You probably know that Will Smith is one of the wealthiest people in the entertainment industry. Since the 1980s he has been a household name, and his involvement in massive shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or franchises like Men In Black has grown his fortune to a massive amount.
On top of this, his famous family also have their own shares of wealth from their various projects. It’s clear that with the success that he’s had for so long, he has to have achieved millionaire status decades ago.
But when and how did Smith make the large amount of wealth he has today? Was it his 1990s success in action films like Men in Black and Independence Day that made him his first million? Or was it his earlier role on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? Or was it something else altogether?
How did Will Smith become famous?
Today, Smith is known mostly for his acting career. However, those who were around in the 1980s and ’90s may remember him as a rapper as well. In 1985, when Smith was only 17 years old, he and friend Jeff Townes started the hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.
Smith was actually still in high school when they had their first big hit and got discovered by a major record label. Only a few years later, they earned a Grammy award for their single “Parents Just Don’t Understand.”
Throughout the 1990s, the rap duo would continue to have more hits. But Smith would expand from the music industry into acting in the year 1990, when he would begin to star on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The sitcom became a huge hit, and launched Smith into an acting career that continues to this very day.
Smith’s first million
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So where did Smith’s first million come from?
According to The Things, Will Smith made his first million when he was twenty years old — two years before The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air even aired. His and DJ Jazzy Jeff’s music was wildly popular, and that’s what made Smith such a fortune when he was so young.
Their first album, Rock the House, was certified gold, and their follow-up, He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper, reached platinum 3 times. With this level of commercial success, it’s no wonder that Will Smith made a fortune at a young age.
Perhaps due to Smith’s young age when he came into wealth, he didn’t manage it as well as he could have.
The royalties from Parents Just Don’t Understand gave him a lot of money to spend on things like designer clothes, fancy cars, and motorcycles. Smith even had a Gucci store closed out so he and his friends could go in for a private shopping spree.
However, this meant that Smith didn’t have much money left over to pay his taxes. The IRS realized how much Smith owed, and Smith didn’t have any cash left to pay off what he owed. The IRS came and repossessed what he had bought, but he still wasn’t in the clear. Smith owed nearly $3 million to the IRS.
But perhaps there’s a silver lining to this story. Because Smith was so desperate to find a way to bounce back and earn enough money to pay back his debt to the government, he went to NBC to look into acting roles.
And in 1990, he signed on as the star of the sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which would bring him into the acting world and made him the superstar he is today.
So maybe Smith should thank his younger self for being a bit irresponsible with his money!