My palms are sweating at Roc Nation and I’ve got nowhere to wipe them. Glass, steel and leather surround me and my polyester pants make palms worse. The blasting AC proves I’m not hot, just nervous, which happens when I’ve got time. I was fine in that lax chair at the entrance but my presence must have proved too pitiful for the public. Now I’m alone in a conference room, seated at an enormous pearl table. Stress overwhelms me as I draft a Tweet. A guy in a suit comes into the room to speak on his phone. He winks at me and walks out. I press delete. Moments after, a man in fancy sweats walks in, startled to see me. He leaves quickly, before I can beg him to stay. I review my notes. A blonde stops by to remind me that Willow is late. “Obama is in town and he’s causing traffic. You know how he is!” Do I ever! I go to the bathroom to gawk in the mirror and dry off my hands. The women roaming the halls are either in taut dresses with stilettos or baggy pants and hoodies. I feel myself killing their vibe. I retreat to my room and re-write my notes, in better handwriting. The page gets soaked. The blonde pops in to promise that “she’ll be in soon!”
An hour later, I’m taken down a white hallway through huge doors which reveal a plush space you know shit goes down in. Warm air blows gently through vents, a soothing voice bounces between speakers, velvet couches frame an obscenely panoramic view of Manhattan and sunlight slaps precious bottles of golden liquor I don’t dare touch near a minor.
Willow Smith opens her arms. Come here. We hug and she apologizes for making me wait. I say, now that you can blame the president for something, you’re practically an adult. “I always feel like an adult, since I’m always having revolutionary thoughts.” Her ideas are mature but her idealism is proof of her youth, which is always noted; two adults sit in as chaperones. “We’ll jump on you if you ask anything unacceptable.” Fair enough.
You know Willow is stunning on screen but in person she’s flawless. I know writing stuff like that is not only cliché, but harmful. I’m aware it promotes unrealistic standards, but she defies any standards I’ve ever been tortured by! Her eyes are fit for a tiger and her elongated limbs look capable of flying her through space. Appropriately, like some subculture superhero, she’s wearing head to toe black—ripped skintight jeans, a VFILES turtleneck, sneakers and a long, leather coat. “I love this coat because it makes me feel like Spike from Buffy.” I know she’s been watching Buffy because I follow her on Twitter. I also know that when she isn’t praising old shows, she’s spitting profundities.
“The people who make commercials promoting good health are the same people making Cheetos.” Oct 13
“Being a leader in the 1970's is unlike anything a kid of the 21 century will ever experience in a lifetime.” Oct 7
“The most beautiful thing about life could very easily be perceived as the most unfortunate.” Sep 23
Where does a fourteen year old get this stuff? Does she find it in Marxist novels? Hypnotize it out of her parents? “I think a lot. That’s the main thing I do in my life. Twitter is the way I can tell the world exactly how I feel.” She’s been showing the world her potential since her acting debut in “I Am Legend” in 2007. Her music career followed in 2010 with the vibrant hit single, “I Whip My Hair.” She was the youngest artist to be signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label and has since been dropping dreamy singles like “5,” featuring her brother, Jaden. Meanwhile, millions anticipate her next move.
I had control over a magazine’s Facebook page for a day and could barely handle the pressure. When I ask how she can resist the urge to troll her 3.8M followers, she asks, “what’s trolling?” When she was younger she wasn’t allowed on social media, so now she’s careful. “When I was nine I would have written things like, “life sucks!” That didn’t fly.” When she turned teen, she was set free online and landed her first Instagram scandal.
Her friend Aria posted an artistic photograph of himself on a bed with her. Though they were both clothed and clearly platonic, the fact that she was thirteen and he was twenty sent people through the roof. Sadly, their negativity was directed at Willow and her family. Her parents (Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith—duh) were investigated by child services of Los Angeles County. They were cleared of any suspicions, obviously, and handled it well, insisting that the public is perverted for assuming anything was wrong with their daughter’s behavior. Still, horrible comments lurk under her interviews, implying her attire and conduct is inappropriate. Somehow, the fact that such comments are wildly inappropriate themselves is lost on these people. The world has it out for girls; especially girls in the spotlight.
Willow once regretted her fame. She longed to feel what it’s like to go to a bookstore without having to call security. Luckily, she’s learning to love it. “When you’re famous, you have more of a voice to change the world. And that’s all I could ever ask for.”
