Adrienne Banfield-Norris revealed some shocking information about her past on Red Table Talk, the chat show that she co-hosts.
Adrienne Banfield-Norris revealed some shocking information about her past on Red Table Talk, the chat show that she co-hosts.
Adrienne Banfield-Norris is one of the three hosts of the Facebook Watch talk show Red Table Talk, alongside her daughter Jada Pinkett Smith and her granddaughter Willow Smith. The three often share candid insights into their lives and experiences. The emotional confession that Adrienne shared in a November 2018 edition of the show was something so personal and traumatic, however, that the information had previously been kept from Willow.
Jada is, of course, a highly successful actress with a big public profile. Over the years she’s appeared in films such as Collateral, The Matrix sequels, Girls Trip and summer 2019 action movie Angel Has Fallen. She also gained a lot of fans for playing the role of crime lord Fish Mooney on comic-book TV show Gotham.
Jada has been married to Hollywood superstar Will Smith for more than two decades, and they have two children: 21-year-old Jaden and 18-year-old Willow, both of whom act and sing. Willow became an instant celebrity at the age of just nine, in fact, with the release of her hit track “Whip My Hair.”
When Jada was growing up, Adrienne worked in central Baltimore as a senior nurse. She has always maintained a close relationship with her daughter, so when Jada became producer and host of Red Table Talk, it made sense for her to make it a family affair.
According to the show’s website, the concept behind the series is for “three generations of women [to] open their home for a series of candid conversations with family and friends about the most important and provocative topics of the day.” Indeed, the differing perspectives of those generations is the USP of the show.
Jada told The Hollywood Reporter in July 2018 that “times are changing so fast, a lot of beliefs that we have built foundations upon are changing and deteriorating, and we’re having to replace them with new thoughts, new ideas, new beliefs, regarding how the world is changing.” She added that she wanted to “create a safe space at the red table where we really can have real, raw, unfiltered conversations.”
And it seems that this philosophy isn’t simply a cynical marketing ploy, as the Smith family members and their celebrity friends – including Common, Tiffany Haddish and Leah Remini – have been remarkably candid about some potentially controversial topics over the course of the show’s two seasons. Mental illness, polygamy and sexual abuse have all been subjects brought to the table.
An early guest on the show was actress Gabrielle Union, who starred with Will in 2003’s Bad Boys II. Jada admitted that the two women had been in a silent feud for well over a decade, informing Extra they weren’t “on the best of terms.” And the host also admitted her culpability for that situation.
“It felt so good on the phone with you to even just go, ‘Hey, I’m sorry that I didn’t even take the time to talk to you, you know?’” Jada told Union on the episode of Red Table Talk. “And then I had to just apologize and just thinking to myself, ‘Damn, Jada! That was some petty ass s**t!’” Jada added that she is a very different person nowadays, and the two women subsequently laid any remaining ill feeling to rest.
The subject of race has also come up on the show several times, and in one of those instances Adrienne made an uncomfortable admission. Jada revealed that her mother hadn’t reacted very well to her dating a white man named John. “I repeated what [my] mommy told me, was that you have to learn to get along with white people, but don’t ever bring them home,” Adrienne admitted.
Adrienne also confessed to having had a similar attitude towards her nephew Jason’s white wife Lexi. “[Lexi] will tell you we gave her a hard time because we didn’t welcome her with open arms, and she really had to prove herself,” Adrienne revealed. “I feel bad about that.”
These very personal admissions from Jada and Adrienne suggest that few topics are off the table, even ones that might present the hosts in an unfavourable light. These weren’t easy things to admit about themselves, but both women opened up in a public forum and took responsibility for their actions and intolerance.
Moreover, it isn’t only the two oldest hosts who’ve revealed shockingly personal things about their lives on the show – Willow has as well. In an admission that gets to the very core of the dangers of experiencing fame too young, Willow admitted to her mother and grandmother that she’d briefly self-harmed in the wake of the release of “Whip My Hair.”
“After the tour and the promotion… settled down and it was like a kind of lull, I was just listening to a lot of dark music and it was just so crazy,” Willow revealed. “I was just plunged into this black hole and I was like cutting myself.” Willow clarified that she cut herself on the wrist, and it seemed that Jada had no idea about these incidents. Hearing something like that from her daughter, who was just nine at the time, must have been incredibly tough for Jada to process.
