• Saturday, July 13, 2024
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Reputation restoration: The Will Smith example

Reputation restoration: the Will Smith example

On Sunday, June 30, 2024, globally known American movie star Will Smith restored his reputation fully, two years after he destroyed thirty-six years of work, to become the Will Smith the whole world knew by performing his new song at the Black Entertainment Television (BET) Awards to full acceptance and applause. In 2022, he destroyed his reputation by slapping Oscar host Chris Rock for the latter making a joke about his estranged wife, following up with an expletive-laden outburst at Rock on live television. Over sixteen million people watched the incident live. Will Smith destroyed his life’s work in less than two minutes. Most people in the world were disgusted, and Smith became a persona non-grata.

Reputation is difficult to build and easy to destroy. Never in the history of mankind has reputation-building been so pervasive as now. Over two billion people in the world have Instagram accounts to show off their good fortune, sell their products and services, secretly look at others, promote their causes, and be entertained.

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Every single one of us has had a “Will Smith slap” moment, where we have embarrassed ourselves and fallen short of the esteem we hold in each other’s eyes. It is a human moment that nobody is safe from, and our imperfections are designed to keep us humble.

After Smith slapped Rock, he apologised privately and publicly, cried during his first live television interview, and travelled to India for spiritual purposes and wellness. He was a broken man, a remorseful man, who had to forgive himself and seek forgiveness from Rock, Rock’s family, his family, his colleagues, his community, and the rest of the world.

A year later, in 2023, the tide started to turn, and the world started to forgive him as he filmed the fourth instalment of the Hollywood franchise, Bad Boys, which catapulted him to global superstardom nearly thirty years prior. Because the three previous films were well-received, fans couldn’t wait, as Smith teased with videos of the new production on social media.

Last month, the film came out globally to commercial acclaim, even grossing over N200 million locally as of last weekend, courtesy of Nigerian cinemagoers. No Hollywood film has ever grossed N300 million in Nigeria, and the film is on its way to achieving that here.

What are the lessons to be learned from Smith’s fall?

Forgive yourself: as others make mistakes, you make mistakes too. We have all heard about forgiving others, but not all of us know that we must forgive ourselves as well. Not forgiving yourself leads to arrogance that makes you think you are infallible.

Apologise: We are all humans, and no matter what you have done to sully your reputation, there is no human being who is so hard-hearted and will not empathise if you apologise. After all, they have sullied their reputations before, too.

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Connect with divinity: whether Christian, Muslim, traditionalist, or atheist, a fall from grace is a moment where you must step out of yourself and acknowledge your fallibility. It is a moment where you must admit that you are not in control and ask for help from a life force that is prepared to forgive far quicker than your fellow humans.

Get back to work. Everyone has a product to sell or a service to offer for money. Get back to solving one of society’s problems, either as an employee working for a business that needs people or as an entrepreneur who is selling a good or a service. Do your job, and you will begin to regain relevance.

Once you have restored your reputation, vow to yourself to never destroy it again. Let your disgrace become a footnote in your life’s story. Do not let it define you. Remember how long it took for people to accept you again, and let that guide you.


Obinna Inogbo is Principal PR Executive, Worktainment Limited, Lagos.