Jada Pinkett Smith Admits She Cheated in High School and ‘Wasn’t Even Supposed To Graduate’

Jada Pinkett Smith revealed that she cheated on Will Smith with August Alsina, but that wasn’t the only time she cheated. In high school, the 49-year-old from Baltimore, Maryland, hustled her way to graduation by cheating and plagiarizing. 

Jada Pinkett Smith
Jada Pinkett Smith | Rodin Eckenroth/WireImage

Jada Pinkett Smith went to an art school in Baltimore because of her grandmother

It’s no secret that Jada went to school with the late rapper Tupac Shakur at the Baltimore School of Arts. The Matrix star told Vibe in 1994 that she related to her character Lauren in The Inkwell because of how she grew up.

“Lauren was also familiar because my Jamaican grandmother raised me in that upper-middle-class background before she died,” she told Vibe.

Jada Pinkett Smith, Sheree Zampino and Will Smith
Jada Pinkett Smith, Sheree Zampino, and Will Smith | Bryan Steffy/WireImage

Jada’s mother, Adrienne Norris Banfield, became pregnant with her in high school, so Jada’s grandmother helped raise her. Marion Banfield noticed her granddaughter’s interest in the arts and enrolled her in piano lessons, tap dance, and ballet. 

“She taught me that I could achieve whatever I want to achieve,” Jada told People about the late Banfield. “Grandma wanted her grandchildren to have every possible experience—ballet, tap dancing, piano lessons, gymnastics. She didn’t ever want us to ever think we were deprived.”

Smith was a drug dealer and cheated through high school

Although she fought hard to get a spot in the public arts high school, Jada struggled to get by, sell drugs, and cheat off friends. 

“One of the things that’s very interesting that I’ve never really said before is that when I first met Pac when we first met, I was a drug dealer,” Jada told Sirius XM’s Sway in the Morning.

Jada spoke more about her difficult time in high school when actor and comedian Tiffany Haddish visited the Facebook Watch Red Table Talk

'Girls Trip' stars Jada Pinkett Smith, Tiffany Haddish, Regina Hall, and Queen Latifah
‘Girls Trip’ stars Jada Pinkett Smith, Tiffany Haddish, Regina Hall, and Queen Latifah | Todd Williamson/Getty Images

Tiffany Haddish explained how she plagiarized and cheated her way through school. The actor’s teachers did not know she couldn’t read until the tenth grade; she hid the fact by copying other students’ work. Jada revealed that she and Haddish had a very similar experience.

“I’m listening to you, and I’m like I did the same thing,” Jada responds to Haddish. “I wasn’t even supposed to graduate from high school. It was literally a gift, my high school diploma. Your hustle was a little stronger than mine because I went to an art school. I had a little more leniency.”

How did Jada Pinkett Smith get her breakout role on ‘A Different World’?

'A Different World' cast: Cree Summer as Winifred 'Freddie' Brooks, Glynn Turman as Col. Bradford 'Brad' Taylor, Charnele Brown as Kimberly 'Kim' Reese, Darryl M. Bell as Ronald 'Ron' Johnson, Lou Myers as Vernon Gaines, Cory Tyler as Terrence Johann Taylor, Dawnn Lewis as Jaleesa Vinson Taylor, Jasmine Guy as Whitley Marion Gilbert Wayne, Kadeem Hardison as Dwayne Cleophus Wayne, Jada Pinkett Smith as Lena James
‘A Different World’ cast: Cree Summer as Winifred ‘Freddie’ Brooks, Glynn Turman as Col. Bradford ‘Brad’ Taylor, Charnele Brown as Kimberly ‘Kim’ Reese, Darryl M. Bell as Ronald ‘Ron’ Johnson, Lou Myers as Vernon Gaines, Cory Tyler as Terrence Johann Taylor, Dawnn Lewis as Jaleesa Vinson Taylor, Jasmine Guy as Whitley Marion Gilbert Wayne, Kadeem Hardison as Dwayne Cleophus Wayne, Jada Pinkett Smith as Lena James | NBCU Photo Bank

When Smith was 19, she moved to Los Angeles, California. She only spent one year at the North Carolina School of the Arts but tried to get a job as a choreographer on In Living Color. She cited that her qualifications for the position were assisting with dance routines for a high school play. 

Although the actor did not get the job, she did contact an agent and by 1991 began starring as Lena James on A Different World.

“I’m pretty hard to stop,” she told People. “When I want something, I go get it.”