Willow Smith — the 14-year-old daughter of Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, and mystical Mother Earth — has been the recent subject of derision. Alongside her brother, Jaden, she waxed philosophic in an interview for T Magazine about paranormal life energies, illusive properties of time, and how much school sucks. The pair were ridiculed for every line. It’s fun to mock New Age aphorisms and it’s fun to mock teens. Feel-good fuzz told with posturing confidence is an irresistible combination to deflate.
What We Really Talk About When We Talk About Doofy Teens is self-deprecation for our past lives as teens. And this specific type of teen — this wide-eyed junior philosopher excited about lofty mental rubrics for considering the world — is ripe for teasing.
But if Willow is slightly ribbed, she should also be praised. She’s confident, ambitious, creatively motivated: Why deride these wonderful qualities? It’s kind of fantastic to use a standard publicity interview to talk over sky-scraping ideas about existence. In every conversation, she mentions a new way of thinking: a refreshing substitute for peppery anecdotes or false humility. Willow Smith doesn’t waste your time with a cute confession about insecurities: She wants to talk about truth.
She’s a born creator, who makes the world the place she wants it to be (of course, her opportunity to do this is immense). When asked “What are the things worth having?” she answered, “A canvas. Paint. A microphone.” A space to create, tools to do it, and a way for her creation to be seen and heard. If this mystic-loving Earth child can’t find something she likes, she makes it for herself. She said to T Magazine: “There’re no novels that I like to read so I write my own novels, and then I read them again, and it’s the best thing.” She started writing her own library at age 6.
Willow Smith uses her spotlight, initially given to her by circumstances of celebrity, to launch her specific ideas into the world. She oft echoes her father, an erstwhile teen-rights advocate, in his most concrete statement — “parents just don’t understand” — if one replaces the “parent” with with repressive society at large. She is outspoken about the deadening qualities of formal education. Her ideas about food politics are notably bananas.
The accuracy of her brainchildren aside, the act of letting them flow easily and unselfconsciously is worthy of some praise. An award should be given, yearly, to a young unselfconscious teen and this is Willow’s year. Her New Age oddities presented with forthright clarity are reminders to consider the fun eccentricities of the mind.
Particularly in her music, Willow Smith wants to entertain with mellow existential whimsy. Her songs sound like the echoes of a fantastical elfin moss forest, with lyrics that want to rouse people into twisty mind-vortexes: “Our consciousness is all that is / But nothingness as well.” It’s not mind-breaking stuff, but it’s fun and curious about life.
Willow Smith’s personality is not a variation on a theme of the tween pop star or the rehearsed actress. When offerings of teen artists seem so similar to one another, Willow Smith comes on a refreshing hippy breeze from a magical desert. In her own “about me” biography, she writes: “I think of myself as an extension of source energy - always gathering information, spreading love and being free.” She seems to describe herself like a shooting star and speaks about pride in her own self-confidence: “Flexibility with yourself and with your looks shows self-confidence,” she said to Wonderland. “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.”
She envisions a grand point to her work. As she said to Fader, it’s her life’s mission to combat society’s “repression of creativity and repression of the naturalist.” That’s so ambitious! She’s not making music because she can. She’s got stuff to say. And sometimes it sounds like half-baked effervescence, but it’s a categorically better use of time than starting a sock line or a headphone-design company.