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Profiles of Martha Stewart, Will Smith

Aired July 6, 2002 - 11:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, she is America's favorite homemaker who had all the right ingredients to build her financial empire.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're buying her life. We're buying her personality. We're buying her charm.


ANNOUNCER: A New Jersey native who started from scratch and became a multimedia icon. Now, Wall Street and the government are looking at business dealings that might not be such a good thing.


DAN KADLEC, SENIOR WRITER, "TIME" MAGAZINE: The whole Martha Stewart episode could very well incorporate a creditability gap, which has developed over the last few months.


ANNOUNCER: The latest on what's cooking with Martha Stewart. Then, he is the Fresh Prince of July 4, who's back ambushing aliens in his new summer blockbuster.


WILL SMITH, ACTOR: What's happening, fellows?

LEAH ROZEN, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: "Men In Black" was just a massive hit. A lot of that had to do with Will Smith's appeal.


ANNOUNCER: The Philly native had hit records before he got out of high school, but with his early success came adult-sized problems.


PETER CASTRO, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: After they got their first windfall, they just started spending money like fools.


ANNOUNCER: After his hit trip to Bel Air, he would go on to become one of the silver screen's sizzling stars. Hollywood conqueror, Will Smith's future is so bright he's got to wear shades.


SMITH: I'm going to be the first black president of the United States.


ANNOUNCER: Their stories and more now on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.


SMITH: Oh, now you all running. Now, you all -- no, no, no.


PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Paula Zahn. Everywhere you look these days there's Martha Stewart. America's domestic diva is in a mess that even she might not be able to clean up. It is a highly publicized controversy that threatens to tarnish Stewart's perfect image. The Martha mystique before the headlines and after. Here's Sharon Collins.


SHARON COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It wasn't so long that Martha Stewart was celebrating on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The former stockbroker was even appointed to the board of the Exchange on June 6. But now, the picture of perfection is in the center of a spiraling scandal and taking the heat for frustration over a new breed of shady CEOs.

SAM WAKSAL, CEO, IMCLONE: I am asserting my Fifth Amendment constitutional protection.

KADLEC: The whole Martha Stewart episode fits very well into the corporate creditability gap, which has developed over the last few months. We just don't want to see anyone in a position of privilege get away with anything, not with the kind of money that we've all lost in our 401(k) s over the last two years.

MARTHA STEWART: Again, both indoors and outdoors.

COLLINS: The question is whether Stewart sold $228,000 worth of stock in biotech firm ImClone based on knowledge that the FDA would not review the company's cancer drug. Her actions aroused suspicions of insider trading.

KADLEC: Insider trading is a very difficult to prove. You have to show intent. You have show when she knew information and how much information she had.

COLLINS: But that doesn't seem to matter. Just the implication of wrongdoing has landed her on the front page and new obstruction of justice questions have only made matters worse. Stock in her own company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, has tumbled in the past weeks.

KADLEC: One thing we know for sure is that she is living through a public relations nightmare.

COLLINS: But not too long ago, it was a very different story for the queen of domesticity. October 19, 1999 was a high energy, high profit day for Martha Stewart. At the sound of the bell, her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia went public. Shares doubled and by the end of the trading day, Martha Stewart was a billionaire on paper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's selling at 38 right now.

COLLINS: She celebrated by serving orange juice and brioche to money-thirsty traders. It was a very Martha moment. When asked about her material rise, millions of her fans knew just what the domestic diva would say.

STEWART: It's a good thing.

COLLINS: Stewart would never dub this New York gathering a good thing. Veteran financial writer, Christopher Byron, is celebrating the release of his new work, an unauthorized biography of Stewart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you sign one for me and one for my mom and dad?


COLLINS: Byron has cataloged some good things and a lot more down right unpleasant things about his Connecticut neighbor.

BYRON: She is very, very short tempered with people and as she's gotten older, it's gotten more so. Countless sources have told us the same thing that she's extremely difficult to deal with.

COLLINS: But that doesn't matter to the millions of Martha followers. The Martha Stewart brand is seen in merchandising, magazines, the Internet, on radio and television. The world's most famous homemaker is on a first name basis with America. It's just Martha to her many fan clubs.

STEWART: Oh, yes, there are lots of clubs and lot of children named Martha now. I don't know if you know that, but I get lots of pictures of little babies, Martha this and Martha that.

Use it three times a year.

COLLINS: And Martha on an American Express commercial showing she can take a joke.

STEWART: But don't just throw away your old credit cards, recycle them. I'm retiling my swimming pool.

STEWART: Baby lamb chops. Just saying the words makes my mouth water.