The topic of Jada’s youth has been broached on the show as well on multiple occasions. In one episode, she spoke about growing up with Adrienne, who was a heroin addict for much of Jada’s childhood. “I could tell when my mother was high. She couldn’t make it on time to pick me up from school,” Jada recalled. “Or, she’s nodding off, falling asleep in the middle of something. You just realize, oh that’s not being tired. That is like, a drug problem.”
While Adrienne thankfully cleaned up her act during the 1990s, she’s nonetheless fully aware of the toll her years of addiction took on Jada. In a wrenchingly honest moment, Adrienne admitted, “The emotional damage, and the spiritual damage that I did to myself, and to her – that was devastating.”
Jada has also spoken of having been an addict herself. She’s described herself as a “binger” and has been hooked on both sex and alcohol at different points in her life. Jada said she’d believed that sex could somehow offer a solution to her problems but that this attitude eventually helped her realise she’d developed an unhealthy addiction.
Jada stated that she’d hit “rock bottom” with alcohol when “I was in the house by myself and I had those two bottles of wine and was going for the third bottle, and was like, ‘How, hold up. You’re in this house by yourself going onto your third bottle of wine. You might have a problem.’”
Jada attended the Baltimore High School For The Arts and met a future hip hop icon on her very first day: the late Tupac Shakur. She’s stated that at this point in her life she was a drug dealer, although Jada has never provided further details about that claim. The future actress studied dance and theatre, and after graduating in 1989 Jada received a scholarship to the North Carolina School For The Arts.
In a 2017 interview with Access Hollywood Jada declared that her mother had saved her by removing her from Baltimore and setting her on a path to North Carolina. “Something really horrible had happened to me that she found out about,” Jada explained. “And, you know, one day she just packed the car and was just like, ‘You’re getting outta here.’”
It’s clear, though, that despite their lives having been filled with adversity and bad decisions, Jada and Adrienne have a very strong mother-daughter bond. Or perhaps they share that bond because of the struggles they’ve faced together? Either way, Adrienne’s relationship with Jada’s father Robsol Pinkett Jr. was another contributing factor to a turbulent upbringing.
Adrienne was still at school when she met Robsol and then quickly fell pregnant. They wed, but the union lasted just months. However, even though their time as husband and wife was short, it didn’t stop Robsol from inflicting terrible domestic abuse on Adrienne.
On the Red Table Talk episode in question, which was entitled “Domestic Abuse: When Love Turns Violent,” Jada spoke of knowing her parent’s time together had been “very violent”. She said she’d seen her mom’s physical scars, adding that she believed one was from an incident in their family home that Jada herself had witnessed.
Adrienne went on to talk about her own mother Marion’s reaction to Robsol upon first meeting him. “You need to stay away from this guy, because I can see in his eyes something is wrong with him,” she said. “Something is wrong at home.” And Marion’s initial gut feeling would sadly be proven accurate many times over.
Adrienne revealed that Robsol was a “violent drunk” and that on one occasion he left her with a “black eye.” An emotional Jada admitted that “It’s not nice to hear that your parents experienced that together.” And Adrienne then went on to elaborate on the events of the night that convinced her she had to leave Robsol.
Adrienne was at her parents’ house with young Jada when Robsol “came home angry.” She could recall that as she spoke to him, she knew he was “pissed off about something” but that she truthfully didn’t “even remember what the argument was about, but he started hitting me and he was in a rage.”
Adrienne moved away from Robsol and into another room to get away from him but then remembered that Jada had been left behind. She exclaimed, “Oh my God, we left Jada!” feeling certain that would distract Robsol and that he wouldn’t be violent towards his daughter.
Robsol subsequently went to fetch Jada, and Adrienne took her opportunity to exit “through the bedroom, out the master bath and down the steps” before running “across the street to the neighbour.” On the show, Adrienne then broke down at the memory of calling the police. Adrienne said she knew the marriage was finished by the time the officers arrived.
This startling story, which Jada and Willow were visibly upset to hear, sparked further conversation about the reason women find themselves in, and then remain in, abusive relationships. Adrienne believes the root cause is a mixture of strong feelings for their partner and fear that they will never find someone who will treat them better.
“I think women stay because they think they’re in love. That’s what it was for me. But I also think women are afraid, and for whatever reason, they feel like they can’t make it on their own without the person,” Adrienne said. “It’s scary and you just don’t think you can do better.”
As intensely emotional as it was for Jada and Willow to hear a member of their family describe domestic abuse, the women wanted to show just how common it is in relationships. As a result, they brought Adrienne’s friend Crystal and her daughter Selena on the show. Crystal is also a domestic violence survivor.
