There was some healing that needed to happen. And so, in October 2018, Hollywood superstar Will Smith joined his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, for a special two-part episode of her Facebook Watch series Red Table Talk.
One year prior, The Daily Beast had published an interview with Leah Remini, the ex-Scientologist turned whistleblower who alleged that Pinkett Smith was a devoted practitioner of Scientology—a costly endeavor (reaching its highest “Operating Thetan” levels can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars) that comprises tales of intergalactic overlords, dead alien souls, “body thetans,” and the curious theory that humans evolved from clams.
“I know Jada’s in. I know Jada’s in. She’s been in Scientology a long time,” Remini told me. “I never saw Will (Smith) there, but I saw Jada at the Celebrity Centre. They opened up a Scientology school, and have since closed it. But Jada, I had seen her at the Scientology Celebrity Centre all the time.”
Remini was referring to the Scientology Celebrity Centre in Hollywood, California, where its handful of famous acolytes take courses along the “Bridge to Total Freedom.” The King of Queens star’s claim prompted Will to clear the air.
“All right, so hold on—let’s clear some rumors, just to have it on record,” offered Will that day on Red Table Talk. “We’ve never been Scientologists, we’ve never been swingers.”
A little over a week ago, the couple confessed—in terribly awkward fashion—that the “swingers” portion of that statement was misleading at best. As for the “Scientologists” part, well, that doesn’t appear to be entirely true either. (The Smiths and the Church of Scientology did not respond to numerous requests for comment.)
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According to Tony Ortega, the world’s leading Scientology reporter and publisher of The Underground Bunker, while the Smiths aren’t currently involved with the controversial religion, Pinkett Smith has “definitely been misleading about her past involvement” in Scientology. “I talked to close friends of Will Smith who said he was a ‘dabbler’ who dabbled in everything, and that Jada was the hardcore Scientologist.”
And nowhere was that influence more apparent than at the New Village Leadership Academy, the Smiths’ mysterious private school in tony Calabasas, California, that opened its doors in 2008 before quietly closing in 2013.
The Daily Beast spoke to four former teachers and administrators at the New Village Leadership Academy who insist that Scientology not only bled into every aspect of the school but that it was “essentially a Scientology school,” filled with mostly Scientologist-teachers that taught students Scientology methods of learning.
The New Village Leadership Academy began as a home school in one of the Smiths’ unused residences in Indian Hills, California.
“Will and Jada gathered 20, 30 kids—including their kids, Jaden and Willow—in their old home. It was a big house where they had several rooms, almost like a Montessori,” says Mariappan Jawaharlal, Ph.D., who goes by the nickname “Jawa.”
Jawaharlal, who currently serves as an engineering professor at California State University, Sacramento, is one of the leading robotics instructors in the country, and was recruited by Jacqueline Olivier to be a guest-lecturer for the Smiths’ budding school. Olivier had previously run the Gillispie School in La Jolla, California, and was hired by the Smiths to help found and oversee the New Village Leadership Academy.
“They never mentioned Scientology,” Olivier tells me. “But I remember they sent me the L. Ron Hubbard books (the founder of Scientology), and I didn’t put it together. It just seemed like a great opportunity.”
There were other signs. Olivier says she soon discovered that all of the teachers in the Smiths’ home were Scientologists, and remembers Pinkett Smith ordering her to take classes in “study technology”—a dubious teaching method developed by Hubbard that is foundational to Scientology.