This week on Red Table Talk loss and death are spoken about with special attention to what loss can mean beyond physical death.
The Loss of Tupac: Jada, Willow
Thanks to the recently released All Eyez on Me, alongside appearing together in A Different World, those who know of Jada Pinkett-Smith know of her relationship to Tupac. There was also that poem Willow posted way back which brought up thoughts that maybe there was more than many of us know. That Pinkett-Smith has refuted many times but does reiterate that losing him is a pain she may never get over.
The day he died, was around the time she was supposed to fly out to see him and luckily Will (Smith) was there to console her. However, no amount of consoling takes away from the expectation and dreams that said person would be there for life. And, you know, disappointment festers into anger and led Jada, possibly still to this day, to be mad at God, Tupac, and [tooltips keyword=’a whole bunch of other people’ content = ‘Of course, she doesn’t name names.’]. Especially since she believed he was at a possible turning point.
But, as discussed with Willow, while he might of died before the age of 30, barely in his 25th year of life, he is an icon. A legend. He changed Hip-Hop/Rap in ways very few will ever be able to say. So there is some solace in that.
One of the things I wished was pushed more, since the whole romantic angle has been such a strong part of the Tupac/Jada narrative, is how you can have a deep connection with someone, even if of the gender you usually take to, and it doesn’t have to be sexual. You can have 0 blood relation, unless you go back to the beginning, and that person can be like a brother, sister, cousin, or what have you.
In my mind, it would have been a good follow up to the bonus family topic of last week. But, you know, being that Jada was speaking from the heart, and there aren’t writers with this show, maybe just a little bit of editing, sometimes we, as viewers, got to connect the dots for ourselves. See how things are connected as Jada and her family present their working blueprint for life.
Loss As A Learning Tool: Jada, Willow, Adrienne
Alongside Tupac, other losses mentioned are Jada and Willow’s former hair braider Shae, who passed of brain cancer, and Adrienne’s oldest sister [tooltips keyword=’Sondra’ content = ‘Link to her obituary.‘]. The reason these two are brought up is to enforce two ideas: The first being, show love constantly and consistently, for you will never know what can happen. Shae was in remission, from what Jada knew, but then suddenly passed before they could have a conversation and not calling recently leaves Jada with a bit of guilt.
In terms of Sondra, watching her older sister make sure everyone was alright, being such a kind woman, but clearly unhappy, that was a wakeup call for Adrienne. And, the way I interpret it is, she realized, and Jada backs this up when she talks about her feeling loss, that you can’t rely on other people being happy to make you feel happy. It just doesn’t work like that.
You know, with the first episode I was, admittedly, thinking that as open as the show was going to be, it was mostly going to be geared towards clearing up misunderstandings. Perhaps giving some insight about how everyone navigated through things. Apparently, I was grossly mistaken because, beyond Tupac, they went into how non-public figures affected their lives.
The mentioning of Shea and us getting a moment in which, possibly genuinely, Jada got the news, that was much more than I expected to see. Then, with the mentioning of Adrienne’s older sister and how that loss pushed her towards joy. Alongside reading the obituary to really see that this woman did a lot for other people, it really put things in perspective. That being a good person doesn’t have to, or maybe even should mean, absolute sacrifice of yourself for the betterment of others.
Just as the people you serve and help deserve to be happy, so do you. And really, you shouldn’t expect them to do so just because you made their life better. Often times, you got to pick up that task yourself.
When Jada And Willow Lost Themselves: Jada, Willow
As someone only halfway through their 20s, I remember when Willow Smith “Whip My Hair” came out and, though a bit too old, and lacking the hair, to really get going with it, I enjoyed that and the music which followed. However, when it suddenly stopped and her deal with Jay-Z’s label seemingly was over and she kind of went silent, being that she was a child, and had the privilege of her parents’ backing, I figured she didn’t enjoy it and that was it. Well, Willow goes a little deeper than that and reveals, her taste of that level of fame made her begin to lose herself.
After all, lest we forget, on top of being part of an entertainment dynasty, the Smith kids, to this day, are eccentric and that comes with a certain amount of scrutiny which goes beyond looking at the parents. Something which isn’t mentioned by Willow but just providing you a little extra for what is to come. Which is, Willow revealing she used to cut herself. Just on her arms and despite this self-harm which, [tooltips keyword=’maybe lasted for 2-3 years,’ content = ‘Whip My Hair came out 2010 and Willow notes it has been 5 years since she cut herself, hence the estimated 2-3 year time frame’] neither Jada nor Adrienne seemed to have noticed.
Now, as for the reason why she chose cutting? It was because she wanted the mental and emotional pain to match the physical. As Jada came to understand it, “Self-Harm makes the pain more tangible, it’s actually visible, something you can see and put your finger on and it becomes real.” Which Willow agreed. But, as noted in the tooltip, it has been 5 years since and with only one friend knowing about it before this, Willow basically revealed something no one really knew.
