Jada opens up about why she appeared annoyed after Chris Rock's joke, her reaction to what happened next and claims the comedian once asked her out on a date, believing she and Will were getting divorced.
More than 18 months after The Slap, Jada Pinkett Smith is finally giving some insight into what was going through her mind when it all went down.
Ahead of the release of her new memoir, Worthy, next week, Smith shared an excerpt of the book with PEOPLE, detailing her thoughts as Chris Rock made a joke at her expense during the Academy Awards -- a remark which was quickly followed by her husband, Will Smith, slapping the comedian during the live telecast.
Making a jab at her bald head, something she embraced following a very public battle with alopecia, Rock quipped, "G.I. Jane Two, can’t wait to see it."
"I had my own premonition right before the incident on the Oscar stage. It flashed through my mind as Chris Rock's face came across the screen as one of the presenters that night. In fact, my stomach clenched," she recalled in her book. "He had been known to take swipes at me — and from the Oscar stage, no less. That had been in 2016, six years earlier, during what became known as #OscarsSoWhite."
She claimed that while they had issues in the past, the pair had apologized to one another and she thought they had moved on. Jada acknowledged she probably "should have called him" to smooth things over in 2016, but didn't speak to him directly at all from 2016-2022 outside the mutual apologies.
"Trying to be optimistic, I told myself, A lot of time has passed, it's the Academy Awards, there are no new misunderstandings, and I'm sure he'll play nice. But another thought was, He's not going to be able to help himself," she continued.
Smith, of course, was right, as Rock then joked about her appearance, prompting a visible eye roll from Jada. Explaining why she appeared annoyed in that moment, Smith said it wasn't because of how the remark affected her, but how she felt it would hurt those "whose condition was far worse than mine."
"That was indeed a very light joke, as many expressed, but it was not about me. I was frustrated that the majority of folks can't seem to understand how devastating alopecia can be. My heart broke for the many who live in shame, the children who have committed suicide after being teased and taunted by their classmates," she explained. "And now the Oscars, in all its political correctness, was telling the world it was okay to make jokes at the expense of a woman suffering from alopecia?"
After that, Will stormed the stage and slapped Rock across the face. She told PEOPLE she thought the incident was a "skit" at first, thinking, "There's no way that Will hit him." She added that she didn't "perceive the gravity of the situation" until Will returned to his seat and began to shout, "Keep my wife's name out your f--kin' mouth!"
"Even so, I am unclear on the reason why Will is so upset. We had been living separate lives and were there as family, not as husband and wife," she wrote in the book. "But when I hear Will yell 'wife' in the chaos of the moment, an internal shift of Oh s--- . . . I am his wife! happens instantly."
She also claimed Rock did try to apologize to her in person that night, saying, "I didn't mean you any harm," but she shooed him off, saying, "I can't talk about this now, Chris. This is some old s--t."
"Chris came down to the end of the stage and tried to apologize to me. He said, ‘I didn't mean you any harm.’ I said, ‘I can't talk about this now, Chris. This is some old s---.’ I thought this was [about] the Oscar 2016 and … their stuff that they had before I even came into the picture in the late ‘80s. I’ve got to leave that to Will and Chris to talk about, but they got their stuff for sure.”
Speaking with TODAY about her book as well, Jada confirmed she and Will had been separated since 2016 and were not together romantically at the time of the Oscars ... and still aren't now.
"Why it fractured...that — that’s a lot of things ... By the time we got to 2016, we were just exhausted with trying. I think we were both kind of just still stuck in our fantasy of what we thought the other person should be," she explained. "I made a promise that there will never be a reason for us to get a divorce. We will work through ... whatever. I just haven't been able to break that promise."
She said the pair are "still figuring it out" and have been "doing some really heavy-duty work together," before concluding, ""We just got deep love for each other and we are going to figure out what that looks like for us."
Coincidentally, Pinkett also claims Rock -- hearing rumors she and Will had split -- once called her and "basically he was like, 'I'd love to take you out.' And I was like, What do you mean?' He was like, 'Well, aren't you and Will getting a divorce?' I was like, 'No, Chris, those are just rumors.'"
She added, "He was appalled. And he profusely apologized and that was that."
The book, Worthy, is out next Tuesday, October 17.