Will by Will Smith
for a book that will change the way you see Will Smith for better or for worse, for a lot of self-discovery that might even help you, for interesting tidbits and insight into some of the projects Smith has worked on in his life
One of the most dynamic and globally recognized entertainment forces of our time opens up fully about his life, in a brave and inspiring book that traces his learning curve to a place where outer success, inner happiness, and human connection are aligned. Along the way, Will tells the story in full of one of the most amazing rides through the worlds of music and film that anyone has ever had.
Will Smith’s transformation from a West Philadelphia kid to one of the biggest rap stars of his era, and then one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood history, is an epic tale—but it’s only half the story.
Will Smith thought, with good reason, that he had won at life: not only was his own success unparalleled, his whole family was at the pinnacle of the entertainment world. Only they didn’t see it that way: they felt more like star performers in his circus, a seven-days-a-week job they hadn’t signed up for. It turned out Will Smith’s education wasn’t nearly over.
First off, a warning or at least an informational tidbit: this is not a fun, silly book. If you, like me, thought this might be a lighthearted and warm peek behind the curtain at some of the projects Will has worked on, interspersed with humor and love, you are very wrong. I was very wrong.
Frankly, I’ll never see Will Smith the same way again, and that’s because I’ll now see him as a whole person instead of a collection of on-screen personalities and characters.
This is a pretty painful read at times, with a lot of soul searching and moments that are shameful, painful, and a lot of other complex emotions. Don’t get me wrong — it’s a very good read. Just be aware of what you’re coming into. He even addresses it early on, saying something along the lines of how this is probably not what the reader expected, to walk into stories of a difficult childhood and constant tension and fear at home.
Rest assured, however, that the Fresh Prince behind-the-scenes pieces do come, they just come later on at the chronological point in his life when they happened. Again though, it’s not always sweet and fun, and there’s a lot of blood sweat and tears in those wildly successful enterprises as well. I learned so much about how early rap and hip hop got started, and despite my lack of personal interest in it, it was fascinating to read about. There was so much underground and yet it made such an incredible impact on the world. Boy was that neat.
The majority of the book is more focused on Will’s life, with the lens of his career as a key part of it. There’s so much focus on his changing life philosophies and perspectives and the way each project contributed to them. The latter half of the book dips a lot into his journey to figure out why the fuck he was still so unhappy after creating the exact life he had wanted: money, family, success, and even a house with a name (nevermind that his wife hated, refused, and fought against having that home from the start). It takes a dramatic move from his daughter to snap Will to the reality that others live in daily: that of having feelings and acknowledging that they matter. To be honest, I did always wonder why Willow didn’t do more music since her first was so successful.
As Will is trying to exorcise the worst parts of his life and mind, I found myself applying a lot of the questions he asked himself to my own life and situation. At times this book is like a free check for your own life. A do-it-yourself therapy session. I could see myself coming to re-read some of the later chapter if I ever feel like I need a check on my life and habits.
Anyway, this is a good one. It feels very honest, and like it forces you to match that honesty while reading it. Plus there is some fun behind the scenes — it’s just not the “point” of it all, so to speak.