Will Smith’s fitness series The Best Shape of My Life also ended up being an emotional roller coaster. When Smith set out to lose 20 pounds in 20 weeks, while writing his autobiography, it proved too much for even the superstar. By episode 5, Smith reflected on another dark time in his life, when he contemplated suicide.
All six episodes of Will Smith: Best Shape of My Life are now available on Smith’s YouTube channel. His autobiography is now in stores also and we’ll have more gems from both here on Showbiz Cheat Sheet.
The night Will Smith considered suicide
Smith describes a night when his father, Willard Sr., hit his mother, Caroline Bright. In his book, Smith confirmed he was 13 when his mother finally decided to leave and live with his grandmother.
“That was the only time in my life that I ever considered suicide,” Smith said on the series. “That was the only time in my life that I ever thought about killing myself because it was all my failure in my mind.”
Bright reacted to her son’s feeling like he was a coward because he did not protect her from his father.
“You know, the whole idea of me thinking of myself as a coward was new for her,” Smith said. “We never talked about it. The idea that I felt like I should’ve done something was so foreign so she reassured little Will that there was nothing that he could have done.”
Will Smith described the abuse he witnessed at home
Smith also details his father’s abuse further in his memoir, Will. He also credits his father, whom they called Daddio, with teaching him important life lessons and instilling a work ethic in him. However, the moments of abuse were harrowing.
“Each of my siblings remembers that night in the bedroom,” read from his book. “With me standing there in the doorway, I watched my father punch my mother so hard that she spit up blood. That moment probably more than any other moment in my life has defined who I am today. Each of my siblings responded differently in ways that would go on to define who we were for much of our lives. If Harry was fight, Ellen was flight and I became a pleaser.”
Smith realized that his coping mechanism put inordinate pressure on him to fix everything in his family.
“While this psychological response would later bear artistic and financial fruits, it also meant that my little nine-year-old brain processed Daddio’s abusive episodes as somehow being my fault,” Smith said. “I should’ve been able to keep my father satisfied, I should’ve been able to protect my mother, I should’ve been able to make the family stable and happy. I should’ve been able to make everything all right. But that night in the bedroom, watching my father’s fists collide with the woman I love most in the world, watching as she collapsed on the ground helpless, I just stood there.”
Caroline Bright reassured her son
Smith also read the section in which he articulated why he felt like a coward for not intervening with his parents.
“I was my mom’s oldest son,” Smith said. “I was less than 10 yards away and I was the only chance she had for help yet I did nothing. It was then that my young identity congealed in my mind, an unshakable feeling that no matter what I have done, no matter how successful I’ve become, no matter how much money I’ve made or how many number one hits I’ve had, how many box office records I’ve broken, there’s that subtle and silent feeling always pulsating in the back of my mind that I’m a coward, that I failed, that I’m sorry, my mom, so sorry.”
Bright explained to Smith that she kept quiet about the abuse because she did not want the kids to be scared.
“I never thought he was a coward,” Bright said. “Maybe had I been more submissive, things may have been different. Grit my teeth and buckle down. My children aren’t going to be more rattled because I’m rattled.”
Ultimately, Bright decided to take the kids out of that house.
“I said, ‘No, I’m not going to do this with my children there. No, this is not going to make them more upset with me screaming and hollering,’” Bright said.
How to get help: In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or text HOME to 741-741 to speak with a trained crisis counselor at the free Crisis Text Line.
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