‘Gigi Taught Me to Trust God and Stop Trying to be God’: Will Smith Speaks on His Grandmother’s Impact With Oprah

by Erica Johnson

November 9, 2021

Will Smith sat down with Oprah Winfrey and dropped gems ahead of the release of his new self-entitled memoir, “Will.” Before anyone says that the veteran actor’s memoir is just another puff piece, he set the record straight.

“I did a writer’s camp. It took two weeks for me to put it all together. I brought everybody I mentioned including my brother, my sister, and my mother. I wanted everybody to hear what I said about them. That was the hard part. I wanted to tell the truth. I wanted to let people have it,” said the Philadelphia native.

Growing up living hand-to-mouth with an alcoholic and often abusive father was an experience that shaped his entire adult life.

“When I was 9-years-old, I watched my father punch my mother in the head so hard that she collapsed. I saw her spit up blood. That moment in that bedroom, more than any other moment in my life has defined who I am today. I have carried most of my life the sense of failing every woman with whom I interact. There are only two women on earth I believe I did not fail, my grandmother, Gigi, and Willow.”

Photo by Randy Shropshire/Getty Images

Unfortunately, the Seven Pounds actor is not alone. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, Black women and men experience domestic violence at higher rates than in other communities. In children, the feelings of helplessness or shame for not acting at a time when they should be protected have devastatingly long-term effects.

“I felt like a coward, a scared little boy who could not protect his mother,” said the Grammy winner. “For my entire life, we never mentioned it until I read her the chapter from my book more than eight weeks ago. She had no idea I processed it that way.”

Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images

Pain is often a hard thing to process but that makes the achievements all the richer. With 35 years in the entertainment industry the lessons his mother and father instilled in him, despite the challenges, contributed to his overall success.

“Through my own misgivings, I tried to be all things for all people to makeup for failing my mother. My grandmother Gigi saw me and she said ‘to trust God, stop trying to be God.’ “I’ve reached a point where I’m going to trust what I get. Be grateful for whatever I receive, even the pain, even the things that hurt. I’m going to be thankful for everything that I get realizing that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.”

The widely anticipated “King Richard” airs on HBO Max the same day as it does it in theaters on Nov. 19. The autobiography “Will” took two years to write and is available now wherever books are sold.

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