Black Excellence: A Walk Through How Will Smith Rose From A $6 Million Debt To A Net Worth Of $350 Million

by Duke Magazine

Will Smith is an American actor, rapper, and film producer who is regarded as one of the most influential celebrities in the world. The African American was born on September 25, 1968, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His mother was a school administrator and his father was a refrigerator engineer. Smith has three other siblings, his older sister Pamela, and younger twins Harry and Ellen.

Smith went to Overbrook High School and got a scholarship opportunity to study at MIT but he declined the offer. After all, he did not want to go to college because he wanted to become a rapper.
His music career started when he became a member of the rapper group DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. The group caught the attention of Def Jam Records which signed them to a deal in 1986. The group released their debut album titled “Rock the House” in 1987. The album became an instant hit.

In 1988, the group released their second album titled “He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper” which recorded more than three million sales. In total, the duo released five albums together. That same year, Smith earned the first Grammy ever for the newly formed Rap category.

Aside from music, Smith has featured in several movies in the 1990s, including Six Degrees of Separation, Bad Boys, Men in Black, and Enemy of the State. He has also worked with some of the best actors in the industry, including Margot Robbie, Martin Lawrence, and Jason Bateman.

Smith reportedly earned $500,000 to star in Six Degrees of Separation, earned $2 million when he starred in Bad Boys, and $20 million to appear in the sequel.

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Smith earned $200 million in movie salaries and bonuses between 1993 and 2013. And to date, his movie earnings have hit $300 million. And in 2007, he earned $25 million for I am Legend.

His other big paycheck movies include I, Robot, where he earned $25 million — his largest upfront payday. He also earned $20 million to star in Netflix’s Bright, and $35 million to reprise his role in Bright 2.

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Smith has a net worth of $350 million with a significant chunk of the money coming from his movie roles.

At the early stage of his career, Smith had a problem with the IRS. At the age of 21, he was told that he “neglected to pay” $2.8 million worth of taxes during his fat years. According to Celebrity Net Worth, that’s the same as around $6 million worth of debt after adjusting for inflation, adding that the IRS arranged to have 70% of Smith’s salary garnished until his debt was paid off.

Smith later said in an interview that for the first three years of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the IRS was taking 70 percent of every check. “…After the third year I got back to zero,” he said. The actor would bounce back as he went on to star in many films that did well.

In addition to music and movies, Smith wants to run for president at some “point down the line” to fight for the things that he believes in, including the never-dying topic of who gets to be called an American.

Smith’s six-part documentary series for Netflix titled Amend: The Fight For America is an exploration of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which speaks to equality and justice for every American. Promoting the series, the actor told the popular podcast show Pod Save America:

“I think for now I’ll let that office get cleaned up a little bit and then I’ll consider that at some point down the line, I don’t know, it’s like, I have an opinion. I’m optimistic. I’m hopeful. I believe in understanding between people and I believe in the possibility of harmony. So, I will certainly do my part, whether it remains artistic or at some point ventures into the political arena.”

It is not the first time the Bad Boys actor has spoken of his desire to make an impact beyond entertainment and in politics.

In 1999, then considered one of the funniest men on TV due to the show Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, he was invited to spend a night at White House by President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton. Smith joked that the presidential couple needed to keep his bed in the Lincoln bedroom warm.

He went on to say at the time: “That might sound foolish to some But, in my mind, if Ronald Reagan can become President, then why not Will Smith?”

Smith reiterated his desire for the presidency in 2015 after then-Republican candidate Donald Trump‘s incendiary comments about Muslims and Mexicans only made him more popular, an upward trend that won him the Republican nomination.

He told CBS’ Sunday Morning: “If people keep saying all the crazy kinds of stuff they’ve been saying on the news lately about walls and Muslims, they’re going to force me into the political arena…I mean, I gotta be the president. Come on!”.

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