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Will Power

"Strength does not come from physical capacity.
It comes from indomitable will"
- Mahatma Gandhi

Everything is moving fast for Will Smith, the East Coast kid who found fame and fortune by doing his tamer version of West Cost rap for the masses. But success comes at a cost in the entertainment industry, where new stars either grow up or blow up very quickly.

Smith, 29, has done both in his relatively young life. He had his first kick at box-office success with his sophomore effort, Bad Boys, a US 66 million dollar hit which established his movie star credentials. Then came last year’s alien blockbuster, Independence Day, which well and truly catapulted him into the startosphere of high-priced, A list superstars. Smith is now back in another sci-fi flick, Barry Sonnenfeld’s Men in Black and once again he shares the screen with special effects and monster stunts-as well as actor Tommy Lee Jones.

“I know I took a chance at making back-to-back sci-fi movies”, says Smith. “But how cold I resist this? The script is so good, and working with Tommy Lee Jones was a chance I couldn’t pass up”. Based on Lowell Cuningham’s Malibu comic book, Men in Black focuses on a government agency called Men in Black (MIB) which is in charge of alien immigration and which unofficially is devised to keep the streets clean from cosmic riff-raff. Jones and Smith play two black-clad, sunglass-wearing MIB agents, who stripped of their identity, street clothes, and even their fingerprints, are assigned to stop a terrorist extraterrestrial from causing in intergalatic disaster.

“It’s very difficult making another Sci-fi movie”, say Smith who wrote much of his own dialogue for the movie. “If you’re acting with an alien, it’s a mark on the floor and it’s filmed in such small pieces you can never really get a good run at a scene. It’s difficult finding the moments. “But what’s fun about doing a science fiction movie is when you finally see everything put together, it’s almost as if you weren’t even there. It looks completely different, It’s amazing”. Smith is also known as Fresh Prince and earned the rickname from his grade-school teachers because the smooth-talking tyke from West Philadelphia was able to charm his way out of any situation.


A born entertainer, Smith started rapping at the age of 12 and shortly thereafter teamed up with Jeff Townes, who, as Jazzy Jeff, became the Fresh Prince’s musical partner. Eighty years later the duo had produced two platinum albums, including the Grammy-winning, “He’s DJ, I’m the Rapper”. With musical an array of musical plaudits under his belt, Smith expressed a desire to try acting to several business associates, including Warner Bros executive Bunny Medina, who is now his agent.

By coincidence, Medina, who was born poor in Los Angeles but lived as a teenager with a rich Beverly Hills family, had been unsuccessfully pitching a sitcom based on his demographically diverse life. Smith would be perfect, Medina figured, as the protagonist in this fish-out-of-water-tale. According to Hollywood legend, Smith read the script for NBC’s suits with such aplomb that they bought the concept on the spot. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air premiered in 1990, and with its well timed quips and pratfalls from Smith, the show stayed on the air for six years. Despite his homeboy swagger, Smith himself grew up in a middle class family (his father is an engineer, his mother works for the school board) and did so well at school that the Massachussets Institute of Technology offered him a scholarship, which he refused in order to pursue a show-business career. A millionaire by age 18, Smith was nonetheless broke and deeply indebted to the American tax service by the time he met Medina.

“I spent a lot of money on a house, cars and jewellery”, he says of his lost years. “At that age, it’s difficult to handle. I would blow my cheques as soon as I got them, and I was so stupid and arrogant in those day that I refused to listen to anyone’s advice about how to properly manage my money”. Produced by Quincy Jones, the Fresh Prince of Bel-Airs success enabled Smith to not only make good his debts but also establish connections with such start as Denzel Washington who has become the actor’s mentor. With Washington’s help, smith’s screen persona began to grow exponentially, acquiring layers of resonance devoid of the street-corner histionics usually demanded of young black male actors, so far for his follow-up flick he teamed up with fellow sitcom star Martin Lawrence in the action-heavy Bad Boys.