In A Tearful Tribute To His Oldest Son, Will Smith Opened Up About His True Feelings

Will Smith’s relationship with his oldest son, Trey, wasn’t an easy one to cultivate after he and Trey’s mom, Sheree Zampino, divorced in 1995. So in 2018 the actor took to Instagram to reveal the truth about his feelings toward his eldest.

In November of 1992, Smith and then-wife, Zampino, welcomed their first and only child together, a boy named Willard Carroll Smith III. They called their son Trey, although sharing a name with his father foreshadowed the boy’s future interests.

Trey first stepped into the spotlight because of his athletic abilities. In fact, he was such a good football player that he earned a scholarship to play the sport on a collegiate level. However, he turned down the offer in order to chase a passion he shared with his dad – music.

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Of course, Trey had witnessed his dad pursuing a music career – he had even starred in one of Smith’s music videos. When he was six, Trey appeared in the visual for his father’s song, “Just the Two Of Us.” The track describes the bond that grows between a son and his father.

As an adult, Trey has gone onto find success in the music industry as a DJ, spinning records under the name AcE. He even recruited his half-siblings, Jaden and Willow Smith, for the music video to his 2012 song “Find You Somewhere.” His stepmom, Jada Pinkett Smith, actually directed the clip.

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To that end, any pop culture connoisseur will know that the marriage between Trey’s dad and Zampino didn’t last forever. The couple wed in 1992, two years after Smith hit it big on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, a sitcom written around him as the star.

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Although Smith was flourishing on television – and as a musician, a career he had pursued since the mid-80s – he had his sights set on the silver screen. He even studied box office blockbusters to find their common characteristics, which eventually served him well. Indeed, he had his first success with 1995’s Bad Boys, co-starring Martin Lawrence, with many more to come.

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But that year would bring Smith some personal hardship, too. Indeed, Zampino filed for divorce in 1995. More than ten years later, she posted a video to YouTube explaining the reasons why their marriage didn’t work out amid speculation that the star had been unfaithful.

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“My marriage did not end over any infidelity. That’s just kind of is what it is. Our marriage ended because we were so young. It’s just a lot of responsibility. Marriage isn’t easy, especially at that age,” Zampino said in the clip.

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Zampino, who also had aspired to become an actress, noted that Smith’s success took a toll on their union, too. “Will was becoming bigger and bigger with his career. I’m becoming smaller and smaller. We didn’t have the tools to make it work,” she went on.

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“I left because I was unhappy. It’s really that simple,” Zampino concluded in the video. And, although Smith’s wife made the motion to dissolve their marriage, the star later revealed that he knew he had wed the wrong woman as soon as he met the right one.

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In 2018, Smith appeared as a guest on Jada Pinkett Smith’s Facebook Watch show, Red Table Talk. During the episode, he recalled the instant connection he felt the night he met her – while still married to Zampino. “We sat down and talked. There was a really unique, beautiful power,” he said.

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Pinkett Smith then chimed in to say that everything that happened between them that night was friendly. “That was it. We did not have an affair while he was married, let’s be clear about that,” she said. Still, their conversation that night affected the star in a big way.

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According to Smith, the next night he went out to dinner with his then-wife Zampino. During the evening, it struck him that she wasn’t the one for him. “I remember I had to get up from dinner when I had a realization that I wasn’t with the person I was supposed to be with,” he said.

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That feeling forced Smith to get up from the table – and shed a few tears. “I was sitting in a stall in the restaurant [bathroom] and I was crying uncontrollably and then laughing like, ‘What the heck is wrong with me?’ And I knew, [Jada] was the woman I was supposed to be with,” he revealed.

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Still, it was Zampino who filed for divorce from Smith on Valentine’s Day, 1995. At first, the actor refused to even consider the idea. But, as he remembered it, his wife said, “So, you’re going to make somebody stay with you who doesn’t love you?” The actor recalled, “That was the one that got me.”

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Just after signing divorce papers, though, Smith knew who he wanted to call. “I literally walked right out [and] I called Jada. I said, ‘Hey Jada, what’s up? It’s Will,’” as he remembered it. Then, he got right down to business.

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“I said, ‘Are you seeing anybody?’ [Jada] said, ‘Uh, no,’ and I said, ‘Cool, you’re seeing me now,’” Smith revealed. And, with that, Pinkett Smith boarded a plane to Los Angeles and met up with the man she’d eventually marry in 1997.

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The couple has been married for more than 20 years, a feat that Pinkett Smith credited to their “amazing chemistry on a lot of different levels,” while appearing on an episode of Watch What Happens Live. “We love to laugh together, we love to learn together and we just love each other. Yeah, I guess that’s the secret,” she said.

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The Smiths share their love with their two children. First, they welcomed their son Jaden Christopher Syre Smith in 1998. Then, in 2000, came their daughter Willow Camille Reign Smith. Like their parents – and their half-brother, Trey – the siblings both have embarked on creative careers.

