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Jada Pinkett Smith returning to Baltimore to connect with fans

Will SmithMusicArtBaltimore School for the Arts

Jada Pinkett Smith sounds maybe a little jealous of her kids?

Not really. The Baltimore native is a good mom, and she's happy for the success 15-year-old Jaden and 12-year-old Willow (who turns 13 this month) are realizing. But maybe she can't help but wish she had the head start they're both enjoying.

"Their start is going to be far beyond anything that Will or I could have imagined," she says, casually bringing husband Will Smith into the conversation. "Will and I, we had to come into Hollywood and make something out of it, we were first generation. Them being second generation, and having already almost 80 to 100 years of experience — between ourselves, our managers and our friends — that we can offer as a resource and for their guidance… They will have a springboard we never had.

"Lord knows, growing up in Baltimore City, for me, it was quite a challenge," she says. "There was a lot of violence and things that I had to confront at an early age. But you just learn to adapt to your world."

Doubtless, there will be plenty of family stories told on Oct. 23, when one of Charm City's finest returns to her hometown for "Girls Night Out: An Evening with Jada Pinkett Smith," a benefit for Associated Black Charities. She promises an open conversation on whatever topic the audience chooses, but it's hard to believe the subject of her famous family won't come up early and often.

Already, the Smiths seem well on their way to becoming America's premier entertainment conglomerate. Pinkett Smith herself, an alum of the Baltimore School for the Arts (where Tupac Shakur was a classmate), has an extensive movie ("Ali," "The Matrix Reloaded") and, especially, TV career, stretching from the early-1990s sitcom "A Different World" to the TNT drama "Hawthorne." And husband Will Smith is only one of the biggest celebrities on the planet, Oscar-nominated twice and the star of such blockbusters as "Men in Black," "Independence Day" and "I Am Legend."

But the Smith kids already are making their own marks. Jaden has appeared alongside his father in both "The Pursuit of Happyness" and "After Earth," as well as starring on his own in the 2010 "Karate Kid" remake. Willow, meanwhile, burst onto the music scene in 2010 when her irrepressibly catchy "Whip My Hair" song went platinum.

No wonder Pinkett Smith sounds just a bit envious. But mostly, she's just proud.

"It's been beautiful to watch them kind of come into their own skins," she says. "What they are doing at 15 and 13 years old, my goodness! Who knows what they'll be doing by the time they are our age?"

In recent months, Pinkett Smith, who turned 42 in September, has made news for a series of Facebook postings. The comments, which speak of past addictions and life missteps, as well as years-old rumors that the Smiths have an open marriage, were an attempt to talk to her fan base directly, she says. And the idea wasn't simply to shoot down rumors — she and Will don't have an open marriage, Pinkett Smith wrote, but rather an "adult" one, based on mutual trust — but rather to offer help, encouragement, maybe even advice to people who need it.

"I wanted to reach people in the world who are going through things where my testimony might be able to help them in some way," she says, "like people who have been courageous enough to give me their testimony have helped me."

Maybe, Pinkett Smith says, the simple idea that there's a sympathetic ear out there, or someone who has gone through similar life experiences — even a celebrity like Jada Pinkett Smith — might help somebody get through a hard time or two.

"I wanted to use Facebook as a platform, as a way of bonding with people," she says. "I wanted to share my experiences, to say, 'Hey, don't forget — I have as many challenges as you do on a daily basis. Let me tell you what I do when I come across the challenges that I come across, challenges that might be relatable to you in some way.'

"I just wanted to create a community," she says, "where people could come together and talk and heal."

Even though she hasn't been seen much since "Hawthorne" went off the air two years ago, Pinkett Smith's career has far from stalled. She's a producer on "The Queen Latifah Show," which airs locally at 1 p.m. weekdays on Fox 45. And she's considering three potential TV series that want her on board — a drama, a dramedy and a sitcom.

No, she won't go into any further details — "I would hate to focus on just one at this point," she says — but assures her fans that there should an announcement by the end of the year.

"You'll be hearing about a couple of things," she promises.

As for her coming trip to Baltimore, Pinkett Smith says she tries to get back at least three or four times a year; one constant draw, it shouldn't surprise anyone, is the promise of delighting in a local eight-legged delicacy."My mom, she makes the best crab cakes in the world," she says. "I usually try not to leave without having some dish with crabs of some kind."

Pinkett Smith promises an open forum at the Associated Black Charities event, an evening that will go wherever her audience wants it to go. "I'm coming to just basically sit with my hometown, with whoever decides to come, and have a chat," she says. "I really like having conversations with the audience."

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

If you go

"Girls Night Out: An Evening with Jada Pinkett Smith" is scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Baltimore School for the Arts, 712 Cathedral St. Tickets are $50-$150. Information: abc-md.org

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Will SmithMusicArtBaltimore School for the Arts
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