In the video above, released on Will’s Instagram, he talks about retiring from trying to make Jada, who he names, happy. Now, being that the Smiths, before this show, were largely private, naturally, this amount of openness produced rumors of divorce and yadda yadda. Truth is though, and this is reflective of how Adrienne’s older sister lived, Jada was trying to make sure everyone was happy, they were good, and seemingly put her needs and feelings aside.
Something she sort of pushes as a woman and generational thing. Are your kids happy, is your husband thriving, so then you’re good right. Your family is good so you should be good. However, Jada felt like she was dying. She gave up her career to raise a family, because of her Hollywood profile, she had to deal with certain perceptions and as she was making sure everyone was cool, she makes it sound she withered away.
But, don’t fret, she has started to find herself once more, began doing what makes her happy, and seems to be in a better place. After all, like Iyanla Vanzant said in Peace From Broken Pieces: “When you can tell the story and it doesn’t bring up any pain, you know it is healed.” And while, by no means, was that journey, starting it or currently being on it, easy, she has made it.
Let’s start with Willow. Being the children of the top entertainers, Black or in general, in a generation has pressure attached to it. On top of that, her entering into music, which made her father famous, working with Jay-Z on a possible deal, and also dabbling into acting, that is a lot. Even with her parents guiding her. And I find myself constantly referring to something Rowan Blanchard said in regards to the teen years, that I think a lot of adults, even at my age, forget, those teen years are an ass kicker. So much for you is new and on top of that, your dealing with hormones and emotions that are foreign. Plus, depending on your family, you either may have no one to talk to or feel guilty.
Like, in the case of Willow, there are a lot of girls out there who would love to be a singer or actress, so imagine wanting to walk away from an opportunity people spend their whole life chasing. On top of that, imagine feeling down or depressed when you grew up in privilege. Especially compared to those who are either your parents or bonus parents. Depending on your mindset, feeling bad about your situation, considering what others went through or are going through, may make you feel worse.
And I’m not saying this went through Willow’s mind as she had her dark period. It’s just how I’m trying to decipher it because, as much as Willow speaks about feeling in a lull, asking who she is outside of entertainment, the industry which changed her parents lives, again, there is some stuff which can’t fit into a 20 minute episode that you have to piece together. Even if it isn’t the exact reason but merely factors which you can imagine going through.
Because, as noted in the first episode I believe, what is being given is a blueprint and even if you aren’t famous, or a public figure, there are tools given for you to use. Such as, say you are a business owner. Naturally, your kid seeing that would think either they can or should do that too. Yet, perhaps like Willow, they come to a point of realizing they don’t enjoy it and with their life, up to that point, being built around that idea and the persona you have and what that means they should be, it could cause depression.
Now, unfortunately, at least for those seeking a sign with their kids, or kids around Willow’s age, she says she just snapped out of it so you are left for the ultimate answer of how to stop or end it on your own. Or rather, with a title card featuring a helpline. But, you know, for some people, once they explore the issue, figure out their coping way isn’t healthy and needs to end, that is what happens. It isn’t commonly heard of but, common only represents what you are aware of.
Switching to Jada, again, like many, I wondered what happened? She was hot in the 90s, kind of disappeared after Matrix, popped up with Hawthorne and didn’t appear again, in terms of my radar, until Bad Moms. Seemingly, she was trying to be everything to everyone and while she was sometimes able to get her mom to help with motherhood, as noted in the first episode, it seems there came a point where she wasn’t just unhappy, but sounding like she was in Willow’s state. Not hurting herself but just in a lull and a bit lost and unhappy.
Which, again, there are generalizations presented, as noted in the recap, but specifics are absent. Hence the Will Smith video because, as her husband, and as any would see their husband, there is the belief that if I’m unhappy you should be doing something about it. Yet, really, considering Jada’s aunt again, it seemed there was this idea that since I do so much, I should get much in return but, something wasn’t clicking.
And I can’t really say more than that because we lack specifics and as private as Will has been, Jada has been even more so. However, sooner or later, since Will is reportedly going to be in an episode, maybe we’ll get a follow up to his video and understand what, beyond motherhood, fame, and people’s perceptions, specifically got to her and turned this vibrant and loquacious woman into what sounds like a shell of her former self.
Collected Quote(s) & .Gifs
Self-Harm makes the pain more tangible, it’s actually visible, something you can see and put your finger on and it becomes real.
Pain motivates you, pain is a motivating factor for you to make a change in your life to do something different.
What I need to keep doing is training my heart and my mind to accept and move with loss.
- Willow revealing her self-harm despite the fact no one knew but one friend of hers.
- Jada talking about losing herself to motherhood, and perhaps trying to have it all but being unable to.
- Just the continued openness of the show and it really pushing beyond what you think they may or may not reveal as they seek to share their truth and inspire you to tell yours.