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"That's a whole 'nother Jada, a whole 'nother Jada that would chase somebody down the alley with a switchblade because they stole $700."
Jada Pinkett Smith is opening up about her tumultuous childhood, which involved selling drugs as a teenager.
In an new interview with People, the actress got candid about this time in her life.
“When you aren’t the priority of your parents you don’t know how to be a priority to yourself,” said Jada. “I had parents who were addicted to drugs.”
“Not having a healthy foundation, as I would come to find out way into my adulthood, had some really strong effects in regard to how I saw myself,” she continued, also noting that she grew up between living with her grandmother and mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris, who eventually went on to get sober and cohost Red Table Talk with Jada.
“Our parents are not responsible for our wholeness, but I didn’t know how to create healthy boundaries, to create healthy relationships,” she continued.
“I knew that anything that I needed was something I needed to provide for,” said Jada. “I decided to sell drugs.”
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“Growing up, the drug dealers were the ones that had affluence,” she shared. “That’s what we readily saw as success. And so for me, considering my circumstances at the time, my mother was not doing well. She was a high-functioning heroin addict. We didn’t have the things that we should have. The home we lived in was not taken care of.”
She adds that she worked “legit jobs” from the age of 12.
“Having money in my pocket was a must,” she added, noting that she worked at The Gap and was a telemarketer. “I just wanted financial freedom.”
“What if something happens to my mother?” she said of the “what if” fear. “What if she doesn’t come home one night? Either overdosed, arrested, whatever. And so, I decided to sell drugs. I decided to sell crack cocaine.”
Jada also noted that “everybody” was immersed in a drug-heavy environment during the ’80s in Baltimore.
“Drugs were going to touch you, period. You could use them, you could sell them, but there was no being in an environment like that and drugs not touch you,” she recalled.
“And I’m not saying that it’s right, of course, now being in a whole different mindset. But when you’re living in a war zone and you just thinking about survival, I wasn’t trying to use drugs. I surely wasn’t going to be a drug dealer’s girlfriend. But I wanted money so that I could be independent. I wanted to take care of myself,” said Jada.
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“I thought I was going to be a queen pin, for sure,” she said with a laugh. “You can get caught up in the scenery. I was rollin’ with some really high rollers at the time. That’s a whole ‘nother Jada, a whole ‘nother Jada that would chase somebody down the alley with a switchblade because they stole $700. Or the Jada that would sell crack cocaine and then get set up and two dudes come in with nine-millimeters and she gets a gun put to her head.”
“That was my solution at that particular time to survive and it really helped me. But it put me into a lot of danger and I hurt a lot of people along the way,” she said, sharing that she thought at the time there was some good in her actions.
“We really felt like there were times where we were being so charitable,” said Jada. “Whether it was like we’d see a single mom or an elderly woman in the market and we’d pay for their groceries. Or we’re in a restaurant, we’re going to pay for somebody’s meal or what have you. And you really think that you’re helping without recognizing that you are part of the problem as well.”
Despite her struggles, Pinkett Smith shared that “the number one thing that I feel like the Baltimore Streets taught me was fearlessness and being able to detect danger.”
“And I brought that to Hollywood in 1990,” she concluded.
The actress’ new memoir, Worthy, releases on October 17th.
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