Crystal detailed how her ex would constantly hit her, gave her black eyes and even leak nude photos to her family and friends. She was finally able to get up the courage to leave him when she realized the effect his abuse was having on Selena. Crystal subsequently shared a photo of her bruised face on Instagram, showing women all over the world that they’re not alone.
Jada was clearly very proud of her mother’s friend and made a heartfelt statement about Crystal’s bravery. “When you had the courage to come out and tell your story, other women rallied around you and gave you the strength to keep going,” Jada said. “That just goes to show you what sisterly love will do.”
Jada closed proceedings with a message for all people suffering from domestic abuse. “I just hope that this show could give you the courage and the strength and the understanding to know there’s no reason to be ashamed,” she stated. “There is help and you deserve better and we are sending you love and blessings.”
And Adrienne has gone on to find her happy ending. She re-married in August 2018, tying the knot with a man 27 years her junior. In fact, he’s ten years younger than Jada’s husband Will! Jada and Will attended the ceremony, of course.
Adrienne’s also experiencing a new life as something of an internet fitness influencer. At the age of 65, she’s in incredible shape, lifting weights and working on a physique that women half her age would envy. She regularly posts pictures and videos from her gym sessions with Jada and Willow.
A weightlifting post indicated that Adrienne may base her routine around the teachings of Charles “Chizel It” Harris, who according to his Instagram profile is a “fitness entrepreneur and body transformation” expert from Baltimore. A quick glance at the comments on Adrienne’s posts show that she is a source of inspiration for women all around the world.
As for Robsol, he died in 2010 from a drug overdose. Jada revealed that she’d always had a difficult relationship with her father and resented him for much of her life. She said Robsol informed her when she was just seven, that “I can’t be your father. I’m a criminal, I’m an addict and that’s just what it is.”
In addition, Jada was uncomfortable with the fact that Robsol only sought out contact with her after she became famous. “The issue for me was when I got into the position I got in and then he wanted to have a relationship,” Jada said. “That hurt me.”
Jada also spoke of a “horrendous” fight she had with Robsol before he passed away. She told him that she didn’t owe him anything and that he never did anything for her. “That’s what the disease is,” he replied. “This is who I am. I’m still your father.” It was a complicated end to what was clearly a complicated relationship.
As many fans will no doubt know, though, this is far from the only bombshell that has been dropped on Red Table Talk. In a June 2018 episode, for instance, it was Jada’s turn to make a confession about her family. And the revelation that the star made left her viewers – and her loved ones – dumbstruck.
Jada Pinkett and Will have presumably tried to do what they believe is best for their children. But it’s fair to say that their parenting techniques have sometimes appeared quirky to the outside world; even Adrienne admitted that at one point she thought their approach was “crazy.” Despite this, though, the Jada was taken aback when her son, Jaden, came to her with a heartbreaking request.
Jada opened up about the particular exchange with Jaden in an episode of Red Table Talk. During the clip, the mom discusses a conversation that she had with her son, who’s an actor, when he was just 15. And she admits that she was “devastated” by what he had to say.
But despite her heartbreak, Jada did her best to understand Jaden’s point of view. And in the end, she said that she came around to his way of thinking – even though it wasn’t what she’d wanted. So using her motherly instincts, Jada proved that if you love someone, you truly should let them go.
Now Jada and Will aren’t strangers to the parenting game. After all, since tying the knot in 1997, they’ve welcomed two kids together. The couple had their first child, Jaden, back in 1998. And two years later, they added to their brood with a daughter: Willow. Plus, Will has an older son named Trey, whom he shares with his first wife Sheree Zampino.
Over the years, meanwhile, Will and Jada have become infamous for their somewhat non-traditional approach to parenting their three kids. The celebrity couple have been open about the relaxed view on discipline in their household, for example. And in 2013 Will explained to Metro, “We don’t do punishment.”
Will went on, “The way that we deal with our kids is [that] they are responsible for their lives… Our concept is as young as possible, give them as much control over their lives as possible. And the concept of punishment – our experience has been [that] it has a little too much of a negative quality.”
To add to that, Will and Jada have apparently encouraged their children to be as open as they can with them. The couple created a so-called “circle of safety,” for instance, when the kids were very young; the thinking behind this was supposedly to allow the family to have honest conversations with one another without fear of judgment. But as we’ll find out, this didn’t excuse the kids entirely from punishment.
