How Jada Pinkett Smith, ‘Red Table Talk’ handled the slap


The discourse around Will Smith’s Oscars slap has finally come full circle to “Red Table Talk,” where Jada Pinkett Smith vaguely addressed the incident and fallout publicly Wednesday for the first time.

“Considering all that has happened in the last few weeks, the Smith family has been focusing on deep healing,” a statement read at the top of this week’s show.

“Some of the discoveries around our healing will be shared at the table when the time calls. Until then… the table will continue offering itself to powerful, inspiring and healing testimonies like that of our incredibly impressive first guest. Thanks for joining us, Jada.”

The Season 5 premiere of the Facebook Watch series spotlighted singer and actor Janelle Monáe, who reflected on her gender, sexuality and upbringing alongside her mother, Janet Hawthorne.

“I’m nonbinary, so I just don’t see myself as a woman … solely,” Monáe said.

“I feel like God is so much bigger than the he or the she. And if I am from God, I am everything. But I will always, always stand with women. I will always stand with Black women. But I just see everything that I am beyond the binary. When I see people, I see your energy first — I don’t see how you identify — and I feel like that opens you up to fall in love with any beautiful spirit.”

As usual, actor Pinkett Smith moderated Wednesday’s installation of “Red Table Talk” opposite singer Willow Smith and podcast host Adrienne “Gammy” Banfield Norris. No mention was made during their conversation of the 94th Academy Awards, during which Will Smith infamously slapped comedian Chris Rock.

At the 2022 Oscars, Smith walked onto the stage and smacked Rock after the presenter made a joke about Pinkett Smith’s bald hairstyle. The “Girls Trip” star — who rolled her eyes at Rock’s widely criticized “GI Jane” quip — has been vocal about her experience with alopecia, a condition that causes hair loss.

After striking Rock in the face, Smith returned to his seat and twice ordered the comedian to “Keep my wife’s name out your f— mouth!”

During his acceptance speech for lead actor, the “King Richard” star promptly and tearfully apologized to the film academy and his fellow nominees for his behavior. He later extended his apology to Rock in a statement, calling his own conduct “unacceptable and inexcusable.”

As punishment for his violent outburst, the film academy has since banned Smith from attending the Oscars for 10 years. The academy announced its decision after Smith resigned from the organization.

In a 2018 episode of “Red Table Talk,” Pinkett Smith opened up about her struggles with hair loss — a “terrifying” phenomenon that initially made her physically shake with fear.

After the 2022 Oscars aired on ABC, Rock also drew criticism for making fun of Pinkett Smith’s hair — especially considering he once interviewed an alopecia patient for a documentary about Black hair. The interviewee, interior designer Sheila Bridges, shamed Rock via Instagram for “making the medical condition of [Jada Pinkett Smith] part of his comedic schtick” and “disrespecting her publicly.”

“My hair has been a big part of me. Taking care of my hair has been a beautiful ritual,” Pinkett Smith said in 2018.

“I really had to put it in a spiritual perspective of like, the higher power takes so much from people. People are out here who have cancer. People have sick children. I watch the higher power take things every day, and by golly, if the higher power wants to take your hair? That’s it? God, do you want my hair? When I looked at it from that perspective, it really did settle me.”

Instead of dwelling on the Oscars encounter — or the insensitive hair remark that provoked it — the hosts of “Red Table Talk” focused Wednesday on their celebrity guest, Monáe, who opened up about her fears and family history of drug addiction.

“When I came offstage, I was still that scared little girl. Like, ‘I’m not good enough,’ ” Monáe said. “That was always in the back of my mind. … My parents were not together, and I always thought it was me. … Like, ‘Why am I not being taken care of by my dad?’ He had gotten on crack cocaine, and that changed his life from him and changed our relationship.

“Now he’s completely sober, so incredible, like my best friend — but this was when he was sick at the time,” she continued. “I was dealing with real rejection, abandonment issues. When people leave me [it] was a direct correlation to my dad, and always feeling like, ‘If I wasn’t perfect, will they leave me?’ I don’t want to feel the pain of anybody leaving me.”

It seems the Oscars slap will be discussed at some point on “Red Table Talk” — perhaps later this season — which includes interviews with Ireland Baldwin, Kim Basinger and Barbara Cochran. The panelists will also sit down with “Tinder Swindler” victim Ayleen Charlotte and “My Friend Anna” author Rachel DeLoache Williams, as well as the parents of Miss USA Cheslie Kryst, who died by suicide earlier this year.

In a “Red Table Talk” first, all three of Smith’s children — Willow, Jaden and Trey — will take over as hosts of the program for a special episode set to premiere during Season 5.




www.latimes.com

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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