The surprises began right off the bat, as she, daughter Willow Smith and mom Adrienne Banfield-Norris walked onto the set to find it filled with roses. As Jada explained that she had no idea what was in store for her for the episode, Willow said to expect "beautiful people and friends" asking her some of their burning questions for a change.
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Up first was George Clooney, who was filming from inside his closet while hiding from his twins, who were "bashing each other in the head" outside with plastic swords.
"They tell me that you're turning 50 and that's not possible, because that would mean I'm 60 and that's not possible. So, you're 39, Happy 39 and I'm 49. I like that a lot better," he joked. "I do have a question I've been wanting to ask you for a long time and it's pretty simple: How do you put up with Will? Really. Intelligent, talented, successful, beautiful, all of these qualities that, quite honestly, Will doesn't have. I want to know how, after all these years, you do it. How do you do it?"
After cracking up at his question, Jada said that the most important thing to learn in any relationship is how to have a friendship first. Then, you need to learn how to "put up with yourself," so you can then learn to deal with others.
"For me, I had so much emotional maturity I had to do, I really had to take the time to learn how to love myself," she added. "How we love ourselves is how we show people how to love us. I had been weak in that area."
Kerry Washington popped up next, asking what Smith is looking to "conquer" in the next decade of her life. "I have a lot of fears. Just the state of the world is so uncertain, so I'm really trying to work on my control issues and just let go," she responded. "I'm not feeling the stress of being so worried about everything, that's a process."
When Gabrielle Union asked her to reveal somewhere she's visited that's "changed" her, Jada cited a recent trip to Vietnam, where she met one of her life mentors, Thich Nhat Hanh. Calling it a "gorgeous place," she praised Vietnam for providing her some "spiritual rejuvenation."
Smith then got emotional when she got a video message from the one and only Angela Bassett, who asked the host to share the "most difficult thing" for her to overcome in her life. "Can I tell you one of my favorites?" interjected Willow, "Dealing with me and Jaden, we were not easy children!"
"You actually were. You weren't difficult. Raising children, I don't care who they are, that's challenging. You sacrifice a lot," Jada then told her daughter, crying as she spoke. "But I'll tell you what, sacrificing for you guys was sacred. You guys have been the greatest gift in my life, the greatest ... you guys have been an amazing treasure to me. You guys see me, you and Trey and Jaden, all three of you see me. You really do, through the toughest times. Being a mother wasn't easy but it was worth it."
Smith also said another big challenge in her life was getting to a better place with Will Smith's ex-wife Sheree Zampino. "That was a real process," she explained. "When I think about our relationship now, there's a real sisterhood there, but it took 20 years. It was really a transformation for all of us, having a blended family and getting to a place where there was ease with it."
Jada then got a ton of birthday shoutouts throughout the episode, with Mariah Carey, Ciara, Jimmy Kimmel, Octavia Spencer, Tina Knowles-Lawson, Gloria Estefan, Lena Waithe, MC Lyte, Bethenny Frankel, Duane Martin and Samuel L. Jackson all recording videos for the birthday girl.
The questions -- and tears -- also kept coming as she fielded questions from Lauren London and Tia Mowry, the latter of whom wondered whether she had any advice for raising children in the industry.
"I tried to keep you guys in an understanding that you're really privileged and you need to use your privilege to help people who are not," Jada said to Willow. "I would physically take them to the orphanage so they could see not every child lives like you do. I think that helped. I wanted you guys to work early and I thought that was a good idea, because you understood early the value of money and things and you understood it doesn't just come out of the sky."
"You and dad both would tell us, 'This is our money. This is our house. You live here,'" Willow recalled. "You were inspiring us to create something for ourselves."
After a question from Trevor Noah, Smith stressed how important it was to find your own happiness in life separate from your significant other's -- and to not be each other's only happiness. "When you have your own happiness within, you have more understanding that A) Nobody owes you anything and B) Anything anyone decides to offer you is a gift," she added, as the sage advice kept coming.
She went on to tell Missy Elliott that in this "new era" she's no longer "tolerating nonsense from myself" going forward. "I think I spent a lot of my life playing victim," she continued, "I had to take responsibility on how my unhealthiness brought in a lot of unhealthy dynamics ... I started focusing on how to change myself and that's when my life changed, that's when I got happy."
After Michael Strahan asked her to share something she knows now that she wishes she knew when she started out in the industry, she shared a fun story about Warren Beatty while reflecting on her early attitude.
"I'd tell younger Jada to be a little more nice. I was really edgy, I had a big chip on my shoulder. I think I was just really mean," she explained. "I'll never forget Warren Beatty -- and I love Warren -- he was interested in me doing a certain project and he said, 'You know Jada, it wouldn't hurt you to just be a tad more kind.' He was trying to let me know then, it's okay, you can relax, you can tone it down just a little."
Both Jada and her mother said that turning 40 was actually a more emotional milestone in their lives, after Meagan Good -- who just turned the big 4-0 herself -- asked for some advice. Gam admitted she got "depressed" and got a tattoo on that birthday, while Jada said the marker was "devastating."
"When you're turning 40, don't make any drastic changes," she joked, referring to her mom's permanent ink. "Just sit with it for a minute. I hit a wall, like what do you want? I didn't know, I couldn't answer the question. Look at your life and look at what's happening and see what you're happy with and what you're not happy with"
Following an in-person surprise from Method Man -- who gifted her a pair of golden roller skates so she could "roll through life carefree" -- Trey and Jaden then popped in as well and brought Jada to tears once more as they gave mini-speeches about how important she is to them both.
"I'm going to start by confessing my love and giving a speech to mom right now. I just want to say thank you so much for the way that you raised us and the choices that you made," began Jaden. "I know a lot of people said, Hey, you shouldn't be doing this, why are you doing this like this?' and you made those choices, you decided to raise us the way that you felt like you needed to and it's really made me the person I am today."
"You and dad always taught us, you need to build a team, you were the first person on my team," he added. "You were the first person that was there for me in any type of capacity. On this day, I just want to say thank you ... you're a strong, amazing person."
Added Trey: "The road has not been easy, it has not been easy at all and you have been a rock for me my whole life and so much of who I am today is because of you. You are such a big force in molding me and all of us. It's an honor, privilege and just a divine blessing to have somebody like you in my life and our lives. We just want to celebrate you."
Noting that her grandkids were Jada's "greatest joy," Gam told her daughter, "you are mine." She said she was so "proud" of everything she's become and is "just grateful" to have her as a daughter.
The episode ended one one final surprise performance, as Toni Braxton showed up to sing "Happy Birthday" and her single "You Mean the World to Me."