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October 2001
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Angels on her shoulders!

Jada Pinkett Smith

Birth name: Jada Koren Pinkett
Born: 18 September 1971
Place of Birth: Baltimore, Maryland
Education: Baltimore School for the Arts High School: majored in dance and choreography; classmates with rapper-actor Tupac Shakur; North Carolina School of the Arts: majored in theater
Relations: Husband: Will Smith; Children: Jaden Christopher Syre, 1998; Willow Camille Reign, 2000; Mother: Adrienne Banfield, nurse; Grandmother: Marion Banfield, social worker; died 1985, when Pinkett was 14; (raised by her mother and grandmother ) Father: Robsol Pinkett Jr., contractor; divorced from Pinkett's mother.
Height: 5'

Film Credits Include:
>(2004): Matrix 3, The … Niobe
>(2003): Matrix Reloaded, The ... Niobe
>(2001): Intimate Portrait: Jasmine Guy (2001) (TV) ... Herself
>(2001): Ali ... Sonji Roi
>(2001): Kingdom Come ... Charisse Slocumb
>(2000): Bamboozled (2000) ... Sloan Hopkins
>(1998): Welcome to Hollywood ... Herself
>(1998): Return to Paradise ... M.J.
>(1998): Woo ... Woo
>(1997): Blossoms and Veils ... Mary
>(1997): Scream 2 ... Maureen Evans
>(1997): Mononoke Hime (voice) ... Toki ... (aka Princess Mononoke:1999)
>(1996): Set It Off6 ... Stony
>(1996): If These Walls Could Talk (TV) ... Patti
>(1996): Nutty Professor, The ... Professor Carla Purty
>(1995): Demon Knight ... Jeryline
>(1994): Inkwell, The ... Lauren Kelly
>(1994): Jason's Lyric ... Lyric
>(1994): Low Down Dirty Shame, A ... Peaches Jordan
>(1993): Menace II Society ... Ronnie
>(1991-93): "Different World, A" TV Series ... Lena James
>(1990): Moe's World

Producer Film Credits Include:
>(1997): Blossoms and Veils ... (executive producer)

Awards Include:
>2001: Nominated; Image Award; Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture for: Bamboozled (2000)
>1998: Nominated; Blockbuster Entertainment Award; Favorite Supporting Actress – Horror for: Scream 2 (1997)
>1997: Nominated; Image Award; Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture for: Set It Off (1996)
>1997: Nominated; Image Award; Outstanding Lead Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Drama Special for: If These Walls Could Talk (1996) (TV)

At just five feet tall, the diminutive Jada Pinkett Smith (no hyphen, she permanently changed her name after her marriage to Will Smith), may be small in stature, but she is big on back bone and a determined artist in a career field where aspiring actress "want-a-be's" litter long lines of the unemployed. But Jada learned early on that to reach your goals you need to be tough and focused. Life lessons learned from her Mother and Grandmother, who raised her in the tough Baltimore projects without the presence of a father.

She attended Baltimore's School of Arts instead of regular high school along with fellow classmate Tupac Shakur. The two were good friends and even made a video together at the "King's Dominion" amusement park where they lip-sync'd to Will Smith's "Parents Just Don't Understand." Tupac acted as the rapper and she the dancer. It was later shown on the "Keenen Ivory Wayans" show. She recognizes that Tupac took a different path in life, but it still saddened her when, five days before she began shooting "Woo" in 1998, Tupac Shakur was killed.

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Jada Pinkett Smith
Jada left Baltimore to attend the North Carolina School of the Arts, but after only one year, she dropped out to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. She made her professional stage debut in playwright August Wilson's Joe Turner's "Come and Gone," and was immediately bitten by the acting bug. At just 18, she moved to L.A., where she admits she fell into the hard-partying lifestyle that surrounds the film industry. But she also credits that lifestyle with her first big break. It was at one of the many parties she attended that she first met Keenan Ivory Wayans, and from their first meeting she says she pestered the poor man endlessly about letting her choreograph for his TV series "In Living Color." She was a little light on experience for such a position, having only choreographed high school productions, but Wayans saw something else in the persistent woman that interested him and even though he never hired her, he did take a personal interest in her career and introduced her to a Hollywood agent.
She started her L.A. acting career by filming a supernatural drama series called "Moe's World." Unfortunately, the series was never picked up. But the teenaged Jada was not about giving up, and she continued to search for other roles until she was cast in 1991 for a major role on the Cosby Show spin-off sitcom "A Different World," which was being produced by Debbie Allen. The role finally gave her a steady paycheck and a chance for a national audience to learn who she was.

In 1993 she landed her feature film debut role in the unflinching "Menace II Society," a gansta-ghetto film that was a far cry from the light comedy of a TV series. Reviews were rave, with many singling out her performance for special acclaim because of the believability of her performance. Not resting on her laurels, though, Jada went right back to the business of search and audition, and over the next couple of years landed movie parts in a variety of diverse roles that included the slapstick "A Low Down Dirty Shame," "The Inkwell," "Tales From the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight," and her first leading role in the 1994 "Jason's Lyric."

