Willow Smith: I think just being me sometimes is radical

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Willow Smith is the cover star of the September issue of Glamour UK. She has a lot going on and it’s crazy that she’s only 21. She’s been around so long, but she was pushed into stardom so young. As far as celebrity profiles go, Willow’s is pretty routine — there’s nothing particularly illuminating, her media training is excellent, and her team sets clear boundaries — which is to be expected considering her super A-list family. But Willow does talk about her relationship to her hair, her music and the industry, mental health, and how she views her life in the spotlight. There are some interesting tidbits in there.

Her shaved head: Today, her signature buzzcut has been freshly tended to. “Shaving my head is maybe the most radical thing I’ve done in the name of beauty.” Willow’s shaved head is associated with an act of rebellion in her early years; the buzzed haircut she wears now became a style of choice around the Whip My Hair era. Back then, she’d had a sea of long braids, aligning with the theme of her breakout single. But she’d become frustrated with being overworked whilst on tour, and took the clippers to her own head on a whim. Nowadays she’s become known for her styling and willingness to play with different looks. From having locs, to twists, to wigs, Willow has become a representation for many others, including Black women who live life outside the box and who dispel narrow style margins. “I love to be free with it. I think just being me sometimes is radical.”

Constraints as a Black music artist: It’s no secret that Black artists in the alternative scene often suffer pigeonholing and discrimination in comparison to their white peers. Even someone as big a star as Willow has found herself constrained, and resisting unfair treatment has been something she’s had to become used to. “When I wanted to do a rock album, there were a lot of executives that were like, ‘Hmm…’ she says, frowning. “If I had been white, it would’ve been completely fine; but because I’m Black it’s, ‘Well… maybe let’s just not’ – and making it harder than it needs to be.” That double-standard is something that raises concerns with her for her peers in the scene. “If I go through that, every single other Black artist is getting the pushback [too].” Lately I Feel Everything came as a result of pushing back with execs to make what was true to her – and of course, the record turned out as a success.

Mental health: “Sometimes [managing your mental health] is so overwhelming that you can’t really bring yourself to do much else besides reminding yourself of the things that really matter,” she says. “For me, I love a good mantra. Recently, my mantra has been, ‘I accept everything as it is, and I’m grateful for it.’ Repeating that over and over again; that’s been really helping me.” “I’ll literally talk to myself like I’m my best friend. And then be like, OK, what would my friend say to me right now? What would someone who really, really loves me say to me? It kind of feels unnatural because our own minds are so harsh sometimes.”

[From Glamour UK]

Willow sort of echoes what other women with short hair or shaved heads have said: it sounds hard to do, but once you’ve done it sounds quite freeing. There’s so much expectation that women — especially Black women — have long hair and it’s nice that she is representing other options for beauty and self-expression. I’ll still never shave my head because I definitely have a big, round head and the cheeks to match, but it looks great on her! What she says about the music industry is interesting. She mentions in the full article that she’s facing the same struggles her mother did as a Black alternative music artist. Despite the time that’s passed, it’s unfortunately not surprising that she would face pushback, as Black people who step outside of their “spaces” often do. And I like the idea of a mental health mantra — I might try that myself going forward. Overall, Willow sounds very well-adjusted and comfortable with herself. It seems like she’s now in the spotlight on her own terms and not just because someone else wants/expects her to be.

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