The 2016 Oscars isn’t the first awards show that Will Smith has boycotted in his long showbiz career. Back in 1989, when the actor was known as the Fresh Prince, he told Entertainment Tonight that he was skipping the Grammy Awards that year — and he had his reasons then, too.
Smith and his collaborator, DJ Jazzy Jeff, were the winners of the Grammys’ first-ever award for Best Rap Performance for “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” Despite their win, the Fresh Prince star and his musical partner opted to boycott the Grammys that year because their category in particular wasn’t televised.
“We don’t have the problem with the Grammy as an award or the Grammys as an institution,” Smith told ET in the archive clip. “We just had a problem with the 1989 design of the awards show. We chose to boycott. We feel that it’s a slap in the face.”
Smith, now 47, was asked to present in the category of Best R&B Male Vocal that year but turned down the opportunity. Instead, rapper Kool Moe Dee filled in. “Kool Moe Dee is the outcast of the rap industry,” Smith told ET at the time.
His old pal Jazzy Jeff (nee Jeffrey Allen Townes) also chimed in on the issue. “They said there wasn’t enough time to televise all of the categories,” Townes recalled of what the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences told him. “They televised 16 categories and from record sales, from the Billboard charts, from the overall public’s view, there’s no way you can tell me that out of 16 categories, that rap isn’t in the top 16.”
Nearly 30 years later, Smith is boycotting another awards show, the 88th Annual Academy Awards, with his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. The ongoing Oscars controversy stemmed from the absence of minority nominees across major acting categories — for the second year in a row. Pinkett Smith suggested a boycott days after the nominees were announced, and formally told fans she would not be attending or watching the 2016 broadcast. (Smith did not receive a nomination for his role in Concussion, despite a Golden Globe nod.)
“She’s deeply passionate, and when she’s moved, she has to go,” her husband told Good Morning America last Thursday, January 21. “I heard her words, and I was knocked over. I was happy to be married to that woman. I appreciated the push. There’s a position that we hold in this community, and if we’re not a part of the solution, we’re a part of the problem. It was her call to action for herself, for me and for our family to be a part of the solution.”
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