COLLINS: Stewart the perfectionist is an easy target for parody...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (as Martha Stewart): I'm Martha Stewart.


COLLINS: ... as seen here on "Saturday Night Live."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (as Martha Stewart): Today on "Living," we'll celebrate what I feel is the real essence of Valentine's Day, loneliness and shame. I'll show you some innovative ways to enjoy this holiday solo, by yourself, in the deafening silence of your own home.


COLLINS: Either you love her or you hate her.


LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": So many people seem after you.

STEWART: It's a really...

KING: But everybody...

STEWART: ... it's the kind of thing that I sort of try to blank out now because I don't have anytime to deal with this kind of C-R-A- P. I don't have time.


COLLINS: Martha's story begins the way millions of American stories have begun, with a voyage of courage a century ago. Her Polish grandparents sailed by the Statue of Liberty into New York Harbor in 1906. The new immigrants set up home first in Newark. Later, Edward Kostyra, Martha's father, would move to Nutley, New Jersey, just 20 minutes from Manhattan.

Martha and her five siblings grew up in a modest three-bedroom home. Martha and everyone else knew who was in charge at 86 Elm Street, her father, Eddie Kostyra.

BYRON: He clearly had a severe drinking problem. He was unable to hold a job for any particular length of time. Martha's friends did not want to go into the Kostyra house because there was constant yelling in there.

Martha's ex-husband, Andrew Stewart, referred to him as a Willie Loman figure, who just sort of stumbled downhill through life until he finally wound up at the ultimate dead-end job.

COLLINS: Stewart has said it's very painful, but claims to see every performance of "Death of A Salesman" she can. She says her father was indeed Willie Loman bent over with life's disappointments. Like Willie, Edward Kostyra was a salesman. He had dreamed about being a doctor, but ended up commuting to New York City selling pharmaceuticals.

A financial failure, Edward Kostyra was a stern father, demanding perfection from his children even in the garden.

STEWART: I remember the first day that I was put out there on the garden path. We had this cobblestone path in our garden and it had weeds in it. And he said, "Take out all the grass." I think I was three. So I sat out there all day, you know, and I became his pet because of that.

COLLINS: With her father's drive for perfection, Martha also became every teacher's pet at her elementary school. And in high school, it was more of the same, an A student. Her yearbook reads, "I do what I please and I do it with ease." Clearly, Martha Kostyra was not cut out of the same mold as the other girls in Nutley, New Jersey.


COLLINS: Coming up next, a nation gets its first look at Martha.


BYRON: Martha was chosen one of "Glamour" magazines best-dressed college girls of the year.


COLLINS: Martha Stewart carefully creates the picture of perfection when PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues.

ANNOUNCER: And later on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, Will Smith is back bashing aliens and busting rhymes in "Men In Black II."


SMITH: Four, three, two, one.


ANNOUNCER: From music and movies to super stardom and political aspirations. The life of Hollywood renaissance man when PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues.



COLLINS: In the 1960s, Martha Kostyra was deep into her studies at Barnard, an elite college in New York City. Just 20 minutes from her childhood home, it was a world away in sophistication. To help pay school bills, Martha applied and was chosen to appear in "Glamour" magazine's "Best-dressed College Girls of 1961." It was a big break for the small-town girl and it got her noticed.

She modeled for Tareyton cigarettes, was a Breck girl and made a Lifeboy soap commercial.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, you can odor proof your body.

BYRON: She didn't do her own voice on Lifeboy though because she still had a Jersey accent so they did a voice dub for her.

COLLINS: The much-photographed girl from Jersey was about to make a serious change in her life. She tells "Glamour" magazine, life pleases her, in particular a young man named Andy.

Years later, when Martha published her "Weddings" book, she shared with the world a snapshot of her Andy, the man she married in 1961. Andrew Stewart was a law student and Martha was 19 years old.

After marriage, Martha stepped off the model runway and onto the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. It was the late '60s. The market was strong and Martha's father-in-law, a broker, encouraged her to try her luck.

BYRON: You are listening to "High Noon" on Wall Street with Chris Byron.

COLLINS: Stewart biographer, Christopher Byron, says Stewart was one of the first females on the floor.

BYRON: She was a stock broker in a mini skirt and drop dead blonde looks and did really well.

COLLINS: The next stop for the Stewarts, suburban Connecticut. They flapped down $34,000 for an old house in Westport, renovated it themselves and dubbed it "Turkey Hill Farm." From this meager beginning grew a domestic multimedia corporation.

The company's foundation was scrumptious food, headquarters with the kitchen at "Turkey Hill Farm." Martha, the former model and stock trader had a new career in mind, catering. She baked breads, whipped up chocolate moose and set pretty tables. The former straight A student learned to present the perfect party.

