Jada Pinkett Smith was born under the name Jada Koren Pinkett on September 18th, 1971, in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Through her parents, she is of Jamaican, Bajan and African-American descent. Jada’s parents separated shortly after getting married, so she was mostly raised by her mother and grandmother. It was actually her grandmother who noticed the girl’s artistic inclinations and enrolled Jada in piano, ballet and tap dance lessons. In 1989, Jada graduated from Baltimore School of Arts, where she majored in dance and theater. She then attended the North Carolina School of the Arts before dropping out a year later to pursue an acting career.
Pinkett’s first acting gig in television was in an episode of True Colors, which led to more guest roles in shows such as 21 Jump Street, A Different World and Doogie Howser, M.D., at the beginning of the 1990s. In 1993, she made her film debut in Menace II Society, a teen drama directed by the Hughes Brothers, a role she partly got thanks to her close friend Tupac Shakur, who would become one of the greatest and most influential rappers of all times. Jada continued to appear in some movies during the mid ‘90s and occasionally directed music videos, some for her friend Tupac.
Jada Pinkett’s big breakout role was opposite actor and comedian Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor (1996) to commercial success. That same year, she also appeared in the crime drama Set It Off, another box office success. In 1997, Jada had a cameo in horror movie Scream 2 and had roles in the thriller Return to Paradise (1998) and Spike Lee’s comedy Bamboozled (2000). Her following credits were in the somewhat successful comedy-drama Kingdom Come (2001) and as Muhammad Ali’s wife in Ali (2001), together with husband Will Smith.
In 2003, Jada was offered a role in the second and third movies of The Matrix trilogy, possibly becoming her most well-known role to date. Pinkett lent her voice to Gloria, the hippopotamus, one of the main character’s in DreamWorks computer animated Madagascar (2005) and its 2008 sequel. She also participated in commercially successful films like Collateral (2004) and The Women (2008). Jada returned to the small screen as an executive producer and star in TNT’s medical drama Hawthorne, going on for three seasons (2009-2011). Madagascar 3 was released in 2012, with Jada reprising her role as Gloria. In 2014, Pinkett was cast as part of the main ensemble in crime drama Gotham, as a city gangster, having a recurring role in the following seasons. On the big screen, she starred in the comedies Magic Mike XXL (2015), Bad Moms (2016) and Girls Trip (2017). Since 2018, she has been hosting, together with her mother and daughter, a Facebook Watch talk show called Red Table Talk, which won a Daytime Emmy Award in 2021.