Imagine the scene. You’re a middle-aged woman, sitting around the table with your husband, your mother and your teenage daughter. Your husband is saying how hard he tried to give you the best 40th birthday party ever, and you didn’t even appreciate it. Then you announce that you never wanted to get married in the first place because marriage is a trap, but your mother forced you into it because you were pregnant. Grandma responds that this is news to her, but agrees that your wedding was horrible. Your daughter is just staring at all of you and saying wow a lot.
Well, you don’t actually have to imagine it, because this is a real conversation that Hollywood stars Jada Pinkett Smith and her husband Will Smith had at home in Calabasas, California, with their daughter Willow and Jada’s mother Adrienne.
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They weren’t alone: the conversation was recorded on camera as an episode of Jada’s series, Red Table Talk, an online discussion show which is broadcast on Facebook Watch and which has become the breakthrough unscripted hit in the world of social-media television.
But why, why would they reveal all of their deepest darkest feelings in public, for total strangers to gawp at? How can they all recover from each other’s revelations to make another episode the next week? Didn’t the Smiths used to be a really private family? Didn’t we all used to be?
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Jada Pinkett Smith, who is now 47, sits in a meeting room at the Facebook headquarters in London, a skyscraper made of glass that overlooks the whole of London, and with her hair in a shining gold wrap, her voice slow and steady and utterly dignified, she explains it to me.
“When I was going through a really tough time in my life,” she says, with her publicist sitting beside...
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