“Girls and boys are put in boxes when they’re born.” Aug 8
An icon for androgynous fashion, she’s outspoken about gender issues. “Parents tell boys to go out and get dirty, climb trees and make mud pies, while girls have to stay in and play with dolls. And often it’s not the girls’ choice.” She explained, after reading “Gender Neutral Parenting.” She’s named after her father and her brother is named after their mother (did you ever catch that?). That’s just just a tiny glimpse at how well they’re being raised. Having such a progressive, supportive and loving family can guide a girl through what can be a troubling time. Studies have shown that while young girls mostly feel good about themselves, their self-esteem plummets at puberty. “I think that the reason why girls’ confidence falls during adolescence is because of [popular] music. It’s all about boobs and butts. That’s what they’re growing! They’re realizing that’s all they have to identify themselves with, and it’s mostly a negative connotation. So when they think of themselves and what’s happening to them, it automatically subconsciously makes them realize that rappers [and other men] are disrespecting them.”
“Women are systematically exploited by the system.” Aug 5
“I just went to see Gloria Steinem in Bell Hooks. It was an amazing experience. To see women that powerful on a stage, speaking their truth, is wow!” The unfortunate thing is that we still need to have those discussions at all. And a lot of pop stars and actresses fear owning up to the F Word. “People think ‘Feminist’ means ‘Man Hater.’ When I first got introduced to feminism, I was introduced to the idea of equality of the sexes.”
The world desperately needs someone like Willow to share such ideas through her art; the only question is when more will arrive. She’s taking her time. She notoriously pulled out of the re-make of Annie because she followed her instinct to focus on school. She says she has enough songs to release an album but doesn’t like them enough. That kind of honesty and intuition is rare. My peers and I are rushing to accomplish our goals and have a constant, overwhelming sense of “FOMO,” it’s a wonder someone can be so patient in the age of over-sharing.
“I believe that everything that has ever happened was meant to. If you’re somewhere but want to be somewhere else, you’re not experiencing where you are now. Each song I put out is about where I am and need to be. I take it step by step.” And that way she’ll end up with quality work. “My goal is to spread the message of consciousness shift and paradigm shift. We need to come to a point in the world where everything is running off of love. That’s what I’m trying to get to, that’s what I want to do with my music.”
Willow believes in meditation and limitless happiness, and knows it’s important to laugh. She cracked the world up with a viral Vine poking fun at her brother’s conspiracy theories. “My brother and I have such a good relationship because we aren’t forced to be with each other all the time. Most siblings have to hang out and their parents are like, “you’ve got to love each other!” And they’re like, “dang, I don’t feel like it!” Jaden and I have had our separate lives. We do our own thing, we don’t question each other. We connect on a friend level.” They also respect each other as artists. “There’s things that he’s done that the world has never heard. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see how they will react.”
“I have many things to learn, and conditionings to understand.” Aug 21
This issue’s theme is Eternal Youth. What does she hope to hold onto as she grows? “I feel like, when you grow up, it’s the conditionings, the things people teach you that hold you back. Like, “I’ve got to be serious now! I’ve got to pay taxes!” Without those conditionings, you can be free and be yourself. That’s what will carry me through my life. I’m here to change the world and be a servant to the great divine and I’ll carry that path. My life is meditation, crystals, self-improvement and art.”
It’s good to have a desired path but it’s also important to accept transition which transcends hairstyles. “Flexibility with yourself and with your looks shows self-confidence. You’re willing to paint on your canvas with whatever comes from within you. I love doing whatever with my hair to shock the world. People have such eyes on my family that when you do something out of this world, it’s such a big deal, and I like that!” For the record, her hair is short and blonde as I write this, though it most likely won’t be by the time you read.
Her and Jaden have stressed how school isn’t as important as living life. I always felt that way so I always skipped school, but is it possible to balance both? “It’s gotten to the point where the youth needs to realize their power. With realizing their power comes realizing what’s not good for them and realizing which rules people are enforcing on them aren’t letting them grow. For kids who are in school and trying to understand themselves and their spirituality, it’s difficult. I went to school for one year and I was like, now I understand.”
Like most teens, Willow spends the time she isn’t planning revolutions on Tumblr. She even checks up on her fans. “I visit their blogs and read everything they write me. They make art for me and I enjoy it so much! I love being connected to them.” Her Tumblr ‘about me’ reads, “I think of myself as an extension of source energy - always gathering information, spreading love and being free.”
The adults clear their throats and my time is up. We hug and she tells me something generous and I believe it. With many young artists or “stars-in-the-making,” you can predict what will come of them, or at least assume what they hope to become. With Willow, you have freaking clue. Even when you stare into those emoji eyes you can only guess she’ll surprise us all.
“Guess I was born to make mistakes. But, I'm not scared to pave the way.” Aug 29
Oh, I almost forgot. Of course I asked if she ever uses her dad’s famous song against him. “About a week ago I told my mom, “parents just don’t understand” and I wished my dad could have been there. It was the first time I had ever said it, which is surprising.”