Questlove won best documentary at the 2022 Oscars on Sunday night (March 27) right after Will Smith slapped presenter Chris Rock in the face for making a joke about the actor’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith‘s hair loss. Though the moment left award show’s attendees stunned, The Roots member says he was not present for the viral moment because of his meditation skills.
Speaking about the moment he won the award during his Monday (March 28) appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Questlove — who was born Ahmir Khalib Thompson — said winning the best documentary award for his work on 2021’s Summer of Soul felt surreal, especially when considering the events that occurred between his friends mere moments before he took the stage for his acceptance speech.
“We were the only two people in the room,” the musician said, referring to him and his mother, who joined him for the ceremony. “It was that moment that I realized that we went through so much, from them sacrificing to put me in music school — and it was either our bills or my future — and I thought about all of those moments. And of course, that happened in the cyclone of a whole ‘nother situation with two very good friends of mine.”
As for the now-infamous slap heard around the world? “I really wasn’t aware of that,” The Roots frontman told Fallon. “It’s weird to say because they tell you ahead of time, ‘This is your category.’ And so, in that moment you are either going to be full of anxiety, or for me, I’ve been meditating for the last two years. I do trans-med. Actually, Seinfeld taught me about that. A minute when the commercial break was happening, I was just in my ‘Mmmm.'”
He continued, “When I opened my eyes, I didn’t realize like, ‘Why is everyone so quiet?’ Like, I literally was not present for that whole entire moment, and as I’m walking to the stage, I’m putting two and two together and I realize that that was a real moment like maybe three seconds before I spoke words. In my mind, they’re just doing a sketch and I’m just like, ‘OK, Ahmir, remember to thank your mom, your dad …’ so I was not present at all. I was just in a blank state.”
In the time since the incident, Smith has addressed his actions at the award show. “My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally,” he wrote in an Instagram statement, in which he publicly apologized to Rock and the Academy Awards for his behavior.”
Watch Questlove talk about his Oscars moment below.