Don't Break Someone Trying To Heal Yourself: Lessons From Jada And August
I had no intention of publishing a story today. I planned to take the day off to rest after what has proven to be a very long week. But yesterday, Jada Pinkett-Smith gave us the episode of “Red Table Talk” she promised and as the late songwriter Ms. Wright once said, “The people want to hear about it, Betty.”
So I’m going to talk about it...some more. Because after the episode dropped, I spent at least a couple of hours dissecting it with my friend, sister, and mother...separately.
But sitting with this whole thing a little bit more there are some new things I’d like to call out.
Folks, even those who work in media, have a tendency to dismiss celebrity news as fluff, inconsequential and insignificant. For me though, as someone who is fascinated by the motivations of human behavior, everything is a case study. And for all of the attention we pay them, celebrities really are just like us. They be fuckin’ up.
Jada’s mother, Adrienne Banfield Norris, aka Gammy, my favorite part of the Red Table, said as much earlier this week when she shared this on Instagram.
That was my first inclination that August Alsina’s claims about sharing a romantic relationship with Jada Pinkett-Smith were true.
But the words would come from Jada’s own mouth when she sat down at the table with her husband/life partner Will Smith in a video that was published yesterday afternoon.
In case you missed it, Jada said:
“I guess about four and a half years ago, I started a friendship with August and we actually became really, really good friends. It all started with him just needing some help. Me wanting to help his mental state, his health. And from there, you and I were going through a very difficult time. We basically, we broke up... Yeah, we were over. From there, as time went on I got into a different kind of entanglement with August.”
Remember that word entanglement. You will be hearing it for several months to come and again later in this post.
But let’s dive in shall we?
From the onset, when I considered the idea of August and Jada in a romantic relationship, it was all a little but icky.
They are both grown adults--and were at the time of their meeting when Jada was 44 and August was 23. Still, being that Jada met August because he was attending her children’s concert is...odd. It reminds me of Diddy running around with Lori Harvey in matching outfits. The only question I have is like, why? For what? But later, in the conversation it was clear that August and Jada bonded through the lens of their individual traumas. And as we all should know, that’s not the best or most healthy way to enter any kind of relationship.
Jada said the two became close because August needed some help. I’m a fan of Red Table Talk, so I remember Jada, Gammy, and Will’s sister Ashley all discussed the specific type of help he needed, kicking his addiction to percocet, in a 2018 episode.
And that’s another issue with this relationship. August came to Jada specifically asking for help. He was vulnerable. There is a reason it’s unethical for health professionals to get involved with their patients. It confuses and conflates things. And now, it’s painfully clear that the last thing August needed, as he was trying to heal, was a romantic, sexual relationship with a woman who wasn’t entirely free to devote herself to it.
Now, I want to be clear, for me this discussion is not about Jada cheating. From the conversation, and some pretty telling photos, it’s clear that Will was also outchea. I don’t really care about how they operate sexually in their partnership. Everyone has to get it how they live.
But what I’ve always felt and still believe is that separated is still married. The danger of getting romantically involved with someone who is separated is that there’s a strong possibility that one or both parties still believes or is actively working to repair the relationship. In which case, being a third wheel, or involving another person is only going to end in drama.
And that’s what happened here. While August told Angela Yee, “I totally gave myself to that relationship for years of my life. And I truly am really, really loved and have a ton of love for her. I devoted myself to it. I gave my full self to it,”
Jada repeatedly called the relationship an entanglement. I know I don’t have to tell y’all this. But there is a very negative connotation behind that word. It's often used with hunter and prey, like fish in a net, a bug in a spider web. And it speaks to something that is difficult to escape.
I don’t know why Jada kept using the word but it really was appropriate. What I don’t think she considered is that in their relationship, she spun the web and August was the one who struggled and may still be struggling to get out of its sticky clutches. And I wonder if she’s acknowledged her responsibility in that.
When Jada tweeted that she was bringing herself to the Red Table, she said some healing needed to take place. And while there is certainly value in seeing married people--or partnered people speak honestly and lovingly to one another after a storm, I don’t know that this conversation was healing for all parties involved. I’m sure it felt great for Jada to share her truth and relieve herself of this story. But again, August is the one damaged by the entanglement while Jada gets to go back to her marriage and laugh with her husband about how they got over.
