Everybody has a breaking point. For Will Smith, that was clearly displayed at Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremony on March 27th. For the most part, the general public has seen more of a polished and professional image of the Oscar-winning actor. But as time passed, there has been a change in Smith’s demeanor, whether noticeable or not. Perhaps Will Smith is tired of upholding the standard of who people think he should be or want him to be. Maybe, he’s ready to be himself.
Will Smith has had an incredibly legendary career in the entertainment business. Throughout his career, the actor has opened the door into his life for fans to share a taste of what he’s been through. But within the last year, the Bad Boys for Life actor released his long-awaited memoir that fully exposed many of the struggles he’d been dealing with.
Issues within the entertainer’s life stemmed from as early as the age of 9, when he witnessed horrific events within his own household. Will Smith detailed the harrowing part of his life where his father mercilessly inflicted harm on his mother. From that moment, everything changed for Smith. The actor writes in his memoir that the chilling experience made him feel as though he “failed” his mother. Will Smith revealed that he harbored a sense of “cowardice” and always felt the need to “overachieve” in life to remove all instances of hurt.
Eventually, Will Smith developed the “Fresh Prince” personality as a rapper. However, this would lead to many fans believing that this persona was all-encompassing for Smith. Recalling the “Fresh Prince” persona in Will, he wrote, “That buoyant, happy, joyful image was painted over a core of a real lack of self-esteem and self-respect.” Much of Will Smith’s moves for his image have been calculated. As a rapper, most of his discography was clean, with no explicit content. Just as well, even though Smith’s movies range from “family man” to “bad-a**,” the actor would remain poised and charismatic in public.
Now that Will Smith is in his 50s, he’s released the feeling of having to hold back any longer. Thus, he has claimed this time of his life as the “f-it 50’s” after conversations that he’s had with fellow actor Denzel Washington. “…I gave myself the freedom to do whatever I wanted to do,” the actor told GQ for their November 2021 issue.
In the same GQ profile, Will Smith explained that he was now ready to “destroy the clinging to ‘Will Smith,’ trying to separate the image of Will Smith from who I actually am.” Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F–– and co-author of Will Smith’s memoir, also spoke with GQ and relayed the Academy Award-winning actor’s truth that he’d been hiding who he really was from the world.
Will Smith elaborated on his newfound freedom while on The Breakfast Club. Within his 50s, he’s been doing things to live life, derail fear, and embrace the man he truly is. Examples of Will Smith’s wild adventures within the last few years include swimming with sharks and bungee jumping out of a helicopter. “I painted myself into a corner with ‘Will Smith,'” the actor said. With all of the childhood traumas and experiences he’d faced, Smith notes that he created the character to “defend” them in certain circumstances. “We go out into the world, and that character wins some things for us. It’s like, ‘Oh, we succeed by behaving this way.”
Smith added that at some point in time, that defense mechanism and character ceases to work as well as it did before. “The reason that it stops working is because it’s not true. It’s not really who you are,” he said. At that point, you are, once again, backed into a corner. You are then begged to question, can you be “brave enough to kill, essentially, the character that you’ve created, and are you going to have the courage to live as who you really are.”
Will Smith shared that his bungee jumping out of a helicopter was symbolic of him shedding the persona that everyone came to know and love. “I’m gonna be who I am, even if it isn’t in line with the Will Smith I think I’m supposed to be,” the actor stated. Furthermore, he promised that he would have the “courage and bravery to be” who he is.