In 1982, Stewart's first book, "Entertaining," the first ever full color cookbook, was published by Westport's Hostess Extraordinaire. More than a million copies of the book have sold. Stewart dedicated the book to her father for instilling in her a love for all things beautiful and to Alexis, her daughter, for her patience.

"Business Week" writer, Diane Brady says Alexis tolerated quite a lot at "Turkey Hill Farm."

DIANE BRADY, "BUSINESS WEEK": Her daughter essentially has told me that there is not 10 seconds when her mother has not thought about the business.

COLLINS: Martha has said Alexis and others have grown accustomed to her jam-packed calendar.

STEWART: They're pretty used to my workaholic schedule. And my life is my work and my work is my life.

COLLINS: In 1987, Martha's work and life collided head on. Her marriage was over. Andrew Stewart left "Turkey Hill Farm." Six years later, Andy married Robin Fairclaw (ph), once a flower consultant to Martha.

Martha has said that for years she blamed herself for the divorce and she wondered, "What did I do wrong?" For Martha, the only answer was to keep on working, writing more books and with Time Warner, created a new magazine, "Martha Stewart Living."

On the cover, Martha. Inside, more Martha. Martha was everywhere. The big question -- would anyone want to buy that much Martha? The answer, a big yes. The proof? A sudden demand for small boxes mentioned in the magazine. Eric Thorkilsen now president of This Old House Ventures took a frantic call from the box maker.

ERIC THORKILSEN, PRESIDENT, THIS OLD HOUSE VENTURES: He said do you realize that our switchboard has been completely jammed all afternoon with people calling, trying to find out where they can find our boxes. You've got to stop this, whatever is causing this, you know, we can't operate down here. And we, of course, you know, were incredibly sympathetic and apologetic and hung up and jumped around the room because we really had a hit on our hands.

COLLINS: There were millions of people eager to live in Martha's world.

BRADY: She sort of hits a common nerve in a lot of people. A friend of mine calls it homemaker porn. Essentially, it's aspiring to a lifestyle that you can't have and it's a fantasy world.

STEWART: Just like people, roses need to be fed and watered.

COLLINS: Almost immediately, Stewart branched out to TV, landing a deal with NBC's "Today" show.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Martha is here this morning with an assortment of beautiful roses and some tips on how to make arrangements for the home, from her new magazine, "Martha Stewart Living."

COLLINS: Within the first year, Time Warner and Stewart had a weekly show in syndication. The little girl who learned perfection from her stern father was now bringing that perfection to America in every manner possible. (APPLAUSE)

COLLINS: A decade later, this type of synergy is Martha Stewart's blueprint.

STEWART: I am very proud to have this solid shank with the fork head available at Kmart by Martha Stewart Every Day Garden. This is like incredible for us.

BRADY: The beauty of Martha Stewart to me is that she isn't really a merchandiser nor is she a publisher. What she essentially is a purveyor of content. Take something as simple as the humble carrot. She will manage to take that carrot, turn into it a carrot cake for her "Weddings" issue, maybe right above gardening, organic carrots, in her magazine.

All of the sudden that'll become an episode on her daily TV show. It'll be repackaged in terms of a food segment for the Food Network. She'll have various products designed around carrots that will be sold on the Internet.

ANNOUNCER: This is Martha Stewart dot-com.

BRADY: She takes every single piece of information that she has. She repackages and re-purposes as many times as she can.

COLLINS: Millions of Martha smiles later and "Time" magazine declared Stewart one of the most influential people of 1996. She now had all the trappings of fame, including sneering critics.

Writer, Chris Byron, a neighbor of Martha's, says his book has the locals talking loudly.

BYRON: The opinions are so extreme and so polarized. How dare you attack Martha Stewart? She's the living embodiment of all that's wonderful and an American woman, that she gives hope for us all. And the other extreme -- why are you celebrating a witch? Don't you understand she hasn't paid a bill in this town in 20 years?

COLLINS: For many years, Martha used her home in Westport as her TV studio until neighbors rebelled.

BYRON: It went crazy. You were getting 16-wheeler tractor- trailer trucks coming up here. And sometimes, there were traffic jams. That's her house, right there.

COLLINS: Eventually, the neighborhood became hostile.

BYRON: This is like the DMZ in Beirut. These walls just arose. That next beach over is where we're going to go. People in this area, plenty of them would tell you, yeah, she comes out here and walks around here at four in the morning with her dogs.

BRADY: It's poignant. It's well known that she has all of these homes that she lives in alone with her many dogs and pets. And she may have all of these houses, but I doubt she spends much quality time in them because she's too busy.


