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Willow Smith on Fearless Self-Expression


Willow Smith is undeniably music royalty.

It was almost inevitable that she too would be drawn into the world of music. She is the youngest child of the “Fresh Prince” himself, actor and rapper Will Smith, with his wife actress Jada Pinkett Smith, known for many things including being the lead singer of nu metal band Wicked Wisdom and playing the dangerously beguiling Fish Mooney on the Batman origin series, Gotham.

Her older brother Jaden was the first to show any inclination towards following the parental path with his early leanings towards hip hop. But in 2010, the then nine-year-old Willow came out with the impossibly catchy single “Whip My Hair” and she introduced herself to the world as a serious contender.

Since then, she appears to be undergoing a rapid evolution of her sound and image, both as an artist and as an adolescent figuring out her path.

In a rare interview with the New York Times, she talks about what it means to grow artistically after making such an impact with her first single:

“I mean, “Whip My Hair” was a great thing. When I look back I think, ‘Wow, I did so much for young black girls and girls around the world. Telling them that they can be themselves and to not be afraid to be themselves.’ And I’m doing that now but in a whole different way, coming from source energy and universal truths. People will be, like, ‘Oh, I’m not going to make a song about exactly how I feel, all the bad ways that I feel, and put it out in the world so everyone can judge me.’ But for me, it’s a part of me, it’s my artistic journey.” – Willow Smith

Lately she’s been doing very interesting things with this artistic journey, coming out with music that’s introspective and weird and unique, as well as enigmatic statements made through fashion and occasionally, controversial photographs.

“That’s what art is, shocking people. Sometimes shocking yourself.” – Willow Smith

What she seems to be doing, essentially, is defining her image in a very deliberate way that seems to defy the expectation of what she “should” be doing as your typical celebrity kid, let alone the offspring of Will and Jada Smith.

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When her 3-song EP Interdimensional Tesseract dropped in mid-January of this year, it was a solid statement that she was coming into her own as an artist. Released under the moniker “Wilough,” the songs are experimental productions, the lyrics transcendental and poetic. (An example: I don’t think it’s fair that you’re on earth/And I’m up, up here making stars and planets, and galaxies, and planets, making a life in other dimensions…”)

The thing that defines her creative output seems to be a distinct lack of definition, a deliberate invitation to follow her along as she experiments and defines for herself what kind of art it is that she’s making. It seems impossible to put her sound into one category – and that, it seems, is exactly how she wants it.

Although Willow Smith is still in the “Year One” phase of her career, even established professionals can learn something from her work. We can all take a lesson from her about giving ourselves the space and time to figure out what we each innately have to contribute to society, regardless of what other people’s expectations might be.

As the late, great Leonard Nimoy once said to another young woman trying to figure out life:

“It’s all in having the patience to find out what you yourself have to offer the world that’s really uniquely yours.”


We can’t wait to see what Willow does next. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for insight, wisdom and notices for when our posts go live.

Further Listening

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Image Credit: fwallpapers.com

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Written by Gesilayefa Azorbo

Gesilayefa Azorbo is a writer, photographer, emerging filmmaker and occasional poet. She is doing a Documentary Media MFA at Ryerson University, and is currently working on a music documentary. She likes (and often writes about) music, movies, books and people. When not listening to music, she is most likely humming it under her breath.