K A T I E   H O L M E S :
The Girl Next Door

Katie Holmes: Jada Pinkett Smith 'Inspires Me'

By Alexis Chiu

Katie Holmes knows a thing or two about juggling a movie career, motherhood, and marriage to a superstar. So who does she consider a role model?

"Jada is so strong," Holmes tells PEOPLE of her friend Jada Pinkett Smith, 37. "She is a rare woman – a phenomenal friend, mother, wife. She inspires me."

Adds her husband, Tom Cruise: "Jada tells it like it is. She creates art in her life ... She's effortless. She just has such class."

Pinkett Smith, who once described Holmes, 29, as a tigress who "runs the show" at home, says the two families are close because they "have a real understanding. In what we do and where we are, there aren't many people you meet who are living on a parallel line ... who can understand the pressures."

Cruise, 46, also admires the way Pinkett Smith attends to her busy career (she’s currently the voice of Gloria the hippo in "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa," in which her daughter Willow, 8, plays the junior version of the sassy pachyderm) and still makes her husband of nearly 11 years, Will Smith, 40, and their children her No. 1 priority.

"She is an extraordinary woman and an amazing mother," he says. "She's constantly wanting to improve herself and her family." Agrees Holmes: "She's just a powerhouse."