COLLINS: Coming up next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, Martha stays focused on business but an insider trading investigation rakes havoc on her image.


COLLINS: For Martha Stewart, it seems business is everything and everywhere. Stewart has found the road to fortune wherever she has traveled.

BRADY: I think the temptation for any successful entrepreneur is to always go global.

COLLINS: Martha Stewart's homespun brand is now found in over 200 Japanese retail stores. A version of her magazine and TV show flood Japan's market.

STEWART: This is an amazing hand tool.

COLLINS: Her vision of world domination also included Kmart, a company currently struggling through bankruptcy.

STEWART: OK, girls.

COLLINS: Stewart's been associated with Kmart since 1987 and she's been very successful. Her goal has been to bring affordable style to the masses.

STEWART: It's good. It's useful. It appealing. It's attractive and it's cheap.

COLLINS: Though Kmart's future faces uncertainty; Stewart has stuck by the company.

STEWART: It's pretty hard to run out on a partner that's down. You know, that's not our style.

COLLINS: Now, Stewart is hoping people don't run out on her. The expanding investigation into her sale of ImClone stock has landed her on the front of the scandal sheets. Stewart sold nearly 4,000 shares the day before the FDA publicly announced it would not consider ImClone's cancer drug, Erbitux. The stock lost $5 the following day.

Now, ImClone's former CEO and friend of Stewart, Sam Waksal, has been arrested on charges of insider trading for trying to sell his stock and tipping off family members to the news one day before the FDA announcement. Stewart and Waksal share a broker, Peter Bacanovic, who has backed Stewart's assertion that she did nothing wrong.

KADLEC: Her defense has been that she had a standing order for him to sell her ImClone stock if it fell below $60 a share. He has said the same thing. When Merrill Lynch, in an internal investigation, asked him to prove that, he couldn't come up with any documentation.

COLLINS: Bacanovic's assistant, Douglas Spaniel, damaged Stewart's claim recently when he told investigators that Bacanovic and Stewart did not have an agreement to sell ImClone stock at a certain price. This raised the question of whether Stewart had made false statements to Congressional investigators. If so, that could lead to a very serious charge.

KADLEC: But now with the possibility of obstruction charges, that's very simple to prove. I mean, you know, if she lied, she lied and it's a felony. It's the old story of the cover-up being worse than the deed.

COLLINS: Even the hint of impropriety may have a long-term impact on Stewart's own business, a danger she faces by making her own perfection a commodity.

KADLEC: She doesn't even have to be found guilty. She's already been tarnished and she is the star of her company. Without her -- without her squeaky clean image, her company, her enterprise loses value and that is being reflected in the stock market right now.

COLLINS: Since June 6, Martha's Stewart Living Omnimedia stock has tumbled 38 percent from just over $19 to $11.74, brining Stewart's personal losses to over 200 million, quite ironic considering Stewart's sale of ImClone stock saved her less than $50,000.

KADLEC: It won't be easy for her company to regain the lost value that has occurred over the last few weeks.

COLLINS: Stewart has avoided public statements referring instead to keep her denials private, saying these matters are "best resolved by the relevant authorities without distraction." But the topic was hard to avoid two weeks ago on a regularly scheduled appearance on the CBS "Early Show." She awkwardly professed her innocence...

STEWART: I think this will all be resolved in the very near future and I will be exonerated from the ridiculousness.

COLLINS: ... and then she changed the subject.

STEWART: And I want to focus on my salad because...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One more question...

STEWART: ... that is my work here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... one more question about the...

COLLINS: Stewart subsequently canceled her next appearance.

KADLEC: I think she sort of let on that this whole thing is really getting to her. And I don't think there's any question that it's getting to her.

COLLINS: Martha Stewart has complained about what she sees as inappropriate scrutiny. But she has made every aspect of her life, even her daily calendar, a marketing tool.

BYRON: She said to me once that "my life is the 'Truman Show.'" And what she meant by that is "I'm always on and from the time I get up in the morning until the time I go to bed the whole world is watching."

COLLINS: Now, it's watching with a very different eye egged on by a media feeding frenzy.

KADLEC: This is the queen of perfection. So isn't it natural that there would be some small amount of joy in seeing a person like this get taken down a few notches? There's no question that that mood is out there. No question at all. I'm not saying it's right, but it' clearly part of the equation.

COLLINS: For now, Martha Stewart hasn't been charged with anything and there's a chance this whole controversy could fade from memory like a bad dinner party. And if anyone has a shot at cleaning up her own image, it is America's favorite domestic diva.


ZAHN: Coming up, Will Smith, the king of the July 4 weekend. Back in theaters and back in black when PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues.


