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Serena Williams finally addresses Will Smith's Oscars slap: 'We're all imperfect'

LA Times logo LA Times 2/2/2023 Nardine Saad
Serena Williams, shown arriving at the Oscars last year, spoke with CBS' Gayle King about her reaction to Will Smith's Oscars slap. (Future Publishing via Getty Images) © (Future Publishing via Getty Images) Serena Williams, shown arriving at the Oscars last year, spoke with CBS' Gayle King about her reaction to Will Smith's Oscars slap. (Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Tennis superstar Serena Williams is finally addressing last year's Oscars slap and the fallout for Will Smith after he won an Academy Award minutes later for portraying her father in the 2021 film "King Richard."

In an interview with "CBS Mornings" co-host Gayle King that aired Wednesday, the trailblazing tennis ace defended Smith's actions nearly a year later and called for a show of kindness when people make mistakes.

"Then 'King Richard' had that moment at the Oscars, what did you feel about that?' King asked.

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"I thought it was such an incredible film, and I feel that there was an incredible film after that with Questlove ['Summer of Soul'] that kind of was overshadowed," Williams said, not using Smith's name nor specifics about the infamous moment when he stormed the stage and slapped presenter Chris Rock for making a crack about Smith's wife.

"But I also feel that I have been in a position where I've been under a lot of pressure and I've made a tremendous amount of mistakes," Williams continued. "And I'm the kind of person that's like, 'I've been there, I've made a mistake. It's not the end of the world.' We're all imperfect and we're all human and let's just be kind to each other. So, that's often forgotten a lot."

Williams, 41, and her elder sister Venus Williams attended the 94th Academy Awards but didn't publicly address the incident, which many still feel embarrassed them and tarnished a night that celebrated Black Hollywood.

Smith, 54, who took the stage less than hour later in the broadcast to accept his lead actor Oscar, gave a rambling speech and indirectly explained himself, apologized to the academy and his fellow nominees and told the academy he hoped he’d be invited back. But he made no apologies for his behavior toward Rock or the Williams family specifically.

Despite the numerous mea culpas that came after the show, the "Ali" and "The Pursuit of Happyness" star was subsequently banned from the Academy Awards and its related events for 10 years but allowed to keep his Oscar.

In a November appearance on "The Daily Show," the "Emancipation" star told then-host Trevor Noah that "bottled" rage led to his actions that night and that it was a "horrific decision."

The indefatigable "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" star has bounced back, bringing his larger-than-life personality back to social media and and announcing earlier this week that he and Martin Lawrence would be reuniting for a fourth "Bad Boys" movie.

Meanwhile, Williams, who told King, "I've literally given my whole life to tennis and it’s time for me to give my life to something else,” will be appearing in a Super Bowl LVII commercial next week for Michelob Ultra in which she trades tennis for golf.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.


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