Essence: Why Jada Pinkett-Smith And Gabrielle Union Had Beef For 17 Years… Until Now
Nearly every show on television and the internet boasts that it’s the most real and raw or honest program. Those words are so often misused they've become cliché, perhaps even taking on a coded meaning: produced and heavily edited. However, actress Jada Pinkett-Smith has never shied away from expressing her authenticity which is probably why so many of us love her.
In Jada's new show, Red Table Talk, co-hosted by her mother and daughter, Adrienne Banfield-Norris and Willow Smith, Jada invites us into she and Will’s home for real conversations about a wide-range of topics. The series features conversations that will likely have us all coming back every week once it premieres on May 7th.
For starters, did you know that Jada and Gabrielle Union hadn’t been speaking for 17 years? Well, the new show brings the two women together for a conversation that apparently brought their longtime feud to an end. The most interesting part might be why the two superstars weren’t on stable footing with one another in the first place.
“She and I did not talk for 17 years and we could not remember why,” Jada said to ESSENCE. “There was just tension between us every time we would see each other. There was some moment that we had that just left a bad taste in both of our mouths. When we got on the phone to try to figure out what it was we could not figure it out!” she laughs. “It was just us being young, divas…”
Adrienne, Jada's mother, chimes in, “What it was was silly. After you go through that and realize that you don’t even…”
“...You don’t even realize it!” Jada says agreeing, finishing her mother’s sentence.
“I would see her and she would see me, and the last time I saw her there was still this funny tension, and I’m like 'what is that?' Then Ellen was like 'we need to do a girlfriends show, we should do one of your really close girlfriends.'"
Ellen Rakieten is the show’s executive producer, most-known for having produced the Oprah Winfrey Show for more than 20 seasons.
“I was like, no, I actually think I want to make a new girlfriend,” Jada said of making the decision to go a different direction. Gabrielle’s name just wouldn’t stop, it just had to be that. So I just called her up.”
The phone call between the two was what Jada called “a deeply healing moment.”
“There are so many of us that hold onto stuff, that we don’t even know why we’re holding on,” she continued. “and we’re hurting ourselves more than we’re hurting the other person. The idea of releasing someone and releasing yourself, she and I felt so good about it.”
Episodes of the show will feature the multi-generational discussions that Jada, Adrienne, and Willow made popular in a video, of the same name, that went viral years ago when the three sat around a table, just talking.
That would come full circle in creating the show years later, as producer Rakieten explains.
“I was going through something, and I have two boys that are close in age to Willow and Jaden. And I don’t go to my kids with my problems, but they’d sat me down [for a talk] and they gave me their point of view,” Rakieten said, further explaining a relationship she’d been in was what lead to the kids’ intervention. That talk lead her to wanting to do a show about a multi-generational discussion on life topics. When she mentioned it to a producer friend who’d seen Red Table Talkbefore, he told her “you should call Jada.”
“I’ve always been a huge fan,” Rakieten said, initially unaware of the video the Smith family had done years prior. “They had already done it, and we just came together. I’d not been interested in doing a show like this since Oprah [ended].”
Mothers and Mothering
The matriarch of the show, Jada's mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris, is a stunning, open-hearted, but admittedly a bit reserved presence on her own. She describes herself as less-than-confident. Jada says under her breath, “you’d never know it,” as she laughs.
“My mother had married a gentleman, and…” Jada began, “which one!?” Banfield-Norris interrupted, as they both laughed. “I’ve been married several times…” she said, smiling and holding up four fingers. “I just never gave up on love, I like being married.”
Jada says she’s learned from her mother that marriage is a process, and to always try.
The show will also bring Jada into a conversation with Sheree Fletcher, Will’s ex-wife and the mother of his first child, Trey. In this episode viewers see Jada turn a typical opportunity to discuss Mother’s Day on its head. “We’ve seen all different kinds of Mother’s Day discussions in regards to motherhood.”
Jada said she’d realized that “Sheree was my entry point into motherhood. When I married Will, I didn’t have my kids yet, my introduction to mothering was co-mothering with her. Me reflecting on that experience and what that journey had been like, I thought we would be able to sit at the table and talk about it extensively and thoroughly.”
The two women agree that two things were critical for them: the first was keeping the child they had in common as the central focus for making their blended family more harmonious. The second was a willingness to always try, even if it wasn’t always easy to get along.
"We were two women, imperfect women, who just were willing to try and make this situation work," Fletcher said. "We loved our children and we tried to put them first."
While things eventually worked out, Fletcher recalls it wasn't smooth sailing.
“I could not have picked a better bonus mother for Trey, and if it were up to me [back then], I’d have chosen someone different,” said Fletcher. “She has been so loving, so kind, she loves him. What more can you ask?”
It doesn't get any more real, raw and honest than that.
Red Table Talk premieres May 7 on Facebook Watch, and releases new episodes every Monday, with a live-event episode featuring the three hosts on May 9th.