ZAHN: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. A pair of intergalactic cops and a talking pug are all that stand between Earth and alien domination in the latest summer sequel, "Men In Black II."

It's been five years since Will Smith first strapped on those Ray-Bans and blasted his way to box office glory. Five years that not only saw Smith conquer Hollywood, but also marry actress Jada Pinkett, score an Oscar nomination and just now release a new album, "Born to Reign." If Smith makes it all look too easy, his journey to super stardom has been anything but. The story of Will Smith now. Here's Gail O'Neill.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're OK for roll sound.

SMITH: Are you ready for me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are rolling.

SMITH: Black suit to black shades to black shoes, black tie with the black attitude.

GAIL O'NEILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Will Smith is ready and back in black.

SMITH: Want to crawl with me, trying to brawl with me.

O'NEILL: The singer turned TV star turned Hollywood heavyweight just rapped his newest music video.

SMITH: Knock your head. Knock your head like this.

O'NEILL: But the Grammy-winning "Men In Black," it's not just the new album and music video getting nods.

SMITH: You're coming back. It's like a family reunion.


O'NEILL: Will Smith is back on the big screen in "Men In Black II."

SMITH: We got a bug in the electric system!

O'NEILL: The sequel to one of the most popular action buddy flicks of all time.

SMITH: You know what the difference is between you and me? I make this look good.

O'NEILL: It's familiar territory for Smith. Five years ago, he teamed up with Oscar-winning actor Tommy Lee Jones to battle aliens in the box office smash hit original.

TOMMY LEE JONES, ACTOR: We work in secret.

SMITH: And we dress in black.

O'NEILL: The movie raked in over $250 million and the "Men In Black" theme song earned Smith a Grammy.

ROZEN: "Men In Black" was just a massive hit. A lot of that had to do with Will Smith's appeal. It put him into the so-called super star stratosphere.

SMITH: Sorry.

O'NEILL: That superstar status has been further cemented for Smith with other summer hits like "Independence Day" and "Enemy of The State."

SMITH: I don't have anything!

O'NEILL: So much so, that the 34-year-old has been dubbed the king of the Fourth of July.

SMITH: You know that's my weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A national rule now.

SMITH: Yes, yes, that's the Willie week.

O'NEILL: Will Smith was a crowd pleaser from the start. Raised in a middle-class suburb of west Philadelphia with two sisters and a brother, Smith says there was never a shortage of entertainment. SMITH: My family was very silly, you know. When I was growing up, we all had a lot of fun. We played around a lot.

O'NEILL: Smith says there were plenty of jokes, but dad, Willard, an Air Force veteran...

SMITH: This is my dad. This is Will Smith Sr.

O'NEILL: ... and mom, Caroline, a school administrator, kept a very strict household.

SMITH: Whenever I have a problem, you know, whenever I don't understand what to do with the kids, you know, I always call my dad. And he makes it very clear for me. Hell, just beat them. It's like no, I'm just joking. Oh, it's a bad joke for TV.

O'NEILL: For most of his childhood, Smith was shipped out of his black middle-class neighborhood to a Catholic school several miles away.

CASTRO: He was doing that Catholic catechism stuff with predominantly white kids and that gave him a pretty good idea of what, you know, the other world was like. And he excelled at two things in school -- math and making the white kids laugh.

DJ JAZZY JEFF, RECORDING ARTIST: When he was in high school, he used to kind of get into a lot of trouble, a lot of mischief and would charm himself out of it. So they started calling him like Prince Charming.

O'NEILL: It was his first nickname. The teenager with the charm also excelled musically.

In the mid 80's when hip-hop music was in the early stages, Smith discovered he could rap. But Smith's parents made sure their son put education first. The class cut-up eventually transferred to Overbrook High where he buckled down. His excellent math grade even got him an interview at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1986.

CASTRO: His heart wasn't in it. He just wanted to be a rapper.

DJ JAZZY JEFF: He's kind of looking at college. And he's looking at, you know, "Well, I had the normal path that I'm supposed to take and then, I have the fairy tale path on this side because this is what every little kid dreams about and it never happens," you know. So thank God he decided to take the fairy tale path.

O'NEILL: Smith's fairy tale started when he crossed paths with Philadelphia DJ Jeff Townes, better known as DJ Jazzy Jeff.

DJ JAZZY JEFF: He grabbed the mike and just -- the natural chemistry that we have performing and just kind of getting people -- because both of us were silly -- so just kind of getting people involved in a party and just having a good time.

O'NEILL: The two bonded and became a hit stage act. Then they were performing at clubs together. Smith with a new name.

