NET WORTH: $260 million, estimated
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Actor/Producer
FUNDING AREAS: Education & Arts, Racial Equity & Black Causes, Health, Religious, Environment
OVERVIEW: Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith conduct their philanthropy through the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation, established in 1996. The foundation is “committed to uplifting the next generation of storytellers.” The Smiths’ giving rests upon connecting young people from with “access to mentorship opportunities.” Pulling from their decades in the entertainment industry, the Smiths’ work ultimately works to “expose […] talented young people to the wide range of professions available within the business and show them clear avenues to their desired careers.” In doing so, the foundation invests in the arts & education, social empowerment, and youth.
BACKGROUND: Will Smith was born in 1968 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His mother was a school board employee, and his father was a refrigeration company owner. He attended Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School and Overbrook High School, and began rapping at age 12. At 16, Smith met a DJ at a party named Jeff Townes. The pair became friends, and the duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince was born. Their debut album, Rock the House, hit the Billboard Top 200, and made Smith a millionaire before the age of 18. His early success put any thoughts of attending college out of his mind. Smith transitioned into acting beginning with his role in the immensely popular The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air. He then crossed over into films, and has starred in such films as Independence Day, Men in Black, Ali, and many more. Smith also co-founded Overbrook Entertainment.
EDUCATION & ARTS: In the past, the foundation’s giving has prioritized Los Angeles. Such grantees include American Film Institute, The Wildwood School, and Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village. East Coast grantees have included Overbrook High School and Baltimore School for the Arts Foundation, named after the school from where Jada Pinkett Smith graduated. She has given the school a $1 million gift in the past decade, but lately, the school has received more modest sums. On the higher education front, the Smiths have supported Howard University, among others.
The Smiths are also interested in supporting the arts and arts access. The Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation’s Careers in Entertainment (CIE) initiative "empowers aspirational high school and college students to pursue careers in the entertainment industry." The couple has also supported Sundance Institute, Debbie Allen Dance Academy, among other places.
RACIAL EQUITY & BLACK CAUSES: The couple has supported Associated Black Charities, "a public foundation that advocates and facilitates the creation of measurably healthier and more prosperous communities through responsible leadership and philanthropic investment throughout the State of Maryland." Other grantees have included Coalition for Schools Educating Boys of Color, Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, ACLU of Southern California, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance.
HEALTH: The Smiths have supported Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center. It's worth nothing that Smith played the legendary boxer in the 2001 biopic Ali. Other grantees have included Alzheimer's Association, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, and the Lupus Foundation of America. Jada Pinkett's aunt was diagnosed with lupus.
RELIGIOUS: The Smiths, via their foundation, gave a large grant to Muhammad's Holy Temple of Islam in Chicago recently. Other past grantees include Macedonia Baptist Church. Smith grew up in a Baptist family, though he attended a Catholic school.
ENVIRONMENT: Smith has also waded into energy and climate issues, supporting an energy startup called called Quidnet Energy. Similarly, the foundation has also backed Village Capital, which "finds, trains, and funds entrepreneurs solving global problems."
LOOKING AHEAD: Will Smith and Jada Pinkett should be watched for greater giving down the line. In addition, some of their philanthropy occurs beyond their foundation.
Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation
1880 Century Park E., Ste. 1600
Los Angeles, CA 90067