Jada Pinkett Smith's mom struggled with heroin addiction, and other revealing tidbits from 'Red Table Talk'
By Hallie Miller
Jan 10, 2019 at 6:00 AM
In a bold departure from traditional television, Baltimore native Jada Pinkett Smith’s smash new talk show “Red Table Talk” has won over the hearts of millions of Facebook users.
The “multigenerational talk show” highlights the unique experiences and opinions of Pinkett Smith, and, as she puts it, the two most important females in her life — her mother Adrienne Banfield Norris, also of Baltimore, and daughter Willow Smith. The three women tackle issues ranging from race to sex and even their struggles with substance abuse and mental health.
New episodes “air” every Monday, with the first one premiering last May. Here are some of the main takeaways we’ve gathered from the hit show’s first season and the fearless family behind it.
1: You can take the girl out of Baltimore…
One of Baltimore’s most outspoken and successful natives, Pinkett Smith shares details from her humble beginnings, including her family’s history with drug and alcohol abuse. Banfield Norris, who worked in Baltimore as the head nurse of a clinic for decades, also shares her 20-year struggle with a heroin addiction and her recovery process (at 27 years sober, she said it took six years to get the first full year down). Rather than shy away from their roots, the mother and daughter duo appear more than ready to lay it all out on the Red Table.
2: Heavy advertising in the Baltimore may be unparalleled
Have you noticed the giant billboard in Northeast Baltimore? How about the ad at the bus stop on Reisterstown Road?
It’s not surprising that the production team has focused so much advertising revenue on the Baltimore market. Banfield Norris’ well-known reputation around the city makes Baltimore especially enthusiastic to cheer them on. And of course, you don’t grow up in Baltimore without knowing at least a rough draft of Pinkett Smith’s story.
It’s unclear whether Red Table Talk is investing in other cities like this — emails to the show’s team were not immediately returned — but it’s likely that Baltimore fans are especially happy to see two of their own share their success stories.
No. 3: Pinkett Smith’s struggles with mental health and addiction are raw, real and relatable
As mentioned above, Pinkett Smith reveals the darkest chapters of her past — including her addictive tendencies to sex, drugs, alcohol and even the gym, as well as her battles with depression and suicidal thoughts.
While Hollywood has had a fair share of its talent struggle with mental health issues and open up about them to audiences, few celebrity families speak so candidly and honestly about their shared demons. And if they do, it’s probably not on a weekly basis.
There’s no telling where a given discussion around the table will end. Pinkett Smith has ventured into unlikely territory, sharing details of her family’s private life (No, the Smith family never belonged to the Church of Scientology, she says) and the story behind her unconventional marriage to Will Smith (while she doesn’t believe in marriage as an institution, he’s wanted to be a family man since he was 5 years old).
Again and again, fans laud the show’s “realness,” the family’s vulnerability and their ability to discuss painful memories and intimate emotions.
4: Facebook-Watch format allows for convenience and engagement
Partnering with Facebook-Watch enables the Red Table Talk team to build their own format and experiment with audience engagement in a way few other talk shows can. Users can ask questions, share opinions or comment on the various posts online — and many receive personalized answers or responses.
It’s a brilliant strategy, because in this way, it’s more than just a talk show — but a readily accessible and engaging platform for give and take. The viewers are not only part of a community where they can network with others but also drivers of the discussion.
5: The show is big enough to attract big names
The hype for Red Table Talk has exploded to the point that even big name celebrities are lining up to be guests. So far, Red Table Talk has featured rapper Kid Cudi, Maryland native Toni Braxton, actress Tiffany Haddish, Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo, actress Gabrielle Union and — no surprise here — Pinkett Smith’s husband Will.
They also bring in other family members, friends and acquaintances to get real at the table.
The “Whip My Hair” singer released her first single in 2010 at just 10 years old. Now, it’s safe to say that the 18-year-old artist has more on the brain than high-energy grooming practices.
Fans adore the young woman Smith has become, often commenting on her maturity level and her positive energy. She discusses her history of self-harming behavior on the show, something that seems to have resonated with fans.
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The overwhelming majority of Red Table Talk’s fan appear to be women — but that seems to be the audience the show wanted to cultivate in the first place.
The show has become synonymous with a safe space, which women, especially on Facebook, seem to crave. It’s not uncommon to see posts from viewers sharing their own struggles or thanking the Smith family for helping them muscle through tough moments.