Gloria Carter reveals the inception behind “Smile.”
She tells the podcast that the song actually stemmed from a conversation she had with Jay-Z when she finally came out to him and revealed that while she is his mother, her sexual identity wasn’t something she ever told her son.
“Besides your mother, this is the person that I am. This is the life that I live. So my son started actually tearing. ‘Cause he’s like, ‘That had to be a horrible life, Ma’. I was like, ‘My life was never horrible. It was just… different.’ So that made him want to do a song about it.” Carter told the podcast.
She says that when he initially showed her the song, she wasn’t feeling it because she wasn’t ready to reveal that part of herself to the world.
“When it first happened, I was sharing myself with you. Not to share myself with the world.” Carter said.
After thinking about it, she said that she was on a plane to go see Jay and that was when she wrote the poem. She said that after talking about it with Jay-Z, she eventually decided that she’d not only embrace it but help him out with the song. As she landed in L.A., he read the poem then asked her to read it out loud and while she did, he pulled out his phone and recorded it on the spot. That was the version that ended up on the album.
She later says that while her sexual identity was never something that was discussed in her family, she was sick of the mystery that was placed around her which was why she gave the final OK to her son to put it on the album.
“In my family, it was something that was never discussed…I’m tired of all the mystery. I’m gonna give it to ‘em. I don’t have to worry about anybody wondering if I’m in the life or not, I’m gonna tell them.” Carter said.
You could listen to the full interview below with her comments on “Smile” starting at the 25:40 mark: