For the last 15 years, Pat Smith has put her career dreams on hold to be a great wife and mother, and NFL star running back Emmitt Smith’s biggest cheerleader. The former beauty queen turned NFL wife’s life did a complete 180 after she met Smith. But now that their kids are all full-time students, and their dreams of blended family bliss are realized, she’s ready to refocus on the dreams she had long before she met the love of her life—to pursue a career in television and see where her talents can truly take her. Although Mr. Smith has always loved and supported his wife, telling him that Smith needed more time for herself, which would mean less time with him, wasn’t easy for her to do. The OWN cameras were rolling and this weekend the network will air a one-hour special, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, documenting the couple’s new journey. Pat has dedicated her career thus far to raising awareness about issues affecting women and children and we asked the proud philanthropist, mom of five, and minister, what’s next on her journey.
ESSENCE: This is your moment. How does it feel to have the spotlight on you now?
SMITH: You know what? It’s so crazy because when I hear that and even when I saw a clip of “No, no, it’s not about shining on me.” I’m in a place where I’m so like, “Okay, God, where do you want me to be?” After years of having my own dreams and my own plan, I finally said, “Okay, clearly I don’t know what I’m doing.” I gave it up to him. Now, it’s like, “Okay, God, if this what you want I’m available.” It doesn’t look at all what like I thought it was going to look. I finally let go and I’m enjoying it.
ESSENCE: What has it been like being the wife of a NFL megastar for the last 15 years?
SMITH: Of course, Emmitt and I got married in 2000, we dated 3 years before that so probably about 7 or 8 years down the road of the journey I started feeling different than I did at the beginning. At first it was exciting; it was fun. Of course, I love cheering my husband on every week. I miss that excitement but after about 7 years, 8 years, you start to go, “Well, what happened to me? Who am I?”I was always that little girl who has my own dreams and things that I wanted to accomplish.
ESSENCE: When did you realize it was time to focus more on you and share this with Emmitt?
SMITH: I was scared to say it. I felt like if I said it, people would think, “She’s ungrateful,” or “Is she crazy? Oh my God, I’d love to walk in her shoes.” I really kept it inside. It was after he retired and he did Dancing With The Stars that it really hit me. I’d cheered him on on the sidelines of the football field year after year and then we had these beautiful amazing kids and then it was like, here we are at Dancing With The Stars, I was in Los Angeles pursuing television and acting and we moved to Dallas for the marriage and I just thought, This is not fair. I just remember sitting there and feeling a lot of disappointment, hurt and resentment, and really, actually, jealousy. I just felt like I had lost myself and I didn’t know who I was anymore.
ESSENCE: In those moments, what did you hope to be doing in addition to being a wife and a mom?
SMITH: Definitely a talk show, something that would give me a platform to impact people’s lives. Even acting. I started taking acting classes and started actually booking jobs. Back then I was up for a role for All My Children and the Wayans Brothers, and I did a guest spot there, and some other things and 90210. It was like, okay, I like this. I could see myself doing a little bit of everything. I definitely saw myself having a huge platform and being able to utilize that platform to be able to impact people’s lives, giving them hope.
ESSENCE: Your husband has always seemed to support you fully.
SMITH: He always says, “Babe, I’ve never stopped you.” He’s absolutely right. That’s one of the messages I want to give, especially to tell women, is that, it’s our decision, our choice; it’s our life. I felt the responsibility to hold down my husband, to hold down my kids as the wife and as a mother those responsibilities fell in my lap and I took them seriously. On the other side of that, I never stopped to be an advocate for myself to say, “I need help. I need help,” or, “I’m drowning,” or, “There’s things I want to do and this is how I think we can do it.” The show really does explore me going to my husband and saying, “I need your help.” Mind you, this is someone who’s never had to do that. Pretty much all of his life, things were catered to him and all of a sudden here’s your wife after 16 years saying, with 5 kids, “Okay, I need your help.”
Tune in on Saturday March 26 a 10/9c to OWN to watch Mr. and Mrs. Smith.