In 1996 she costarred opposite Eddie Murphy in the box office blockbuster "The Nutty Professor," but Jada's supporting role as Murhy's love interest barely demanded more than for her to stand around looking good. She said "It was hard bringing that woman to life, because she sure didn't jump off the page." She made it work, though, creating a character that was more than just an ornament in the film.

As a tough member of all-girl gang of bank robbers in "Set It Off," Jada again demonstrated her versatility as an actress, and versatitlity is what she cares most about when it comes to her acting career. "I want people to look at me how they look at Glenn Close," Jada says. "You look at her body of work, and I swear, it's just like, "God! How does she do all these things?" She's such a chameleon. She can do anything." Another favorite actress is Dorothy Dandridge, especially in "Carmen Jones." "Dorothy was just so spicy and hot and sensual. Every time I watch Carmen Jones. I just go, "She is amazing. Absolutely amazing.""

New Line Cinema paid Pinkett a cool million for the film "Woo," and co-executive producer John Singleton was very much aware of Jada's own versatitlity and sensuality when she was cast. "I thought this was a perfect vehicle for Jada," Singleton said. "Jada can act on many different levels -- she's dramatic, tough, funny, vulnerable, sexy -- but she's never been allowed to showcase all of it in one film. In Woo she gets to shine."

Most recently, Jada starred in Spike Lee's "Bamboozled," and currently she is busy filming "The Matrix" sci-fi sequels, once again demonstrating her range as an actress.

But one of the difficulties Jada has encountered in the business, regardless of the film being made, is attitude. Especially when she has felt it necessary to assert her own opinion and stand by it. Many people translate the strength of female opinion as a deliberate effort to be irritating just for its own sake. "I face that a lot in this business," she explains, "because Hollywood is a male-oriented business -- White-male -- oriented at that -- and I just have always had a hard time with the idea that I should compromise my passion, compromise my ideas or compromise my feelings."

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Jada Pinkett Smith
While others may think her words are harsh, Jada says "No, I'm not angry at all. I'm just communicating."

One person she definitely communicates well with is super-star husband Will Smith. "We crack each other up," she says, explaining their relationship. "Every day of your life, you have to make it the best. That's one thing Will has taught me. When we first got together, I used to get a little irritated because he was always playing and joking. Now, it's just part of our lives. Will lightened me up a great deal."

The couple first met in 1990 on the set of Smith's series The Fresh Prince of Bel Air in 1990 when she auditioned for the role of his girlfriend on the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" series. Over time, the two became good friends. Jada eventually broke up with her boyfriend and then in 1995 Smith divorced his wife, Sheree Zampino, with whom he has a young son, Willard Smith III (aka Trey). The two remained friends throughout it all, but it soon became apparent to both of them that there was more to their relationship than mere friendship.

Before long they were being talked about as one of Hollywood's most glamorous couples. In 1997, in a very private New Year's Eve Ceremony, the couple exchanged wedding vows. Their first child, Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, was born the following summer, and their second child, a daughter named Willow Camille Reign Smith, was a Halloween baby, born in October 2000. Little Willow's name appears to be a spinoff of her father's, while Jaden's is a play off his mother's.

In 1999, the couple purchased a 100-acre ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains. The estate has an 8,800-square-foot home, several guest houses, a tennis court, indoor pool, private lake, a riding ring and stables. It cost $7.5 million--but, then, this is one couple who can afford it.

Pinkett hasn't let marriage or motherhood slow her down. In addition to her film work, she has also started Maja, a line of women's T-shirts and dresses that displays the slogan "Sister Power." The clothing is sold primarily through small catalogs. "I have a lot of fun with clothes," she says. "Even when I was in high school, I was like, "I'll rip up my jeans and just dye my hair fuchsia." It was just wanting to show that difference between me and the rest of the world."

Jada is very much in touch with herself these days. Perhaps more so than at any other time in her life. About her superstar hubby she has said, "Will is a huge part of who I am these days, and I don't feel -- as my manager or my publicist might feel -- that we've got to chill on this whole Will Smith thing, because it's starting to take my identity. I'm saying, that's impossible." About herself she says, "As a teenager I was very involved in rap culture," she explains, "but I didn't feel good being a Black woman, I always felt it was a curse that I was female, and I always tried to be something else, taking more masculine traits, wearing the baggy clothes, hiding my body as well as my emotions within those clothes." Today she says she finally feels strong and confident, both as a woman and in particular, a Black woman.

Voted by the readers of Black Men Magazine as one of "The 10 Sexiest Women of the Year" in 2000, Jada is at ease with such titles. In a 1998 interview with writer Bell Hooks, Jada said, "My grandmother thought the human body was the most magnificent machine on the planet, and she would paint and sketch nude portraits all the time. She gave me a very responsible outlook on sensuality, my sexuality and my body."

When asked what she wants out of her career, Jada has said, "Will wants to take over the world. I just want to take pieces of that world. I want people to look at my body of work and say, "Do you see all the stuff this woman did? She went from horror to action to comedy to drama. I mean, goodness gracious! How did she do all this?"

At an audition early in her career, Debbie Allen told Pinkett, "Girl, you've got angels on your shoulders."

We couldn't agree more.