Willow Smith has been famous since she was 10 years old. You could argue that she’s been famous since before then, perhaps since birth, since she’s the daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. But Willow was 10 when she did “Whip My Hair,” and it seemed like her parents were trying to push her into early stardom. Reportedly, Willow was the one to tell her parents that she needed to NOT be famous and just be a kid for a while, and they stopped pushing so hard. That’s just the backstory for this: Willow, now 17, spoke to GirlGaze about how much she hated her life, how even rich, well-connected and famous teenage girls still have problems. I honestly wanted to eye-roll through some of it, but I get what she’s talking about, and I think we should remember that she’s speaking to a specific audience, that of young girls who think she’s great. You can read the full GirlGaze piece here. Some highlights:
Growing up in the spotlight: “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.”
She doesn’t consider herself a Millennial: While the generation now in their late twenties have been classified as Millennials, Willow belongs to the emerging Generation Z; supposedly the most anxious generation in history as well as the most technology-addicted. “I definitely think we’re the most anxious,” said Willow, when asked whether she agreed with this generalization. “Yeah, we’re definitely the most anxious. I see it in myself. We’re hypersensitive. 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.”
The message of respect: “If other women aren’t going to respect other women then you’re right we are pretty much f–ked. I try to talk to other women about, you know, listening to misogynistic music and paying to see misogynistic rappers and putting their energy into things that are only going to hurt them in the long run, and we just all need that awareness I think.”
It’s easy enough for those of us who are much older than 17 to sort of shrug and roll our eyes at The Struggle, particularly when it comes to the youths and social media. But personally, I feel so disconnected from the teen struggles and how they’ve grown up on social media and how social media and the internet has changed so much of how young people interact, how they date, how they befriend people, who they trust, and more. Whenever I think about that, I do get nostalgic for my own teen years, way before social media, when being “social” involved “sharing a cig on a balcony” or, you know, actually talking to people face to face. Now imagine all of those changes and the normal teenage bulls–t (which is never fun), and then add a healthy dose of “your parents are low-key Scientologists and they pushed you to become famous before your 11th birthday.” Poor Willow.
Photos courtesy of WENN.