An underwear shot revealing a little bit of a gut isn’t exactly the bravery we’re looking for
Let’s get one thing clear right away: Will Smith isn’t fat.
Smith recently posted a couple of pics of himself on social media with no shirt on, exposing his lack of six-pack abs. It’s probably the first time he hasn’t had visible abs since the mid-90s when he made his sex symbol debut as the trigger-happy cop Mike Lowrey in Bad Boys. It appears that Smith, like millions of other people the world over, added on a few pounds during the pandemic, and I’m almost spot-on with the amount. But by the time you read this, he will have likely worked off what weight he did gain. That’s how not-fat Will Smith is.
Will Smith isn’t fat, and despite all of the praise for his realness and bravery about baring his body this way, somehow the idea that he could be overweight isn’t nearly as revolutionary to me as it should be. He’s been entertaining the world for the last 35 years, since before he left high school. He’s 52 years old. He is allowed to waltz into any cookout where “Summertime” is playing, looking any way he wants. Frankly, if it takes a global pandemic to get your first mini gut at 52, you could’ve kept those pics to yourself.
Will Smith isn’t fat, but if he’s truly not happy with how he looks or feels, that’s pretty much all that matters. Though when you project that “being fat sucks” vibe onto me — someone who no one questions is overweight, as if I’ve done something wrong with my life — that’s a different issue. This is why I don’t comment on people’s exercise regimens or before/after shots or anything related to their bodies. I only care about what you do with your body. I only care about who you help and what parts of the world you want to change with that body. If the public validation of your wellness progress is an important part of your process and you’re happy, awesome. Still, I won’t engage with it. But the second that becomes a projection of values, we have a problem. I’m not saying I don’t see bodies as sexy; I’m saying what’s sexy to me has less to do with how one looks than what they bring into the room as a person.
Your body is not a person. Your body is what your person gets around in. How you feel about that vehicle is your business.
Will Smith isn’t fat, so I don’t expect him to be able to navigate the many angles at which the world will come for him, some in direct contradiction to each other. He will be shaming and shamed. He will be inconsiderate or considerate in all the wrong ways. He will get clowned and become yet another meme with which to clown a fat person who isn’t cosmetically overweight, but about that life. He will do all of these things because ultimately Will Smith is not fat. He does not carry what fat people carry socially. He does not have to contend with the unavoidable situations that people of a certain size must, like both friends and strangers sizing up your body before they determine how to greet you.
“If he’s been slowly putting on weight all that time and is now ready to reveal that he is, as he puts it, “in the worst shape of my life,” he still essentially looks the same once he puts a shirt on. Not only is he not fat, he’s an illusionist.”
Will Smith isn’t fat, he is post-barbecue swole. He is “if I arch my back this way” fat. He is stuntin’. He is still thinner than nearly every out of shape or overweight person I know. He is almost thick — or if you’re country, “healthy.” And honestly, he’s still a few pounds shy of a proper determination. More, I fear many of us have conflated a career built on corny dad jokes with him actually having a dad bod now.
Will Smith isn’t fat just because he acts as if he has been caught committing a body crime. Pandemic weight is by and large generated from broken routines and society-wide emotional shifts in response to a world that has been trying to kill us for a year. If his gains were truly that kind of weight, I’d welcome him, open my arms and greet him in the universal language of Screw Them Let’s Eat. Look: The world has been dying and you are still here, Will. That is worthy of love in any shape. At my dinner table, we can talk about anything other than our paunches, and yes, we will break even more fat-inducing bread. Whatever the new normal is will be undergirded by profound grief, so let’s just skip the self-flagellation parts, the parts bookmarked by shame.
Will Smith isn’t fat, but here’s the real question: How long has Will Smith been so-called fat? A search through his Instagram begs the question, when did this shift in his body happen to him?
If he’s been slowly putting on weight all that time and is now ready to reveal that he is, as he puts it, “in the worst shape of my life,” he still essentially looks the same once he puts a shirt on. Not only is he not fat, he’s an illusionist. When did this weight gain happen? Did he have a rough April of snacking? Did he fire up a PlayStation last month and find it impossible to pry himself from Ghost of Tsushima? Even stripped down to nothing but underwear, he’s in the middle of three weeks, tops, of no exercise and soul food enriched.
Will Smith is not fat, and if we’re being honest, he’s the kind of overweight that you almost have to design. He’s overweight in the same way he acts: He pulls his punches to garner the widest possible audience. He’s never too violent, too raunchy, or too hood. And now, he’s never too fat.
Smith has partnered with YouTube to run a video series to track his journey back to fitness. I don’t know how long it is, but he could probably knock it out in one episode. I would think a more compelling and timely series would present a Will Smith who spirals into unhealthy habits after crying at his wife’s Red Table show and then turns things around. Or a Will Smith who has tried to cover up a life of insecurities with witticisms and overcompensation. I want a series about a real Will Smith gut and how it got there, that spends the latter half of the season on overcoming those very real, very relatable challenges.
That’s a Fat Will Smith I can get behind: not this manufactured, surface-thick movie star who could still do an action film tomorrow if he wanted to.