Newsweek calls Will Smith “the most powerful actor on the planet” and “The $4 Billion Man”. Smith, one of a very small number of people who have been successful in three major entertainment media (music, film, and television), is also one of only three actors in the history of film to have seven consecutive one hundred million dollar blockbusters (the other two actors being Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks).
Will Smith is also known as The Fresh Prince, just in case you’ve forgotten or didn’t realize the significance of the moniker. Smith was called “Fresh Prince” by one of his West Philadelphia high school teachers to whom he was fond of “mouthing off”, and the name stuck. In fact, Will chose that name for himself in his hip-hop duo, when he began his music career as MC and disc jockey. His trio won the first ever Grammy in the Rap category, and he seemed headed for the top.
Here’s where the story starts to sound all too sad and familiar to me. All that success and all that money went to Fresh Prince’s head, and he spent lots of cash on a house, on cars, on jewelry – you name it. Less than two years after hitting the top, Will hit bottom, forced in his early twenties to file bankruptcy. Luckily, he had met Benny Medina who had an idea for a sitcom based on Will Smith’s life – a West Philly kid transplanted in Beverly Hills. NBC loved it and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” was born. The rest, as they say, is history.
Now, I won’t tell you that as a bankruptcy attorney in Indiana, I see all my clients go from bankruptcy to global stardom in the style of a Will Smith. But I do love his story, and wanted to have you savor it again with me. And while the Fresh Prince situation seems larger than life, it has a message that is very apropos for clients today. Bankruptcy is not the end of the story. Having worked through the bankruptcy process with tens of thousands of people in Indiana over so many years, the slogan that comes to my mind when I think about bankruptcy is “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”.