DJ JAZZY JEFF: Back then, in the '80s, everything was fresh. You know, it puts the two together.

Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince forever!

O'NEILL: DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince were a hit. The two released their first record before Smith had even graduated from high school.

SMITH: Listen, homeboys. I don't mean to bust your bubble, but girls of the world ain't nothin' but trouble.

O'NEILL: The duo's funny, clean-cut lyrics in rap songs like "Girls Ain't Nothin' But Trouble" put them in a category all their own.

CASTRO: He latched onto something that was really clever and that was, you know, to try to do a rap song without any profanity.

SMITH: It's 6:00 now and 8:00, will you be ready?


SMITH: All right, fine. See you then, Betty.

My brother found my rap book and she wrote a letter in the back of my rap book. She said, "Dear Willard, truly intelligent people do not have to use words like this to express themselves." And that, you know -- I decided OK, all right, all right, Grandma, you're right, you're right.

O'NEILL: This rap light worked for the duo. In 1996, they cut "Rock The House," which sold 600,000 copies. Two of the next three albums went platinum.

SMITH: Mom, this shirt is plaid with a butterfly collar.

O'NEILL: In 1988, mega hit "Parents Just Don't Understand," won DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince the first-ever Grammy for "Best Rap Performance..."

SMITH: There's no need to argue. Parents just don't understand.

O'NEILL: ... much to the chagrin of hard-core rappers everywhere.

TOURE, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "ROLLING STONE" MAGAZINE: To have Will Smith have two Grammies is pretty much absurd. That's not typically the image that hip-hop is looking to bring. And so much of it is asserting the strength of the black male or how tough we are and he's not sort of going down any of those avenues.

SMITH: There's no need to argue...

DJ JAZZY JEFF: And we got a lot of criticism because you know, it's like OK, everybody's into gangster rap or the hard-core rap. And I think I just looked at it like people go out and people listen to records and they go to shows to be entertained. They don't want to go to be screamed at or be angry.


O'NEILL: Apparently, the record-buying public agreed. When we return, album sales make Will Smith a millionaire by the age of 18. A year later, he loses it all.




SMITH: How you all doing out there? This is my partner. This is DJ Jazzy Jeff with yours truly, The Fresh Prince.

TOURE: Will's story is an amazing story of this kid from nowhere in Philadelphia who becomes a multimillionaire.

O'NEILL: In the late '80s, rapper DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince were flying high.

DJ JAZZY JEFF: Things happened to Will and myself very quickly.

SMITH: So tell you all, the kids across the land, there's no need to argue. Parents just don't understand.

O'NEILL: With their G-rated style of rap, a Grammy and multi platinum albums, the duo had a winning formula, but fame and fat bank accounts were a disastrous combination for the rap team from Philly.

CASTRO: After they got their first windfall, they just started spending money like fools. They would go out and they would have Gucci shopping sprees and cars and clothes and it went really fast.

O'NEILL: The rock star lifestyle took its toll. In 1988, at the age of 18, Smith was a globe-trotting millionaire with a mansion and eight cars. By the next year, it was all gone and the IRS was looking for him.

CASTRO: Yes, they came knocking on his door saying, "I know you know -- I know you've been spending all of this money. What about us?"

SMITH: When things happen quickly for you and the two things that always kind of throw you off are the money and the women, you know. It's -- you just -- when you're out and everyone loves, you know -- men and women love when the opposite sex appreciates you and that goes to your head.

O'NEILL: At 20, Smith's assets were finally frozen. He and DJ Jazzy Jeff went back to the studio hoping to recoup some cash by making more gold records. The result was 1990's warm weather anthem "Summertime."

SMITH: ... so lay back because it's summertime.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Summer, summer, summertime.

O'NEILL: The song earned them a Grammy, but the rappers never could recapture the magic or the cash. Smith says it was time for a career change and decided to take his gift for gab to a new medium.

DJ JAZZY JEFF: From the time we put out our first record, we sat down one night and basically had a dream meeting of what we wanted to do. And I'll never forget him saying, "You know, I really want to make movies."

O'NEILL: For Smith, following that dream meant saying goodbye to Philadelphia and hello to Hollywood.

SMITH: And I was finally there to sit on my throne as the Prince of Bel Air.

O'NEILL: By 1990, Smith's rapping talent caught the eye of producers.

DEBBIE ALLEN, DIRECTOR: I remember they talked about their hot new show and this exciting new rapper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is amazing. You certainly have grown, Will.

SMITH: Well, we all have.

O'NEILL: They needed a lead for a new TV sitcom and thought the singer would be a natural.


O'NEILL: Smith auditioned and got the role of a lifetime.

