this country read, and they used them to create what I believe is the finest system of government that has ever existed,” said Smith.
1. He Learned How to Act on Fresh Prince
When Will took on the role as himself in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air he didn’t know how to act. During an interview with TIME Magazine, the executive producer for the show, Quincy Jones said, “Will had never acted before Fresh Prince, but after a 15-minute read through, we knew he was our guy.” Smith picked it up pretty quickly because he was used to being a performer. The only tricky part was knowing his lines and he admits that in the beginning he used to memorize the entire script to help him remember his own: “then I’d be lipping everybody’s lines while they were talking.” Today, he’s become one of the better actors in the business and now when he looks back, like most of us, he’s totally embarrassed. “When I watch those episodes, it’s disgusting. My performances were horrible,” he said. He was merely taking on the role because he needed the money and the network wanted to develop a show for him. At first, executives were skeptical because Will Smith was only known as a hip-hop artist and he would be the first rapper to star on a show.