American actor and rapper Willard Carroll Smith, also known as Will Smith, has been an active figure in the entertainment space since the 1990s. His amazing acting skills on the big screen have garnered millions of fans and he has become a renowned name on the entertainment scene. But today, many would say he tarnished decades of hard work because of one moment of rage which was the incident that birthed what is called today the ‘Will Smith slap’.

What is Will Smith’s slap?

The ‘Will Smith slap’, also known as The Slap or Slapgate, is the hit with the palm that the named actor dished to fellow actor and comedian, Chris Rock, at the 94th Academy Awards night. This particular Oscars night is a night to remember and will go down in history as one of the most controversial Oscar nights ever because of the slap itself and the individual that gave the slap.

Before this day, Will Smith had a relatively clean record, there has never been a time when he displayed violent behaviour in the media. He was a role model to many because of his great personality, exceptional talent, and composure. His family can be said to be the ideal Hollywood entertainment family because they are all popular names in the entertainment world. It is no doubt that Smith’s love for his family is unquestionable.

However, no one saw the Will Smith slap coming because back in 2020 when singer August Alsina revealed that he had a relationship with Jada Pinkett Smith, Alsina stated that the actor gave him his blessing at the time. Even when Jada confirmed that she had an entanglement with Alsina and said she does not see it as cheating because she and Smith were separated at the time, at no point did her famous husband turn to violence even after the episode.

So it was a huge shock to see a man who had been through the knowledge that his wife cheated on him with a guy young enough to be his son and was not apologetic about it, flare up on one of the most important nights of his life and career.

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Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Chris Rock

Why did Will Smith slap happen?

When the news broke about the Will Smith slap back in 2022, many people who did not watch the Oscars that year wanted to know why the Will Smith slap happened. Now the Will Smith slap happened because comedian and actor Chris Rock, who was the compere of the event, made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved hair. Will Smith and his wife attended the 94th Oscars as Smith had been nominated for “Best Actor” for his role as “Richard Williams” in the film, King Richard.

Rock came on stage to present the award for Best Documentary Feature. During his presentation, Rock joked about Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz, both previous Oscars winners. The comedian went ahead and made a joke about Jada’s shaven hair by comparing her to the 1997 film character, G.I Jane, played by Demi Moore, who shaved all her hair. Rock said:

Jada, I love you. G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see it, all right?

Before this, it was common knowledge that Jada on the Red Table Talk show in 2018 announced that she is experiencing hair loss. In July 2021, she revealed that she was diagnosed with alopecia areata (alopecia areata is a disease that results in hair loss when the immune system attacks hair follicles) and she started shaving her hair completely.

When Rock made the G.I. Jane joke about Jada, most people in the audience laughed, including Smith. However, Jada was seen rolling her eyes because she was not pleased with the joke. While Rock continued, and with Smith seeing his wife’s reaction, the actor walked up the stage, slapped the comedian and walked back to his seat. It was a priceless moment in time that nobody saw coming as the audience was shocked. While many thought it was a staged act, they knew got to know that it was a spontaneous act when Smith walked back to his seat and angrily warned Rock to keep his wife’s name out of his mouth.

Smith said:

Keep my wife’s name out your fucking mouth!

Rock, on the other hand, was also shocked following the warning by Smith.

The comedian replied:

I’m going to, okay? I could, oh, okay. That was a… greatest night in the history of television, okay.  Okay.

Smith later won the Academy Award for “Best Actor” for the first time on that night. This would be the first time he would win an Oscar and win the category of “Best Actor” after being nominated twice before for the movies Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness.

However, his great achievement for his hard work was washed down by the slapping incident.

When did Will Smith slap occur?

The Will Smith slap occurred at the 94th Academy Award, which took place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, on March 27, 2022.

It was the first time that the Oscars was hosted physically since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Will Smith and wife

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The aftermath of Will Smith slap

After the Will Smith Slap at the 94th Academy Awards, the actor won the award for “Best Actor”. During his acceptance speech, he apologised to the other nominees and the Academy, but he did not outwardly apologise to Chris Rock.

According to DEADLINE, even though LAPD officers were outside, ready to arrest Smith on charges of battery. Rock repeatedly declined to press charges. Two days later, Smith apologized to Rock.

On social media. the actor wrote:

I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.”

Following the incident, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences stated that it would allow Smith to keep his award, despite his actions. The body, however, banned him from attending the Oscars and other Academy events for 10 years. According to Town & Country Magazine, the board of governors of the Academy stated that Smith’s unacceptable and harmful behaviour overshadowed a night that was meant to be a celebration of many individuals and their incredible works in the past year. They went ahead to thank Rock for maintaining his composure during and after the incident.

On November 29, 2022, during his first interview after the Oscar incident on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Smith stated that he just lost it.

He said:

That was a horrific night, as you could imagine. There’s many nuances and complexities to it, but at the end of the day, I just lost it. I guess what I would say is you just never know what someone’s going through.

So far, there’s been no official statement that Smith and Rock have physically met and settled the issue. To date, people still refer to the Will Smith Slap when someone reacts violently or sees a violent act. This is one thing that the actor might have to deal with for the rest of his life.

Do you think Will Smith did the right by hitting Chris Rock?