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Ever watched Will Smith’s ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ and got mesmerized by the acting and unspoken wisdom?
In case you missed it, we at Robust Story urge you to spare some time and watch the movie, especially in these testing times to get a break from the shackles of negative news.
Talking about the movie, did you know that the father-son duo shares a relationship of father & son in real life too!
Yes, we are referring to Will Smith and his son, Jaden Smith.
Ever wondered how come, Will Smith, the multi-talented star managed to climb the ladder of success in diverse fields- as a Rapper, well-established actor, producer & philanthropist?
Stick throughout the whole blog to read about different phases of Will Smith’s life and two life learnings from his journey.
Born to Caroline and Willard Carroll Smith Sr. on September 25th, 1968, in Philadelphia, Will Smith ranks among the greatest actors in Hollywood.
Brought up in a middle-class family, Will always strived to put his best foot forward in every task he undertook.
His mother, Caroline, worked as an administrator at a school in Philadelphia, and his father, Willard, was an engineer and an Air Force veteran.
Owing to the lack of a workforce, Will Smith started assisting his father in business-related tasks, along with his studies.
The management of work with academics laid the foundation for the management of multiple passions that changed the life of Will Smith. Apart from the professionalism that started way back in his adolescence, Will Smith was a studious student and scored decent marks during his schooling.
Although Will Smith belonged to a family that emphasized studies rather than experimentation with career, the hip hop genre gravitated him strongly.
It was only due to his fascination and passion that made Will Smith pursue his dream of becoming a hip hop artist, despite the resistance by his family members.
And to his critic’s dismay, he turned the odds in his favor through becoming a successful hip hop artist, rapper, songwriter before even beginning his career in acting. Up until 1996, Will Smith featured and performed by the stage name, The Fresh Prince.
Everything in his music career went perfect till the release of his third album with DJ Jazzy Jeff, titled “And in this corner“.
The failure of “And in this corner” and tax-related issues acted instrumental, weirdly but factually, at the beginning of his acting career.
According to Will Smith, in a YouTube video:
he decided to act in ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ to solve his financial debts and crisis.
But fate had something altogether different in hold for Will Smith. His forced entry into the acting world changed his life upside down.
Little did he know that the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air would go on to become the finest actor in the Hollywood industry.
Scroll the blog further to read about the multiple phases of Will Smith’s life.
The Fresh Prince era
Before graduating from high school, Will Smith got attracted and involved in the hip hop scene heavily. Owing to his educated and academically inclined parents, he faced resistance from his family at the beginning of his Rap career. According to several reports available in the public domain, Will Smith scored above-average marks in his SATs.
Also, in an interview, Will Smith accepted that he got accepted into a pre-engineering summer program at MIT, which is considered a significant academic achievement.
Also, despite his academic eligibility and blue-collar family background, Will Smith chose the other way around. After graduating from high school, he dropped out of formal education and picked up the stage name of ‘The Fresh Prince’ to commence his hip-hop journey in the early 1980s.
In his initial days of struggling between recording studios and writing RAPs, Will Smith met DJ Jazzy Jeff at a house party through a sheer coincidence. DJ Jazzy Jeff was about to perform at a house party in Smith’s neighborhood but lacked his hype-man to initiate the party.
Will grabbed the mic and started to perform to capture the opportunity, which eventually led to a personal and professional bond between DJ Jazzy Jeff and Smith.
The duo started to perform at gigs, pubs and began recording their verses to hone their vocal and rhyming skills.
In 1986, the duo’s first single, Girls Ain’t Nothing but Trouble got released by World-Up records and put them on the forefront of Hip Hop.
The song was a huge success when evaluated from the perspective of debutants and climbed to the 57th position in the Billboard (US) Hot 100 charts.
After their first single got a positive response, Jive records debuted their first album, Rock the House that turned out to be a moderate commercial success.
Though Rock The House didn’t scale as expected, it gave Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff their first album and taste of the industry’s business.
By and by, finally, in 1987, their second album, He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper, turned out to be one of their most enormous successes.
The album created many records. It was the only album in the rap genre to get released as a double-vinyl LP.
Furthermore, a single of the album, Parents Just Don’t Understand, made the duo the first recipients of a Grammy award for rap music.
Gradually along with fame, Will Smith or ‘The Fresh Prince’ transformed into a millionaire from being middle class at a young age. And as expected from a gullible youth, he started to flush out his wealth of fleet of cars, bikes, and other extravagances. On the verge of spending everything that he earned, the third album of the Rapper-DJ duo, ’And in This Corner’ fell flat on the face.
The album, released in October 1989, incurred poor reviews, bashing from avid hip hop listeners, and underwhelming sales in the market. The critical phase got even worse because of the underpayment of income taxes, which made the IRS attach most of his belongings and made him almost bankrupt.
The financial crisis made him coincidentally meet Benny Medina, then Vice President of the urban-music section of Warner Bros. Records, at a taping. Medina pitched him to act in a sitcom that he (Benny) and Quincy Jones were developing, based loosely on the life experiences of Medina in Bel Air.
The sitcom’s name was The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which initiated his acting career, though forcedly but exponentially.
