Will Smith Said His "Ultimate Failure" Was His Divorce From Sheree Zampino
They were married from '92-'95.
Will Smith opened up about his first marriage to Sheree Zampino — but he did it with his current wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, during a special Father's Day edition of Red Table Talk. During his appearance on the show (it wasn't his first time sitting at the red table and it definitely wasn't the first time the couple let some major bombs drop at the red table), Will explained that he sees his divorce as the "ultimate failure" of his adult life and that he sees himself as a better father than husband.
"Divorce was the worst thing in my adult life. Divorce was the ultimate failure for me," Will said. "I've been hurt a lot in my adult life, but I don't think anything touches the failure of getting divorced from my [then] 2-year-old son's mother ... If a man's not a great husband then he loses his parental rights. And I'm a way better father than I am a husband."
Will continued, explaining that he witnessed domestic violence when he was young and that his challenging upbringing made his own experience as a father difficult with his first son. Coupled with the fact that he and Zampino are both stubborn, Will said, things didn't work out.
"Because of my experience of seeing [my dad] punch my mother, I knew that my kids would never see me do anything violent towards their mothers, but in the first couple years of Trey’s life, because Sheree and I were divorced, I think my desire to never have my son see me in that way made me more absent as a father," he continued. "Sheree and I really struggled with each other needing the other person to do it their way. She needed me to father the way she wanted Trey fathered, and I'm not that guy. I'm not the parent-teacher meeting, throwing baseballs with the kids [guy], and I beat myself up for that for a while, wanting to be that dad. I am the 'We are going to build something together for work' dad."
As the episode went on, Will got candid about his experience growing up and seeing what his father did. He said that everything that he chose to do as a father was a reaction to what he witnessed.
"By the time I was 10 years old, I remember looking at my father and thinking that I could do it better than him," he shared. "My father had a little bit of a temper. I was a gentle kid; I was not a kid that you had to slap or punch or beat. So growing up in a household where physical aggression was approved of, that really chafed my hide. That hurt my spirit."
Will finished, telling Jada that having his father do what he did gave him an example of what not to do, though Will admitted it wasn't the best way to learn about fatherhood.
"There's such beautiful qualities that he instilled that are a big part of what made me me, and as the yin to every yang, I watched [my father] beat up my mother. So the biggest emotional scar that I have in this lifetime, he delivered that also," Will said. "He showed me a lot of things that I wanted to do, but he also showed me the things I would absolutely, positively never do to my children."