RHOBH star Sheree Zampino defends ex Will Smith: ‘I ride with him’

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Now that she’s on the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” Sheree Zampino acknowledges that being a Hollywood ex — her first husband is actor Will Smith — is easier than being famous herself.

Appearing as a “friend” on “RHOBH,” airing now, the 54-year-old has faced intense scrutiny. Throughout Season 12, she’s shared many laughs with her bestie, longtime cast member Garcelle Beauvais, who threw Zampino’s name into the mix when producers were looking to add a fresh face to the show.

For her first season of “RHOBH,” Sheree was very comfortable in the friend zone.

“Being a friend, I’m literally just dipping my toe into the deep end,” she told Page Six. “It’s cute right now. You tell me where the party is, and I show up and we have fun.”

But there has been some drama — it is, after all, “Real Housewives.”

Like when Garcelle revealed on camera that she had dated Smith in the past, which was news to Zampino.

“It was funny when she told me,” Sheree said. “See, she thinks she’s slick. She told me on camera. I was like, ‘Ok, that’s what we’re doing.’ But it’s totally fine. It was after Will and I had divorced, and it is what it is. Garcelle and I didn’t even know each other yet.”

Although this revelation didn’t faze her, she has also faced negative attention and mean-spirited comments on social media since appearing on “RHOBH.” This led to an “a-ha” moment that made her realize the harassment Smith has endured over the years and
the sacrifices he made for his career and his family.

“Will has been performing since he was 16,” she said. “And he does it with so much love, grace and gladness. He’s always available to his fans. They want to take a picture; he takes a picture. He signs autographs. He makes a connection. He loves people. He never complains.”

She remembers a disturbing moment from when they were dating in the early ’90s, and how calm her then rapper beau remained despite being hit with pennies while performing with DJ Jazzy Jeff during a showcase.

“The pennies were hitting him in the head and in the chest and he didn’t miss a beat,” Zampino recalled. “I was so heated backstage, but he never mentioned it. So, I’ve seen him take the hits, literally. He never complains. I ride with him. I ride with him! I would’ve blown up a long time ago.”

When Smith finally did blow up, of course, it was in the most public forum imaginable: At the Oscars in March, the Best Actor nominee — and eventual winner that night for “King Richard — charged the stage and slapped Chris Rock after the comedian made an unkind
joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and her bald look. (The actress suffers from alopecia, which Rock claims he didn’t know.)

“It was a little surreal,” Zampino said of the slap, which she was saw on TV while at a viewing party with Smith’s extended family. “I thought it was a skit at first, but once I realized it was real, my thinking was, ‘I’m not even going to deal with this because it’s his night.’

“When he came over, we were supportive and loved on him. The whole situation was foreign to me because Will is always in control and gracious. You don’t really see him get upset that often.”

She thinks maybe it’s time for the world to move on. “He’s apologized, and he’s taken responsibility and accountability for it,” Zampino added. “I don’t know what happened in the moment. I wouldn’t ask. If that’s something he wants to share, he can. But he’s got a family that loves him, rides for him and supports him. He’s allowed to be human.”

The two met in 1991 during a taping of the NBC show “A Different World.” Zampino was there to support one of the writers on the show, stand-up comedian Orlando Jones, whom she was seeing at the time.

She was seated next to Smith, and they started chatting, with him cracking jokes and making her laugh.

“He was the Fresh Prince!” she recalled. “The show [‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’] was in its first season. I’ve never been starstruck. That is one thing that never really excited me.

“But two days later, my phone rang — my land line!” It was Smith. They became phone friends and started dating the following year, marrying soon after. Their son, Willard Carroll “Trey” Smith III, was born in November 1992.

While the marriage didn’t last, their commitment to raise Trey, now 29, harmoniously did.

“When Will and I decided to go our separate ways, it shifted to being about Trey,” Zampino said. “What do we need to do to make sure that he feels secure, loved and safe?”

Luckily, Sheree had a great role model for co-parenting, her mom. Her parents were an interracial couple (African American and Italian) and, despite having two children together, never married. Years later her father, a tae kwon do master in Schenectady, NY, married another woman and had a son, whom Sheree’s mom welcomed into the family.

“My mother never took it out on Richard, my half-brother,” Zampino said. “She loved on him because she understood what it was like for her kids to be shunned and pushed aside. And she would never do that to another child.”

That philosophy guided Zampino throughout her own co-parenting journey with Smith, including the first time he introduced Trey to Jada.

“When Trey came home, I said, ‘You met Miss Jada. Did you like her?’ He said, ‘Mommy, I really liked her.’ And isn’t that what you want?” she remembered. “Like, if he came home and said, ‘I didn’t like her mom, she was mean to me,’ that would’ve broken my heart.”

“We’re family,” she added of Jada and Will. The group famously celebrates holidays and milestones together. Sheree was even there when their son Jaden, now 24, came home from the hospital as a baby.

“That kid was just the cutest little thing. I adored him and still adore him. Willow, too,” she added of Smith and Jada’s daughter, 21.

Often, Jada has been Sheree’s biggest cheerleader, including having her on the Facebook Watch chat show “Red Table Talk” and pushing her to be a beauty entrepreneur.

Zampino had created an artisanal body butter first “cooked up” in her gumbo pot and gave a jar to Jada, who told her this was a real business and encouraged her to hire a lab to manufacture and sell the skincare product.

In 2007, Whoop Ash was launched. But in 2015, in the aftermath of her divorce from her second husband, retired NFL star and pastor of City of Hope International Church Terrell Fletcher, Zampino let the brand lapse.

“I lost faith in myself as a businesswoman,” she admitted.

In 2020, the pandemic was an opportunity to rebuild her confidence and relaunch Whoop Ash, as well as start an online fashion boutique called Sheree Elizabeth.

“All the distractions were taken away,” she said. “It was a time of healing, tremendous growth and transformation. It was a reboot and I got back to the basics.”

During lockdown, Zampino also had a “Covid bae,” but she’s currently single.

Actress and Entrepreneur Sheree Zampino

John Chapple

Zampino pictured at the Mondrian Hotel in West Hollywood.

John Chapple / http://www.JohnChapple.com

Zampino pictured at the Mondrian Hotel in West Hollywood.

John Chapple / http://www.JohnChapple.com

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