Will Smith, Chris Rock and the Slap heard ’round the world


History was made at the 94th Academy Awards on Sunday. We’re not talking about how CODA was the first movie distributed by a streaming service (Apple+) to win an Academy Award for Best Picture, or that it won every Academy Award it was nominated for, or that it was the first film to win Best Picture after a Sundance debut, or that Troy Kotsur is the first deaf man to win an Oscar for acting (after costar Marlee Matlin won an Academy Award in 1986 as the first deaf woman to win an Oscar).

We’re also not talking about Ariana DeBose becoming the first openly queer woman of color to win an Academy Award for acting, nor are we talking about the first time Liza Minnelli has appeared in public since 2016. Minnelli has been out of the spotlight since her encephalitis diagnosis in 2000. Minnelli won an Academy Award for her performance in Cabaret almost 50 years ago and shared a heartwarming moment with Lady Gaga when they announced the Best Picture winner.  

What the entire planet is talking about is the slap heard around the world. 

Jada and Will Smith attracted from the hosts throughout the show. Co-host Amy Schumer used the couple for her joke about the Gyllenhaal siblings, “Will and Jada, what a beautiful couple. We’re honoring a lot of beautiful couples here tonight again: Jada and Will Smith, Penelope and Javier Bardem, Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal. A night for lovers.”

A little later as co-host Regina Hall mildly harassed Bradley Cooper, Timothée Chalamet, Tyler Perry and Simu Liu in a bit where she joked about giving them a Covid test with her tongue, she made a joke about the Smith’s relationship after dismissing Javier Bardem from the slightly inappropriate testing, “Javier Bardem … no, your test is fine, it says that you’re married — I mean, negative.” She continued: “Will Smith, you’re married, but I see you’re on the list and Jada approved you.”

The couple seemed to take their licks in stride, but when Rock made a joke about Jada’s hair, it seems the duo reached their breaking point.  After making a joke about spouses Penelope and Javier Bardem being nominated Chris Rock turned his attention to WIll Smith, and then to Jada Pinkett Smith and said, “Jada, love you, G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see it,” referring to her shaved head.

After initially laughing it off, Smith noticed that his wife didn’t think it was very funny. Will Smith then casually approached the stage, walked right up to Chris Rock, and slapped him hard across his face, stunning both Rock and the entire audience. Then Smith sauntered back to his seat and screamed “Keep my wife’s name out of your F-ing mouth” twice, to make sure Rock understood. 

In 2018, Jada Pinkett Smith shared with the world that has alopecia areata which is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks hair follicles which causes balding which in turn can cause mental/emotional distress.

Because of her hair loss, she shaves her head in an attempt to hide her patchy hair growth and noticeable bald spots. When Chris Rock made the comment about G.I. Jane 2, he was alluding to Demi Moore shaving her head for the role and was belittling Jada for her shaved head/hair loss.

Here’s the full video, uncensored. Warning: strong language

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Viewers were stunned by the altercation and many questioned whether or not the incident was staged. Immediately following the slap incident, The Academy tweeted:

The Academy has since solidified their stance on the matter and has released a statement to the press, along with the organization’s standards of conduct.

“The Academy condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night’s show. We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law.”

This statement is issued amid new reports that Academy officials “strongly considered” removing Smith from the ceremony after the slap but before the Best Actor category was presented.

About 40 minutes after the slap, Smith took the stage to accept his Best Actor award for his portrayal of Richard Williams, the father of tennis pros Venus and Serena, in King Richard and mostly received a standing ovation, while some audience members chose not to applaud at all. 

During his teary-eyed speech, he apologized to The Academy specifically, but not Rock. 

Chris Rock declined to file a police report or press charges against the Academy Award winning actor for the misdemeanor assault, however the LAPD is standing by if he changes his mind. LAPD released a statement which said, “The incident involved one individual slapping another,” the statement read. “The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”

The Hollywood Reporter shared intimate details of the pandemonium that occurred backstage immediately after the slap. “There were tons of people there,” says one source, who remembers spotting Serena Williams and Venus Williams, as well as numerous A-listers waiting to present upcoming awards including Jake Gyllenhaal, Zoe Kravitz, Kevin Costner, Anthony Hopkins and the trio who would later present Smith with his best actor Oscar: Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman and John Travolta. 

Smith’s own longtime publicist, Meredith O’Sullivan Wasson spent the next several commercial breaks commuting between the backstage area and Smith’s seat, where she conferred with him as he held the hand of Pinkett Smith, who seemed to be speaking with a representative of her own.

Page 6 reported that both Denzel Washington and Diddy attempted to de-escalate the situation by speaking with and consoling both Smith and Rock. 

A tweeted video shows Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry consoling Smith and advising him to brush the incident off his shoulders, each literally making the physical gesture on a different shoulder of Smith’s.

Immediately following the ceremony, Smith added a comment to a previously posted video on instagram of the couple and said, “You can’t invite people from Philly or Baltimore nowhere!!” and the original caption said, “Me ‘n @jadapinkettsmith got all dressed up to choose chaos”

Many took to social media to share their thoughts:

Smith then used Instagram to issue a more coherent apology than his rambling acceptance speech at the Academy Awards:

On Tuesday morning Pinkett Smith broke her silence and shared an Instagram post where she did not directly mention the Sunday night altercation but heavily alluded to the incident in a simple message that was just 11 words long:

The investigation continues…

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Joia DaVida reports on the entertainment industry in both Chicago and Los Angeles.