In my opinion, Jada was wrong. And I wonder how all of this will affect her reputation in the industry and in the Black community. Not to say that this type of behavior is unprecedented. Famous men do it all the time. Dwyane Wade and Ludacris fathered entire babies while they were on the outs with women who eventually became their wives. It didn’t seem to affect their careers in the slightest. But Jada is a woman. And a woman doing what men do will never be well-received.
This would be a great opportunity for men to examine the ways in which they've acted like Jada, entering into relationships with women to heal their own brokenness. I doubt many will do so. That would just be too much like right.
But we could all learn some things from all of this. Because while Jada slipped up, I’m not trying to stone her because it could have been and might have already been some of us in her shoes.
Fixing people is a God complex
It’s the ego that makes us believe people won’t reach their full potential without our presence in their lives. But really, no one’s fate is that inextricably linked to ours. People are not our creations and therefore not our responsibility to mold. Furthermore, operating as a substance abuse counselor, mental health professional, life coach, or career counselor when you are not qualified to do so is dangerous work. I can say from my own dating experience, Jada is not that the only one who’s done that.
A relationship won’t heal you...not even a marriage
One of the most painful but honest parts of the table came when Will asked why Jada entered into the relationship with August in the first place. And she said, “I just wanted to feel good.” Maybe Will felt some pain hearing that. I don’t know because, honestly, I wasn’t focused on him. It was painful for me to hear that at her big age, she sought happiness in the arms of a 20-something-year-old man. Jada went from a marriage with Will that wasn’t making her happy, to an entanglement with August that ultimately didn’t make her happy either. She had to learn that our happiness isn’t a burden for our partners to bear. As Bevy Smith tweeted yesterday, Jada is far from the only woman who felt a man or a marriage was going to solve her problems. For as much as human beings are social creatures, we have to master self love in order to be truly content in this world. And that’s something you can only do on your own.
Don’t break someone else trying to heal yourself.
Social media personality, vegan chef, and the seemingly sweet-spirited Tabitha Brown has a saying that I love. “Have a good day. But if you can’t, don’t you dare go ruining anybody else’s.”
Earlier we mentioned finding commonality through trauma. August was going through a tough time. Jada helped him. Then Jada was going through a rough patch and she thought August could help her. And he may have...helped her realize she still wanted her marriage, recognize that she has an issue with codependency, etc. But what did August get out of all of this? The two got together because they were both in pain. But when Jada’s pain subsided, August was no longer necessary. And that introduced a new type of pain to his life.
Emotional maturity is recognizing when you’re not even in the right space to get involved with someone, especially if the relationship could leave them worse off than when they entered it.
Hurt people hurt people.
Not only did Jada likely hurt August, since the episode of Red Table Talk was published, homeboy probably sunk a little deeper into his feelings and was embarrassed. And lashed out, unnecessarily at KeKe Palmer.
Thankfully, Palmer is in a better place and met his little outburst with a warning of receipts and a turned cheek because she knows August is going through something right now.
Put your trust in God, not these celebrities
I can’t tell y’all how many times I’ve seen or heard Black people say that they would give up on love if Will and Jada ever broke up. And I probably shook my head or rolled my eyes every single time. I know we’ve seen them for years. We watched them grow up. And now, they share some aspects of their personal lives. But we do not know them people or what goes on in their homes. Celebrity worship will leave you spiritually disappointed every single time.
Let’s normalize men loving women through their brokenness.
To me, one of the most poignant moments of the shortest Red Table episode ever was the fact that Will was there. He jokingly likened himself to the supportive wife, sitting alongside her husband as he apologizes to her and the world for his transgressions. More of that please! Far too often women not only forgive men for terrorizing house and home, society expects them to do so. Rarely, do we, Black women particularly, get the same treatment in return, whether we’ve behaved poorly or not.
The Smiths shared that when they first got married, Will told Jada that he could love her through anything. At the time, she didn’t believe him. She said, “I didn’t know if you could find the deep capacity to love me.” Sis was obviously dealing with some issues of self worth, as we all do. But that wasn’t enough to deter him. That type of love and dedication reminds me of a poem from Caitlyn Siehl: Beauty & the Beast.
“why is it always the woman who has to see past the beast in the man? why does she always have to clean his wounds, even after he has damaged her beyond repair? why is it always the man who is worthy of forgiveness for being a monster?
I want to see the beast in the beauty.
the half smile, half snarl, the unapologetic anger. I would like to see the man forgive the monster, to see her, blood and all, and love her anyway.”
Black women-- good Black women, deserve that type of love.