You see, during a 2016 appearance on The Tonight Show, Will told host Jimmy Fallon, “[In the circle of safety, the kids are] allowed to tell us everything that they did, and they can’t get in trouble… The rule is, if we find out after the circle of safety that there was something you didn’t say, there was hell to pay.”
Yes, the idea certainly sounds good in theory. But as Will and Jada’s kids grew older, there were some details that their parents began wishing they wouldn’t share. For example, Will admitted that when Willow became a teenager, he struggled to listen to some of her admissions.
On The Tonight Show, Will explained, “As a father, you do not want a circle of safety with a 15-year-old daughter. You do not… I’m like, ‘Baby, you need to start lying!’” In fact, Will joked that he had sometimes found this time with Willow so difficult that he’d had to pass her along to Jada. He confessed, “[I’m like,] ‘Nope! You and your mom can talk about that one!’”
That said, Will can hardly be surprised at his children’s openness, given that he and Jada have always encouraged self-expression. And that goes for Willow and Jaden’s unique fashion senses, too. Yet the doting parents have stood by their kids’ clothing choices – even when they may have raised some eyebrows.
For instance, Jaden has been known to blur conventional gender lines by wearing garments that have traditionally been donned by women. And it seems that Will and Jada couldn’t be prouder of their son’s radical approach to fashion. In 2016 Will told BBC Radio 1Xtra, “Jaden is 100 percent fearless.”
Will added, “[Jaden] will do anything. As a parent, it’s scary; it’s really terrifying. But he is completely willing to live and die by his artistic decisions, and he doesn’t concern himself with what people think.” And it appears that Will and Jada fully support their son’s freedom to express himself. In fact, they believe that this helps him grow as an individual.
Will continued, “There’s a really powerful internal quality as an artist that as parents we encourage. You gotta get out on the edge, [and] you have to try things. You have to be comfortable doing things that people don’t agree with, and you have to be comfortable doing things that you could fail.”
But Jaden isn’t the only one who benefits from his parents’ wholehearted support. That’s because Will and Jada have also backed their daughter, Willow, when she faced backlash for certain stylistic choices. And when the young singer shaved her hair in 2012, it was her parents who found themselves in the firing line.
Yet perhaps unsurprisingly, the Smiths didn’t take the criticism lying down. In fact, in November 2012 Jada took to Facebook to remind her haters that women and girls have every right to change their appearances without fear of judgment. She wrote, “The question [is] why I would ‘LET’ Willow cut her hair. First, the ‘LET’ must be challenged.”
Jada continued, “This is a world where women [and] girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves – that their bodies are not their own nor their power or self-determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value [and] her worth is not measured by the length of her hair.”
And Will seemingly shares Jada’s belief that Willow’s body is her own to do with as she wishes. In 2013 the actor told Parade, “When you have a little girl, it’s like, how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? She can’t cut my hair, but that’s her hair… She has got to have command of her body.”
But while the Smiths have encouraged their children to be themselves, some of their decisions have led to some challenging moments. Jada addressed one such incident in her Facebook chat series Red Table Talk. As you may know, Jada hosts the online show with her mom, Adrienne Banfield-Jones, and Willow. And as we’ll soon see, the program often features close friends and other family members, too.
So, during one episode in 2018, Jada turns her attention to her own household and gets candid about parenting. In order to give a balanced perspective on her maternal talents, she invited both Jaden and Willow to appear alongside her. And the conversation between mother and son gets pretty deep at one point.
Introducing her son at the beginning of Red Table Talk, Jada says, “Jaden’s my baby boy – my firstborn. He’s one of the most loving, gentle creatures that I know.” But as the chat progresses, the doting mom reveals how Jaden caused “one of the most heartbreaking moments of [her] life.”
You see, out of the blue, Jaden asked Jada if he could move out of the family home. Recalling what went down with her son, the actress tells him, “You got to a point where you told me straight up. You were like, ‘Mom, I have to leave here to live my life.’” And the mother seemingly remembers the incident correctly, as Jaden agrees with her account, adding, “Totally.”
Astonishingly, though, while Jada was admittedly heartbroken by her son’s request for freedom, her reaction wasn’t what you may expect. Explaining how she responded to Jaden, she said, “I remember thinking to myself, as devastated as I was, I was like, ‘He’s right. The time is now; he’s 15. It’s time for him to leave the house.’”
However, not everyone in Jada’s immediate family was quite so understanding. Interrupting the conversation, Adrienne admits, “I would have never agreed with that.” But Jada goes on to explain why she was willing to hear Jaden out on the subject of leaving home. Apparently, you see, Jaden had shown adult-like qualities from a very early age.
