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Though Jada and Will Smith are one of the world’s most famous couples, the Set It Off actress had been linked to other men before she and Will tied the knot in 1997. One of those men is late rapper Tupac Shakur

Pinkett-Smith herself has admitted that they had a “precious” relationship, and Shakur once poured out his heart for her in a poem, calling the actress his “heart in human form.” But was their relationship really a romantic one, or was it merely platonic?

Jada Pinkett-Smith on the red carpet
Jada Pinkett-Smith on the red carpet | Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Tupac and Pinkett-Smith’s relationship started in the ‘80s

They met in the mid-1980s at the Baltimore School for the Arts in Maryland and quickly bonded over their love for theatrical arts. Reflecting on their first interaction, the Girls Trip actress said in an old interview:

“It was the first day and he came over to me and introduced himself. And in high school, Pac was a little funny looking. Definitely from looking at him, wasn’t necessarily the type of cat that I would even, like, deal with.”

She continued, “But as soon as he approached me, he was like a magnet. Once you paid attention to him he kind of sucked you in. And we hit it off from that moment on… I don’t think either one of us thought we would have made it in the way that we did, but we knew we were gonna do something.”

Pinkett-Smith and Tupac both became famous in the 1990s

The actress got her first taste of fame in 1990 when she starred in an episode of True Colors, but her big break came in 1991 after she earned a role in the NBC series, A Different World.

Meanwhile, Tupac had started making waves as a member of the hip hop group Digital Underground. He later departed from the group and embarked on a solo career, releasing his first album, 2Pacalypse Now, in November of 1991.

Throughout it all, Pinkett-Smith and Tupac stayed in touch. They had even tried to take their relationship to the next level once but found that they had zero romantic chemistry.

“You know, it’s so funny because now being older, I have more of an understanding of what that was between us. When you have two young people that have very strong feelings, but there was no physical chemistry between us at all, and it wasn’t even just for me – it was him too,” she told Howard Stern in a June 2015 interview.

“There was a time when I was like, ‘Just kiss me! Let’s just see how this goes,’ ” she added, laughing. “And when I tell you it had to be the most disgusting kiss for us both.” Clearly, they were better off as friends.

Tupac Shakur and Jada Pinkett Smith | Photo by Kevin Mazur Archive/WireImage

Pinkett-Smith and Tupac later had a falling out

Pinkett-Smith said that their relationship began to change after the “Dear Mama” rapper went to prison in 1995 for rape charges. (He vehemently denied the allegations.)

She said she didn’t agree with the path Tupac had been on, while he believed that she had “gone soft.” An argument ensued, but before they could make up, Tupac died in 1996 after a shooting.

Pinkett Smith told Stern that she felt “sadness for not having the opportunity to tell him that [she] loved him,” and said in a 2018 episode of her show, Red Table Talk, that she still gets upset over his untimely death.

“Because he was one of those people I expected to be here,” she explained (via E! News). “My upset is more anger because I feel like he left me. and I know that’s not true and it’s a very selfish way to think about it… I really did believe he’d be here for the long run. And when I think about it I still get really mad.”

But she also said that she believes that Tupac served his purpose.

“He played his role…he did what he was meant to do…he’s an icon,” Pinkett-Smith continued.