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Jaden’s career began with a role in The Pursuit of Happyness, playing a part that came easy to him – he co-starred as Smith’s son in the flick. He later landed a leading role in the re-imagining of The Karate Kid in 2010. More recently, he has nabbed roles on two different Netflix series.

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And, just like Jaden’s father and half-brother, the burgeoning star has pursued a career in music, releasing his debut album in 2017. His sister, Willow, made waves when she became the youngest artist signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label in 2010. She also released a hit single, “Whip My Hair” that year. On top of that, Willow has acting credits, too, starting with a film role alongside her father in 2007’s I Am Legend.

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As the family-of-four flourished together, there was one relative whose relationships didn’t quite follow the same course. Smith and his first son, Trey, “struggled for years after [his] divorce from his mother. [Trey] felt betrayed and abandoned,” the actor wrote on Instagram.

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However, the blended family did all they could to improve their bond. Pinkett Smith, for one, revealed on Red Table Talk that she had to improve her relationship with Trey’s mom, Zampino. “The beginning with us was rough,” she admitted.

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But Pinkett Smith realized that, in order to improve her standing with her stepson, she’d have to make an effort with his mother, too. “As I developed my relationship with Trey and got a deeper love for [him], then it became about [something bigger]. Because at first, it’s a good idea [to get along with your spouse’s ex], but that’s not the thing that always holds you,” she said.

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With that realization came the chance for the two moms to build a relationship of their own. “I’m so happy we’ve found space to laugh together, cry together and share joy together within our blended family. You’ve been a gift,” Pinkett Smith later wrote to Zampino on Instagram, proof that their bond had changed for the better.

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Smith, too, had only kind words to say about his ex-wife, who he also praised via Instagram. He even used the hashtag, #BestBabyMamaEver. Zampino responded, saying, “Thank you, [Trey Smith] for being the reason we came together.”

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Zampino’s comment provided a glimpse into the restored bond between herself, her son, his father and his step-family. But Smith later shared a story on Instagram that proved just how far the duo had come since the days of Trey feeling “abandoned and betrayed.”

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Prior to sharing the story, Smith had been spotted at the Yas Marina Circuit to take during the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 race. He traveled to the capital of the United Arab Emirates to watch his friend and F1 driver, Lewis Hamilton, drive in the competition.

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But, on November 27, two days after the race, Smith posted a video to Instagram about the weekend. This post, though, was for a different reason. He revealed that he had brought Trey along with him to the F1 event as part of the one-on-one time the star carves out for each of his children.

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In the video, Smith said, “I usually take my kids separately on stuff so they have their individual daddy time. So, we’ve been doing this, me and [Trey], hanging at the F1.” At one point over the weekend, though, the trip gave Trey pause for reflection.

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“[Trey] just hit me with, ‘You know what, dad?’’ I just realized you’re not just my dad, I’m pretty sure you’re my best friend,’” Smith recalled. As he described the conversation with his eldest son, the actor became visibly emotional.

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But Smith put on a brave face as he finished the story. “I was like… ‘Yeah, man, probably, probably,’” Smith recalled. In the description of the video, the actor reiterated the importance of such a conversation. “It has not always been like this between Trey and I,” he wrote.

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Smith concluded his post by writing, “It is a wild blessing to recover and restore a loving relationship with my beautiful son!” Pinkett Smith re-shared the video and wrote, “Family is always in the process of healing, no matter who you are.”

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Trey, too, responded to his father’s post. “Awwwww shucks, [love] you too big guy.” Then, he wrote a handful of posts about the weekend, as well, referring to his dad as “my guy in life,” and writing, “We always have the best time.”

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Trey has also shared his thoughts about the improved relationship he has with his father, as well as his blended family. Along with a photo of himself, Zampino, Pinkett Smith, Jaden and Willow, he wrote, “Change isn’t always easy…. Especially when it’s not on your terms.”

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“But change is necessary for growth,” Trey went on, putting a positive spin on the trials that have become triumphs. He concluded, “Even if I didn’t know it then, I’ve always been surrounded by love. But there’s hidden context in this photo. When I look at it, everything falls into place.”

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To that end, Trey reiterated that his relationship with Smith had grown so much stronger than it had been in the past, too. On his dad’s birthday, Trey called him, “One of the biggest influences and motivations in my life.” Rather than dwelling on the past, he felt excited for their future.

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Trey’s ode to his father concluded, “For so many reasons I am far too honored to have you [as] a part of my life. I deeply love our relationship on every level and I highly look forward to see what it transforms into.”

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Since then, Smith has announced he’ll star in a third installment of the Bad Boys franchise alongside Martin Lawrence. Meanwhile, Trey has become a host for XBox Live. The pair also spent the 2018 Christmas holidays together with Pinkett Smith, Jaden and Willow, further fortifying the bond they have spent so long cultivating.

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