Yes, Jada admits during the Red Table Talk episode that she saw Jaden’s bid for freedom coming. The mom explains, “I knew. I told Will – when Jaden was smaller – I said, ‘We’ll be lucky to keep him in the house until he’s 16.’ Because he was so mature. He was making films… he could really manage his own life.”
What’s more, Jada was aware of the pressures of being a celebrity and could see why Jaden would want his own space. She continues, “Being in this lifestyle – in this world – is a bubble. He wanted out, and I understood that because I didn’t have the bubble. And I knew what – having my freedom outside of the bubble – what I gained from that.”
Ultimately, though, Jada understood that allowing Jaden to have some freedom didn’t mean cutting ties with him forever. Revealing her motivation behind allowing her son to move out, the actress says, “I knew that the sooner I let him go, the faster he was going to come back.” And it seems that she was right.
In July 2013, you see, Jaden reportedly filed for emancipation from Jada and Will as a gift for his 15th birthday. When the child star appeared on an episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show that same year, however, he addressed this claim. And he appeared to deny that he was planning on leaving home.
Setting the record straight on Ellen, Jaden explained, “See, here’s the thing that you need to understand: I’m not going anywhere… The thing that people don’t get is [that] everything at this house is free! So I can get anything and everything at this house, so I’m going to be there [for] 20 [or] 30 more years.”
It seems then, that Jaden didn’t actually move out of the Smith family home in Malibu, California, until June 2017. And even then he didn’t go too far, relocating to a mansion in Los Angeles’ Hidden Hills that’s reportedly worth around $4 million. The exclusive gated neighborhood has housed many famous faces over the years, including Jessica Simpson, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.
In fact, Jaden was approaching his 19th birthday when he finally moved out of his parents’ home, meaning he was a little older than he had been when he’d first asked to fly the nest. But gaining independence was apparently beneficial to him – especially when it came to how he saw his family.
Indeed, during his appearance on Red Table Talk, Jaden explains how moving out changed his perspective on family life. He says, “It just makes you appreciate being at home, being with your parents [and] spending quality time with family. You get out into the world, and then you just kind of just understand things.”
So it seems that the Smiths got things right when it came to giving Jaden the space to decide what he wanted for himself. And yet the couple’s parenting techniques haven’t always gone down so well with their children. In fact, Jaden and Willow have both suggested that they felt pushed into the spotlight before they were perhaps ready.
For example, Willow became a household name when she was just ten years old thanks to her 2010 single “Whip My Hair.” But speaking of this period on Red Table Talk, the singer confesses that it was a “really terrible experience.” Plus, she adds, “The values of the people that were around me should have been the opposite.”
Clarifying what Willow meant, Jada says, “Your feeling about that was that you felt like you were put in the game too soon.” She goes on, “I think all that came with it was too much.” However, the mom explains that she and Will thought they were doing the right thing by supporting their daughter’s dreams.
Jada continues, “Your dad and I, we were like, ‘Oh man, she’ll be set up for life. This is her start.’” However, Willow admits that shaving her hair was a consequence of the “upset” that she suffered from her pop career. She adds, “There’s a Nirvana lyric that says, ‘I shave my head, and then I’m not sad.’”
But of course, Willow wasn’t the only child star in the Smith family. Yes, like his sister, Jaden has been famous from a young age, having appeared in several movies such as The Pursuit of Happyness. And he too struggled to deal with some of the pressures of fame. Indeed, there was one movie in particular where he felt as though everything was too much.
Jaden reveals on Red Table Talk, “I went through the same thing that Willow went through with “Whip My Hair” with The Karate Kid. It was happening at the same time.” Yes, it seems as though Jaden’s role in the 2010 movie, which also stars Jackie Chan, pushed him to his limits.
Jada explains, “I remember the moment, because I asked [Jaden], [and he] went into that full split, and he was in tears. And I was like, ‘I’m done.’” However, even when Jada was ready to throw in the towel, Jaden wanted to power through. The mom reveals, “He looked at me, [and] he’s like, ‘Mom, I’m good.’ He got up, and he said, ‘Let’s do it again.’”
So it seems that – much like most parents – Jada and Will have experienced both successes and failures when it comes to raising their kids. Taking that into consideration, then, Jada is apparently careful not to force parenting advice on others. What the mom does believe, however, is that “every child needs something different.” And this may explain her and Will’s unique approach to family life.