SMITH: His royal freshness. That's dope!

I get to play a character that's essentially me, you know. And it's the same thing I've been doing for the past, you know, five years with the music.

CASTRO: They came up with this except of this black kid moving into a really rich suburb. And it was, in a way, a story of his own life because this is what he was around. He was tailor-made for this role.

O'NEILL: Choreographer Debbie Allen directed "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" pilot.

ALLEN: He had this infectious charm and great laugh and eyes that really looked at you when you spoke to him. And I knew he had something.

SMITH: I do it all -- acting, cameras. Ssh!

O'NEILL: Smith was convincing in the world, but he was hardly a pro. Nervous about missing his cues, the budding actor memorized his co-star's lines, too.

ALLEN: So I think he came out of that rapping world, you know, knowing all the lines, you know, talking, talking, talking about, blah, blah, blah. So I mean, you know, he would do his lines and then, he would do the other people's lines.

O'NEILL: Smith's acting improved and the rapper-turned actor catapulted back into stardom.

SMITH: Trying to get everything back together, man.

O'NEILL: His love life was hot too. In May 1992, 23-year-old Smith married Sheree Zampino, a fashion design student he had dated for less than a year. In December, the couple had a boy, Willard Smith III, nicknamed Trey.

SMITH: When the doctor handed me my son, you know, it was -- I've tried a number of times to put it into words. You can't -- you -- I don't know. You can't just put it into words.

O'NEILL: His doting dad would later bring him to movie premieres and interviews.

SMITH: Trey! Say hi.


O'NEILL: With a new family and a hit TV show, Smith appeared to have it all, but the actor wanted to do more.

SMITH: I think everything was going well with the television show and to just throw a curve ball; it just seemed like the perfect time to throw a curve ball.

O'NEILL: The small screen star took a gamble and launched a film career.

SMITH: Let's go! Come on! Come on!

O'NEILL: Smith landed a couple of mediocre roles early on. A homeless kid in "Where The Day Takes You..."

SMITH: Yo! There's a white man at the door.

O'NEILL: ... and a bit part in "Made In America" opposite Whoopi Goldberg and Ted Danson. Smith was barely noticed in the elite to the big screen, but his next role would separate him from the rest.

SMITH: This knit-wit Chapman who shot John Lennon said he did it because he wanted to draw the attention of the world to catch her in the rye. O'NEILL: Smith's big movie break came with his dramatic performance of a gay con man in "Six Degrees of Separation," a serious departure from his Fresh Prince role.

ROZEN: He's making a giant leap in terms of who's he working with, the kind of films he's doing and he was doing a serious role. He wasn't just doing a comedy part.

SMITH: What is schizophrenia, but a horrifying state...

It was grueling. Everything about the film was totally removed from anything that I could relate to because my instincts are naturally comedic. I had to relearn my instincts. I had to become a different person.

O'NEILL: But the former rapper would only go so far in the role of a gay hustler. The script called for on-the-mouth kiss between Smith's character and another man. Smith refused to shoot the scene.

SMITH: In all of the other aspects of my career, everything was perfect. Am I going to mess it up?

O'NEILL: The scene was re-shot to accommodate Smith. The actor later said he regretted asking for the change.

SMITH: But I think that I'm more mature now. And I wish I had another shot at it.

O'NEILL: But Smith's shot at a dramatic part still worked. His "Six Degrees" role captivated critics and audiences and set the former rapper firmly on the road to stardom.


O'NEILL: When we return, Smith gets a lot more action as a bad boy in Hollywood, but his personal life collapses.





CASTRO: He was like the quintessential renaissance man.

ALLEN: You know he can segue to whatever the next thing is. He can kick ball change in a heartbeat.


SMITH: Start what?


SMITH: Will you help me?

O'NEILL: With the success of his role in "Six Degrees of Separation," Will Smith proved he could handle the drama, but he was ready for more action.

SMITH: Bad boys, bad boys, what you going do?

I get bored easily. So I need to have something that is going to make me work, something that I have to learn a character or something, that I have to, you know, get in shape for, something like that.

I'm buff, man.

O'NEILL: Smith made the change in his box office breakthrough, "Bad Boys," the 1995 thriller from action-adventure specialist Jerry Bruckheimer.

SMITH: Don't be alarmed. We're Negroes.

MARTIN LAWRENCE, ACTOR: No man, no, that's too much bass in your voice. That scare white folks. You got to sound like them.

SMITH: We were wondering if we can borrow some brown sugar.

ROZEN: What it had that you hadn't seen before was it had two black men as your leads. You had Will Smith and you had Martin Lawrence. And the film turned into a huge hit.

