As The Things points out, there was a storyline on “Fresh Prince” involving Will Smith’s character attempting to cash in on his cousin, played by Tatyana Ali’s, singing chops. In reality, though, he encouraged her to sing professionally and even signed Ali to his production company. Smith was a successful rapper at the time, but Ali’s talent only emerged after she performed karaoke at a wrap party. The powers that be realized “we should write this in,” per The Blast, leading Smith to nab Ali a record deal.
She subsequently stood by him during the actor’s public feud with fellow “Fresh Prince” star Janet Hubert. At the time, Ali admitted, “It’s almost like remembering a divorce or something in your family. We were really close, and we cared for each other. We spent all day together every day.” She also claimed Smith is “the same person” he was on the show.
In 2020, ahead of the “Fresh Prince” reboot on Peacock, Ali gushed to Entertainment Tonight, “I think it’s brilliant. Flipping it and making it a drama is so dope. I think that’s part of this lasting power of the sitcom — it was based in real stuff.” Back in 1996, when ET visited the set for the final episode taping, Smith described Ali as “like a little sister to me.” Clearly, despite the passing years, these two remain in each other’s corners.