Will Smith’s book tour “An Evening of Stories With Friends” stopped in Brooklyn at the Kings Theatre on Nov. 9. Smith discussed the more personal pain points and life lessons revealed in his new memoir in conversation with director Spike Lee.
Smith gave credit to his late father for installing a brick by brick mentality at an early age. When Smith was 11 years old, his father made his brother and him rebuild a wall in front of his father’s shop. He was complaining about not seeing the possibilities of there ever being a wall again, but his father overheard his conversation and gave him a valuable life lesson. Smith cherished his words and used them for motivation in setting him up for the successful career he has today.
“Don’t be worrying about no damn wall! There is no wall, all you have to do is concentrate on this one brick. All you need to do is lay this one brick perfectly and then you move to the next brick and lay that one brick perfectly,” said Smith while imitating his father. “That mentality became the mentality that I started to live my life by and ultimately run my career by. I started to realize, when you think about a wall, it is impossible and it can never happen. When you can find your thoughts on just one brick, anyone can lay one brick perfectly.”
The conversation continued as he was sharing some valuable lessons he learned throughout his life and the most important one he learned came from his daughter, Willow. On stage, Smith shared the story of how Willow found great success with her song, “Whip My Hair.” At age ten, she went on tour with Justin Bieber and after a show in Ireland, Willow told her dad she had fun but was done being on tour. Smith couldn’t comprehend what she meant by being done until she shaved her head in the middle of the night eliminating her ability to whip her hair. At that moment Smith understood what his daughter meant and for the first time, he started to value other people’s feelings.
“It was terrifying and I felt like I had been texting, looking at my phone, and stepped out into the street in front of a bus and Willow snatched me back,” said Smith. “She saved me from what could’ve been tragic in my life. It shook me to my core, as strange as it sounds, I discover feelings at that moment. My feelings didn’t matter in my childhood home and I had to really think about the question she was asking me, “Does it matter how I feel?”
Each lesson learned, Smith took it in stride to better himself in changing his ways but besides sharing emotional heartfelt stories. Smith also shared some fun stories like how Quincy Jones forced him to unexpectedly audition for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air at his massive birthday bash. There was a lot of convincing but Smith signed a contract to headline the iconic show that ran for six seasons. There were special surprise guests in the audience like Karyn Parsons who played Hilary Banks and Janet Hubert who played the original Vivian Banks.
Smith’s book tour was like a party in bringing out DJ Jazzy Jeff on the turntables to help him perform some of his biggest tracks, from “Switch” to the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” theme song. The audience sang along to his songs and gave him a standing ovation throughout the event. Some of the biggest Will Smith fans dressed as some of his iconic characters like “Will” from the opening credit of The Fresh Prince and were excited to hear their idol share some wisdom with them.
“I seen him talk about relationships and life lessons that he shared on social media so it will be great to actually hear him talk about it in person and shed light on some of those points,” said Calvin O’Neal, an audience attendee.
Smith’s new memoir, “Will,” written with co-author Mark Manson, is organized in chronological order throughout Smith’s life but it also speaks to certain emotions in psychological states and ideas that were equivalent during his life.
“It starts with fear, chapter 2 fantasy, then performance and power, it goes through the psychological states that I was experiencing,” said Smith. “The book arcs from fear and the final chapter is love. Mark really found a way through my life as I was trying to run these different ideas and different experiences to find my way to love.”