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The Truth Behind Will Smith and Mariah Carey's Unexpected Friendship
Mariah Carey, Will Smith and son Trey Smith

The Truth Behind Will Smith and Mariah Carey's Unexpected Friendship

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and the Queen of Christmas started out in the scene at the same time. How did they help each other through their initial struggles?

Who knew the Fresh Prince and the Queen of Christmas have been thick as thieves for over three decades?

Both Will Smith and Mariah Carey are pop culture icons in their own right, but few had an inkling that they’ve had each other’s backs in the industries from the get-go. It’s a revelation Mariah Carey laid bare in her memoir The Meaning of Mariah Carey, where the songstress opened up about her close, enduring friendship with Will Smith and its fascinating origins. 

Before they became global sensations in the mid-nineties, they were two awkward, aspiring musicians trying to make a living on the east coast. They hadn’t found their niches, they weren’t remotely confident about their artistry, and they were essentially clueless about navigating an entertainment landscape that had historically been unwelcoming and hopeless for minorities. 

Amidst the struggle and the adversity, they built a wonderful that has stood the test of time and has empowered both to fulfill their dreams. 

Will Smith and Mariah Carey first met in 1988 when they were struggling artists hoping to make it big

Mariah and Will stumbled across each other for the first time in 1988 when Will was one half of the hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, and Mariah was merely a backup singer for Puerto Rican singer Brenda K. Starr. Their lives had not been in the least glamorous, and they were working tooth and nail to land their big break. Their fledgling careers took them to Los Angeles for a radio-sponsored musical extravaganza named KIIS FM Endless Summer Jam. That’s when they encountered each other for the first time and snapped an adorable photo Mariah shared on her social media nearly 30 years later. “#tbt When I only owned two dresses - one pink and one black. I met @willsmith on the night of the pink one! LOL,” she wrote the caption. 

It is a beautiful reminder that both figures had incredibly humble beginnings early on and had to strive for their dreams tirelessly. Mariah described their meeting as a little clumsy but ultimately quite meaningful. They were “both really young, and looked it.” Will appeared “tall and lanky” and was dressed like he could play a “pickup game of hoops” at any moment. Nevertheless, a rapport between the two was developed. 

Will and I were both really young, and looked it [...] Immediately I could tell that he was not only super talented but really bright and laser-focused.

Mariah Carey on The Meaning of Mariah Carey

Mariah added that she could even tell back then that Will was destined for widespread success. He’d already started on a solid footing, with his group’s single ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand’ garnering national acclaim and a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance. The All I Want For Christmas Is You singer said she “loved” the song and was impressed with “what he had accomplished” by just age 20. 

In addition to his creative abilities, he was a “bright and laser-focused” young man, who knew what he wanted and how he wanted to go about his journey. It’s precisely the same attention to detail and planning that catapulted him to the stratosphere in a few more years due to a starring role on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Mariah was able to witness his vision and talent before most other people, and that in itself is a reward. 

He was an “uncomplicated friend” who was always happy to lend an ear as she was moving through the industry

Will smith mariah carey 1 1024x457
Will Smith, Trey Smith, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston

Mariah’s account of a young Will Smith disproves the idea that he’s just putting on an act for publicity. Of course, there’s no denying that each and every celebrity does have to assume a disingenuous or exaggerated appearance every now and then to simply survive and thrive in this cutthroat arena. But there’s always been something so heartfelt and unique about Will Smith’s persona; he’s charming, he’s honest, and he’ll show up and do the work no matter what. 

Mariah said his determination and capacity for empathy and wonder haven’t changed in all the years she’s known him. Audiences can attest to this themselves after watching through all his candid and vulnerable sit-down interviews with wife Jada Pinkett Smith in her talk show Red Table Talk: the man is a virtuoso at being authentic and emotional even when the odds are stacked against him, and he’s at the risk of losing his reputation. Mariah said it’s these attributes that made him such a valuable and kind friend as she was just making her mark in the space. 

The mother-of-two said they used to hang out at Rascals, a venue below the apartment she shared with her friend Josefin Dean. He was an “uncomplicated friend,” and his demeanor at no point suggested he wanted anything more than friendship. He respected her boundaries and proved to be a sweet, stable presence in her life as she rose higher and higher to fame. 

He was an uncomplicated friend. Both of us were absolutely ambitious and he still maintained a childlike wonder and curiosity about the world. Our relationship was always platonic and never got weird.

Mariah Carey on The Meaning of Mariah Carey

She reiterated their relationship was “always platonic,” and it never “got weird.” This becomes all the more refreshing in the light of the fact that Mariah, in a few years’ time, went on to marry the much-older Tommy Mottola, who allegedly abused her in a myriad of ways during their four-year marriage. On the other hand, Will Smith served as a loyal friend who was intimately aware of her challenges and did his best to support her through them. There was no give or take involved. 

It’s unknown whether Will Smith and Mariah Carey still maintain a devoted friendship today, but it doesn’t matter anyway. They were there for each other at a remarkably naive and dynamic period of their lives, and that’s all you can ask for with certain people. 

Every type of friendship is beautiful 

Not every bond is meant to go the whole way with as much enthusiasm and energy as it had in the beginning; some relationships will fade, but as long as they were meaningful to you and they served their own purpose, it should suffice. Sometimes, other priorities in life can take precedence, but that’s the beauty of friendship in the first place. It doesn’t ask you for long-term commitment or full-time dedication. You can just show up for your friends as and when necessary and hold their hand through the ups and downs. Or, perhaps you’re the kind of friend who likes to make your presence known and are ready to accompany your friend through every experience in life - that’s okay, too! Friendship is flexible and all-encompassing, so just find your buddy and get ready for your adventure. 

A true friendship never fades
"A friend is a gift you give yourself." - Robert Louis Stevenson

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