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Will Smith: The Fresh Prince of Philadelphia to Hollywood Royalty

Sep 25, 2021 09:30AM ● By Kassidy Garland
younger Will Smith

Willard Carroll Smith Jr. was born on September 25, 1968, in Philadelphia, PA. His mother Caroline was a school board member, and his father was a retired Air Force veteran and refrigeration engineer. Will Smith, his older sister, Pamela, and younger twin siblings Harry and Ellen, were raised Baptist.

Growing up in West Philadelphia, Will Smith grew up in a diverse middle-class neighborhood. Despite his Baptist upbringing, Smith attended Catholic school. Will Smith was a good student and was nicknamed “Prince”. 

It was during his school years that he also began rapping, with heroes like Grandmaster Flash as his influences. His eventual trademark became the comedic aspect of his rhymes. At 16, he met Jeff Townes, and the two of them became the musical duo, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.


Their comedic, curse-free style made the duo a hit in middle America. They grew in popularity with hits like “Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble” in 1986. In 1987 the pair’s debut album Rock the House hit the Billboard Top 200, making Will Smith a millionaire by the time he was 18 years old.

The two continued their musical pursuits, but Will Smith also ventured into acting. By 1991, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air played on his rapper persona in a story of a street-smart kid from Philadelhpia who moves in with his relatives in a stuffy mansion. The show ran for seasons and was a huge success.

He continued acting and eventually moved to the big screen, taking on roles in Where The Day Takes You, Made In America, and Six Degrees of Separation. He quickly established himself with his abilities and began taking leading roles in films like Bad Boys, Independence Day, and Men in Black.

His 2001 role as Muhammed Ali proved his dedication and talent as an actor. Although the film didn’t do as well as expected in the box office, the film Ali won him his first Academy Award nomination. Smith continued with roles in action movies, romantic comedies, biopics, etc., but his career in the music industry slowed with his last album being released in 2005. Most recently, Will Smith has played roles in Suicide Squad,  Disney’s live-action Aladdin, and Spies in Disguise opposite Tom Holland.

Smith has been married twice, the first time to Sheree Zampino in 1992, which only lasted three years. Together, the two had a son, Willard Smith III, known as Trey. In 1997, he married Jada Pinkett Smith, and together, they have two children. Jaden, born in 1998, and Willow, born in 2000. His two, younger children have also acted and made a name for themselves in the music industry with the support of their father. The family is easily one of the most famous and recognizable families in Hollywood, and it still maintains its ties to his family in Philadelphia. 





 Kassidy Garland has had a great appreciation for reading and writing since she was young. She graduated from West Chester University in 2017 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English & Women and Gender Studies. With a concentration in creative writing, Kassidy has 5 years of experience writing blogs, articles, and for social media. Kassidy is also pursuing a Master’s degree in IT with a concentration in Web Development. Based out of Philadelphia, Kassidy loves to write about a number of topics and looks forward to sharing her passion with those at FunTimes Magazine. 

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