With a changed dream of becoming the world’s greatest actor, Will Smith juggled between acting and rapping. Owing to his busy acting schedule, he managed time to release two albums (1991 & 1993) with his old music partner, DJ Jazzy Jeff.
His fourth album in 1991, Homebase with Jazzy, featured the single, Summertime, that made him win his second Grammy award as an artist, along with hitting the top of the Billboard charts.
Furthermore, their fourth album became a platinum-certified album. An album gets platinum-certified only if a song of the album gets sold more than 2 million times or if the album gets the sale of 1 million copies and above.
The album remapped the duo in the music industry after the failure of their third album.
In 1993, the duo of Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff collaborated for the last time for an album.
‘Code Red’ marked their fifth and last album of the duo, which became a semi-hit.
Finally, in 1996, Will Smith left his stage name, The Fresh Prince, and continued his rest of the musical journey by his real name.
Will Smith as an Actor and Performer
As we discussed above, Will Smith embarked on the acting bandwagon through ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ that aired on NBC from 1990-96.
The six-season sitcom is considered the show that helped Will Smith accumulate the audience’s attention and convince them through his acting skills. The 140+ episodes sitcom was a hit, and his hilarious characterization prepared him for action-comedy thrillers like Bad Boys.
Will Smith got the opportunity to showcase his skills in the Hollywood industry through the 1993 drama movie, Six Degrees of Separation. The movie didn’t receive expected commercial success but helped Smith to broaden and experiment in acting. That ultimately led to the accumulation of critical acclamations and praises from Hollywood.
Finally, in 1995, with an experience of a Hollywood movie and a six-season sitcom, Smith bagged the role of Mike Rowley in The Bad Boys with another sitcom actor, Martin Lawrence.
Furthermore, in 1996 Will Smith bagged the role of Captain Steven Hiller in The Independence Day.
The movie exploded miraculously and garnered both critical feedback from the audience and monumental commercial success. It amassed $817 million in 1996 and became the highest-grossing film of that year.
Apart from the commercial gains, Will Smith himself admits that the movie made his fortune.
After the success in 1996, the very same year Will Smith started filming for Men in Black with Steven Spielberg.
Apart from acting finely in the movie, Smith also recorded the theme song of the film.
That marked his first solo song in his musical career, which was produced by Trackmaster.
Men in Black, released in 1997, became a blockbuster hit and captivated the box offices of the world. Collecting $589.4 million, the movie became the third most successful theatrical release of 1997.
Furthermore, Will Smith also won the Grammy Award for Best Solo Performance in the rap genre.
Having dropped his old stage name of Fresh Prince, he decided to release his solo albums as an artist in 1997.
On 25th November 1997, Big Willie Style got released under the record label Columbia Records, which made it Smith’s debut solo album. The album included chartbusters tracks like MIB soundtrack, Two of Us, and Gettin Jiggy with It.
The track Getting Jiggy wit it made Will Smith win the Grammy Award again in the subsequent year after winning for MIB soundtrack. The album got certified as nine-time platinum and was the biggest selling hip-hop album of the decade.
His musical journey never collided with his acting space and still maintains a peaceful coherence.
In 1999, Will Smith committed a mistake that he regrets to date.
He chose Wild Wild West after turning down the offer for a lead role in Matrix, which got played by Keanu Reeves.
Later in his acting career, Smith portrayed several characters that stayed with the audience for a long time.
In 2001 he broke the stereotype of his light-hearted and hilarious characters through acting in the biopic of Muhammad Ali in ‘Ali.’ The movie broke the people’s presumptions and made Will Smith taste the intense physical training, which helped him throughout his career.
Furthermore, followed by MIB-II & III, Bad Boys 2, Hancock, and so on, Smith’s performance ensured a treat to the public’s eye and massive box-office collection. In 2006, along with his son Jaden Smith, he ventured into the most mesmerizing and satisfying film one can ever watch, The Pursuit of Happyness.
As of 2021, Will Smith is an avid user of social media to spread positivity and harmony.
Also, he regularly collaborates with spiritual gurus to dive deep into the realms of spiritualism.
Two Life Lessons from Will Smith’s Journey
● Acknowledgment of Failure
One of the primary factors that we as human beings tend to overlook while marching towards our goals is acknowledging failure.
Instances in Will’s life when he openly accepts his spendthrift teenage habits, mistakes of rejecting films like Matrix highlights his quality of acknowledging his failures.
It is essential because without acknowledging our mistakes, we can’t move forward in the right direction.
● Generalist Vs. Specialist
All of us must have heard the saying, Jack of all trades & Master of none, right?
Though the phrase intends to motivate people to master only one specific field, Will Smith’s life defies such sayings. Owing to his firm self-belief and multiple passions, he climbed the ladder of success in numerous fields- acting, rapping, producer, and currently as a philanthropist.
His journey is a case study that supports the mindset we all must perform calculated experiments in our careers at a young age.
It is so because, many times, people remain in a bubble of disbelief of a particular career without dedicating the required time. That leads to an anxiety-laden and suffocated career.
Also, to be clear, this does not mean to experiment throughout your life. It translates simply to dedicate enough time to your multiple passions before deciding on one for the rest of your life.
Also Read, Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) – An Inspiring Story of a Leader.