“It’s Absolutely Terrible.” Willow Smith Gets Real About Growing Pains And Girl Power
I just saw Willow Smith in concert for the second time. My sister and I attended the Philly stop on Jhene Aiko’s “Trip Tour” where Willow Smith opened for her along with the band, St. Beauty. There was a lot of teenage angst as the 17-year-old screamed her feelings into the mic in front of of a sold out audience and although the venue’s sound didn’t do Ms. Willow much justice, I didn’t know exactly how I felt after her performance. I just knew I felt something. In addition, we were all left with the reminder that while most 17-year-old’s are picking out prom dresses and filling out student loan applications, Willow Smith has been through some ish, and in her latest interview with Girl Gaze she reveals it hasn’t all been yachts, designer labels and other cool rich kid stuff.
The daughter of A-list actor Will Smith and the forever bold and beautiful Jada Pinkett-Smith, Willow Smith shares that growing up famous has been just as difficult as she and her brother Jaden have often made it appear:
“I’m going to be completely and utterly honest, it’s absolutely terrible.”
“Growing up and trying to figure out your life … while people feel like they have some sort of entitlement to know what’s going on, is absolutely, excruciatingly terrible — and the only way to get over it, is to go into it. You can’t change your face. You can’t change your parents. You can’t change any of those things. So I feel like most kids like me end up going down a spiral of depression, and the world is sitting there looking at them through their phones; laughing and making jokes and making memes at the crippling effect that this lifestyle has on the psyche. When you’re born into it, there are two choices that you have; I’m either going to try to go into it completely and help from the inside, or… no one is going to know where I am… and I’m really going to take myself completely out of the eye of society. There’s really no in-between.”
It’s almost hard to believe that her single “Whip My Hair” came out seven years ago when Smith who is an identical version of her father in female form rocked a bold yellow jumpsuit and rainbow mohawk. She even performed an edgy version of the 2010 hit during her performance after giving the audience a preview of her latest work, The 1st. She describes her second album as “emotional regurgitation from the depths of a burgeoning woman.” The 1st focuses on growth and transition and the artist wouldn’t be who she is if she didn’t attempt the complex goal of creating a theme where parts of life that are traditionally opposites are suddenly mutually inclusive:
“I wanted to capture the darkness and the beauty and not separate them. Making darkness and light one thing and not always singling them out and analyzing them apart. I wasn’t going to put that caterpillar part in it. And then I found those chords and the chords felt like the perfect mixture of discomfort and beauty, and this transition is scary and it’s beautiful and I try not to separate the two.”
Smith identifies with the labels “anxious” and “hypersensitive” that her generation of Generation Z’ers are typically described with. She says the juxtaposition of social media exposing us repeatedly to tragedy and triumph while we go throughout our day completing simple tasks is to blame:
“This generation is hypersensitive spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally. So when we look on our phones and we see people dying right next to us and we’re sitting there about to go get a latte— that breaks you down. It’s not just the phones. The phones are just a tool. The phones just heighten what was already happening.”
Still, Smith deals with the complexities of growth with music and she shares The 1st is truly her labor of love. Although it’s an album full of love songs, you won’t be hearing as much about who she’s crushing on as much as you’ll hear about the struggle it can be to love yourself:
“There’s no one way to self-love, I don’t think. There’s no path that’s carved into the ground, there’s no blueprint. But I think it’s just each choice, each choice that you make is a representation of self-love. And each thought that you think about yourself is also a representation of how you feel about yourself.”
I wouldn’t hesitate to call myself a grown woman, but although she’s damn near half my age, Willow Smith is giving me all of the goals. Honestly, we could all stand to learn a little something about ourselves while witnessing her growth.
You can read Smith’s Girl Gaze interview in its entirety here.