Standing merely five feet tall, Jada Pinkett Smith is known for her high-energy charm, receiving attention for the spunky role she played in her friend Keenan Ivory Wayans’ Low Down Dirty Shame in 1994. She was born on September 18, 1971, in Baltimore, MD, where she grew up and went on to study dance at Baltimore School for the Arts. She then attended North Carolina School of Arts, but dropped out when Wayans found her an agent to launch her acting career.
Real notice came when she worked on Bill Cosby’s series A Different World starting in 1991. Thereafter she appeared in several films including her more serious roles as the single mother in Menace II Society and the girlfriend in Jason’s Lyric (1994). Eddie Murphy’s 1996 rendition of The Nutty Professor brought her back to comedy, and the extensive hype around the film allowed her fame to swell. In 1997, she married fellow actor (and former rap star) Will Smith; the following year, she appeared in Woo and Return to Paradise, and gave birth to son Jadan.
Pinkett Smith made a cameo in Spike Lee’s Bamboozled in 2000, and then returned to a serious lead role in Doug McHenry’s Kingdom Come (2001) with Whoopi Goldberg, which was shot while she was pregnant with daughter Willow.