- Martin star Tisha Campbell invited both Will Smith and Jada Pinkett to a lounge in the ’90s.
- Will and Jada had had a series of near misses, but Campbell played matchmaker.
- The couple hit it off immediately, but Will was still married to Sheree Zampino.
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith had a number of near misses before they got together in 1995. Their actual meeting was facilitated by fellow sitcom star, Tisha Campbell, of Martin. Will wrote about meeting Jada in his autobiography, Will. Here’s how the magic happened.
Tisha Campbell invited Will Smith and Jada Pinkett out separately
Campbell was dating Duane Martin in the ‘90s. When they invited Will out, they had an ulterior motive.
“The Baked Potato was a small lounge in Studio City,” he wrote. “Tisha Campbell and Duane Martin, two close friends of mine, invited me to join them there. They were strangely insistent that I show up.”
Will needed a little convincing.
“I’m not really a ‘lounge’ guy, but they assured me that I’d be happy I came,” he wrote. “A little after 8:00 p.m. I walked through the door, made my way to their table: Duane, Tisha, and Jada Pinkett. And just like that, I was a lounge guy.”
Tisha Campbell knew Will Smith was interested in Jada Pinkett
Campbell knew about Will’s previous attempts to meet Jada. First Will tried to visit Jada on the set of A Different World, but he met his first wife instead. Then, Jada auditioned for a role on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air that she didn’t get. But, as Will’s marriage to Sheree Zampino was fracturing, Campbell saw an opportunity.
“Tisha was the matchmaker,” he wrote. “She knew that Sheree and I were on the outs, and she wanted to make sure, just in case, that I had no consideration other than Jada. They neglected to inform Jada or myself of this planned meeting.”
Will said he’d crossed paths with Jada on more than just the two occasions above.
I had seen Jada a few times around town over the past year – nothing too memorable – casual Hollywood hi’s and byes. She was still stunningly gorgeous to me. Still swaggy. Still full of that delicious, East Coast energy. But something was different. Something a little deeper, something profound just below my depth of perception. Maybe it was that I was older now; I was a father; perhaps I was more open, or maybe pain recognizes pain… but I felt her differently. She was only twenty-two, but her eyes felt like they had witnessed centuries. They seemed to know secrets and struggles far beyond her years.Will Smith, Will, p. 232
The connection was instant
Campbell was right about Will and Jada, as was Will’s first instinct about her. When they finally had a chance to really speak, they began the sort of conversations they would continue into their marriage.
We talked about everything – she could meet me, ascend, and elaborate on all topics and subjects, from Tupac to apartheid, from college basketball to Ganesh and eastern mysticism. It was like we went away to a private place alone, content to embrace the joy of our questions, unburdened by the quest for answers. Being together was the answer. Hours passed like minutes. I could sense the potential potency of our combined energies. Cities and empires were being constructed in my mind as we laughed and pondered and debated. Her body was so tiny, but her spirit was so strong. She was confident, solid, unwavering – a ten-ton cornerstone holding up the Great Pyramid.Will Smith, Will p. 232
Fortunately, the feeling was mutual as Will later learned. It would take until 1995 for them to officially start dating.
“Jada would later confide in me that she had heard a voice speak clearly, with no sentimentality, just a matter-of-fact: That is your husband,” he wrote. “For the time being, she rejected the prophecy. I was married, and that was a nonstarter. We gently returned from our private inner sojourn and settled back into our hard metal seats.”