An Ode to Jada
Updated: Feb 3, 2019
If you don’t follow Jada Pinkett Smith on Facebook (or any of her social media accounts), you are missing out big time.
Jada is a true powerhouse. She has seized control of her life and is taking to the internet to share her learned lessons with the world.
Her advice and stories are both motivational and inspiring, without verging into the valley girl pep that undercuts what would be genuine insight. When Jada talks, she is real and unabashed. If she is talking to you about changing how you think about conflict and past wrongs, she lets you know that the road ahead is rough and emotionally fraught, that you will ugly cry, you will scream, but more importantly, you will grow, repair, or at least resolve the things preventing you from living in the now. Her advice isn’t coming at you as if from a know-it-all sage demanding respect, nor as from a loving maternal figure looking to gently correct minor unpleasantries in life. Jada comes at you as a woman full of life, earnestly sharing her past choices and experiences for anyone who needs or wants them in that moment. She isn’t afraid to say she’s been there or done that on her way. She gives examples from her own life, including anecdotes about growing up in a rough neighborhood with familial strife, transitioning to Hollywood, and living life to the fullest after marriage.
Jada is full of merits in her own right as a contributing, sentient human being. On top of that she also lives out her ascribed roles as musician, actress, mother, wife, and daughter (to name a few). As a former student at the Baltimore School for the Arts (running with Tupac at school), it is no surprise that she would go on to have a music career and later encourage her children to pursue their own artistic dreams. I mean, we’ve got to give it up to Jada for being a bad bitch killing it in a metal band. How hardcore is she with her attitude, talent, and super-toned physique? Legend.
In an effort to spark public discourse and promote societal improvement from the ground up, Jada started an internet series from her home called “Red Table Talk.” The show kicked off in May of 2018 and has a steady wave of hot topics and inspirational stories. Jada hosts the show with her 18-year-old daughter, Willow, and her mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris. Together they talk openly across the generational divide about different themes every episode. The show has covered topics including: how to create useful dialogue between women of color and white women, challenging relationship labels and norms, surviving domestic violence, healing from family trauma, getting fit, and more. Throughout the “season” (for lack of a better term), “Red Table Talk” has welcomed a plethora of famous guests as well as Smith-family friends. We’ve seen Gabrielle Union, Tiffany Haddish, Sheree Elizabeth Zampino (Will Smith’s ex-wife), Ellen Pompeo, and Jada’s husband Will Smith.
Along with a variety of guests of all races, religions and viewpoints, Jada facilitates discussions on any and every topic, no matter how taboo, bridging the differences between people to allow for honest and enlightening conversations.
There is a segment of the show where the ladies and their guests answer fan questions from a bowl. I love this portion of the show because it reminds us that people of every color, orientation, socioeconomic status, and gender still experience the same emotions, scenarios, and hardships. People ask for genuine advice and they receive exactly that. You get to hear the stories and outcomes of others so you can learn without tripping through the same mistakes.
It’s this open and honest atmosphere that draws viewers into the show, and one of my top three reasons to rave about this show. Some of the topics Jada and company have covered on the show have been heavy and historically ugly to talk about. Adrienne opened up about her addiction, her recovery, and her relationships — both healthy and abusive. She holds nothing back when she tells her stories, when she shows compassion for a friend sharing domestic violence struggles, and she replaces judgment with understanding (90 percent of the time — hang in there Willow). “Gammy,” as she is called by her family, is also a spitfire with strong convictions and some hardwired preconceptions of how people relate, particularly in regard to race. While I do not agree with some of the racial views Adrienne holds, I understand that they are born of a not-so-far-gone era of legal, institutionalized racism acting against her and her family. I think it especially important that she express her opinions because heavy subjects that may seem taboo to Gen Xers and Millennials, have to be grasped at the root to be well and truly solved. It may have to get a little ugly before women of color and white women can bridge the disconnect and unite towards solving life’s even larger problems.
Jada also doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to matters of personal experience. My favorite episode was the two-part episode where Jada and Will unpack the nature of their marriage, including their rebuilding process and current practices. Setting aside the fact that most people know of and love Will and Jada as celebrities and artists, it was very helpful to hear how much work it takes to sustain a marriage — and how much work it takes to repair one, which has become unfulfilling. This episode really drove home the point that you have to communicate, you have to be honest (even if the truth hurts), and you have to be willing to do away with the conventions and norms that relationships are constrained by. Love is limitless, how can we expect to label it and practice it as a set of steps?
While Millennial Pink focuses on representing Millennials, we love to see when generations can come together to share thoughtful perspectives and learn how to create safe spaces for us all to communicate. “Red Table Talk” does just that. Adrienne is the spokeswoman for Boomers, Jada for Gen X, and Willow for Gen Z. The generational integration in the show makes the advice fairly universal and three-times more inspiring.
It is particularly fascinating to hear Willow’s thoughts or experiences regarding a given topic because it is the most foreign to me as a Millennial. Despite being closer in age with older Gen Zers and sitting on the cusp of two generations, I was raised by young Gen Xers in an environment of Boomers. I understand their mindsets, expectations, and cultural norms. Gen Z are making the rules up as they go and challenging the preconceptions and unconscious biases we all have (yes, even us Millennials). It will be even more exciting to see how her thoughts expand and continue to form through her early adulthood (happy graduation, Willow!).
I know I am looking forward to following how the “Red Table Talk” evolves as well, and hope that if you haven’t already queued up episode one on your laptop, you plan to soon. If you don’t already have a woman crush on Jada Pinkett Smith, you will after seeing just a few episodes of her show or following any of her social media platforms. The episode linked here is a definite must-watch, and features Ellen Pompeo discussing interracial marriage and the unspoken, often felt tension between a spouse’s different race partner and their in-laws. (There is also another great episode on race featuring activist Jane Elliott that is definitely worth your time!)