SMITH: You all get down!

O'NEILL: The buddy cop movie rocked box offices, raking in $140 million. But Smith says his triumph as an action hero on screen did not make him one at home. An intense work schedule and little family time led to the breakup of his marriage to Sheree Zampino in 1995. The two share custody of son, Trey, who is one of Smith's biggest fans.

SMITH: Oh, it was great working with Martin. We had a lot of fun out there working.

W. SMITH III: It was a great movie.


O'NEILL: Smith says his painful divorce taught him a valuable lesson, be a better family man. And in 1996, he got another shot at that role.

SMITH: Oh, this is my sweetie. This is Jada Pinkett.

O'NEILL: Smith began dating actress Jada Pinkett. The two met years before when Pinkett auditioned for the role of Smith's girlfriend on "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air."

ALLEN: And they met and the next thing I knew, they were like locked. O'NEILL: Pinkett didn't get the sitcom, but six years later, she did land the Fresh Prince himself.

ALLEN: It was like, you know, getting the princess and Prince Charming all in one.

O'NEILL: The couple married in 1997 and started a family a year later with son Jaden and daughter Willow.

CASTRO: I think fatherhood has just completely redefined his life.

O'NEILL: Smith's devotion to his children was apparent at the 2001 Academy Awards.

CASTRO: He got a call on his cell phone that one of his kids had a high fever and he just rushed right out of there. I mean I cannot tell you how many celebrities in that situation would have just called the nanny.

O'NEILL: As Smith's family life flourished so did his career.

ROZEN: "Bad Boys" made Will Smith into a bona fide movie star, but then "Independence Day" confirmed it. When he showed up at these scenes where he punches the alien and audiences just went nuts. You just said, "OK, he's a movie star."

SMITH: Welcome to Earth.

O'NEILL: He carved out a niche for himself fighting aliens. The science-fiction comedy was a top-grossing movie of 1996 and sent Smith up to the Hollywood big leagues. The hits kept coming.

SMITH: K, something's peaking.

O'NEILL: A year later, he teamed up with Tommy Lee Jones in "Men In Black." Again, Smith tangled with aliens and became a box office phenomenon. The movie was the biggest moneymaker of 1997.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here come the men in black.


O'NEILL: Smith used the success of "Men In Black" to get back behind the mike. The themed video sent the song to number one on the charts. Another hit wasn't far behind.

SMITH: Gettin' jiggy wit it.

TOURE: "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" was a great anthem party record.

SMITH: Gettin' jiggy wit it.

O'NEILL: But back on the big screen, Smith's run of blockbusters ended in 1999. The overproduced western remake "Wild Wild West..."

SMITH: If you must.

O'NEILL: ... bombed at theaters. It opened on July 4 and was expected to be another "Men In Black" sized triumph.

SMITH: When you tell this story to your grandkids, you make sure you leave this part out.

ROZEN: Smith couldn't save it. You could see him working really hard to try and make these pathetic jokes work.

O'NEILL: Despite his hard work and uncanny resemblance, Smith couldn't save the much-anticipated "Ali." He got into the best shape of his life for the heavyweight role, but the film was no box office champ. But Smith's performance impressed critics and earned him an Oscar nomination for best actor.

SMITH: Man, you lost your swing. We've got to go find it.

O'NEILL: And Smith's part of the mysterious caddy in "The Legend of Bagger Vance" didn't pack nearly the same punch as his earlier adventure flick roles.

ROZEN: I think you always know with Will Smith, he is one good comedy away from being back on top. And at the time that "Bagger Vance" came out, you knew that they were just polishing that script on the "Men In Black" sequel.

O'NEILL: The premise is the same -- secret agents J and K work to save the galaxy from aliens. The family has grown.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who let the dog out?


O'NEILL: Clearly, Smith enjoys making movies.

SMITH: ... if you want to rock the stage. If you want to...

O'NEILL: But this Hollywood hero sometimes has other serious things in mind.

SMITH: I'm going to run for president probably in about 10 years. I'm going to be the first black president of the United States.

CASTRO: I would not be surprised if he ran for office one day.

DJ JAZZY JEFF: If he tells you that he wants to be an astronaut, you may laugh, but you can never count him out.

O'NEILL: The rapper turned TV actor turned movie star still strives for perfection as he continues to reinvent himself.

SMITH: Even at number one, I still feel an urge to work and try to make it better.


ZAHN: That is it for this edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Coming up next week, Venus and Serena Williams, tennis' top players on the court and off. I'm Paula Zahn. Thanks so much for being with us and be sure to join me every weekday for "AMERICAN MORNING" right here on CNN -- so long.




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