Willow Smith should have never recorded ‘Whip My Hair.’ Here’s why
Willow Camille Reign Smith, or simply Willow, is the youngest member of one of the most well-known families in entertainment. With the help of parents Jada and Will Smith and supportive brothers Jaden and Trey, Willow was able to pave her own path when it came to her music career from an early age. She took her first steps into the entertainment industry at just nine years old, and she immediately had a hit record. Her 2010 debut single “Whip My Hair” was a fun, light-hearted anthem for tweens (and adults) to embrace themselves and all that comes with being unique.
“‘Whip My Hair’ means don’t be afraid to be an individual,” Willow said in a behind-the-scenes interview on the set of the music video, per Associated Press. The young singer signed with Jay-Z’s recording label Roc Nation (via Billboard) and was set to go on tour with Justin Bieber (via Entertainment Weekly). But to the shock of her parents and Hov, Willow had other plans for her future. While she had a hit song under her belt, that very song’s success was taking a toll on her behind the scenes. Let’s take a look.
The 'Whip My Hair' era ended as quickly as it started
With her charismatic personality, natural dance skills, and visionary eye, it was clear Willow Smith was made to be a star. Fans and colleagues alike both saw a clear path for her future, including hip-hop mogul Jay-Z.
“We at Roc Nation are excited to work with Willow. She has an energy and enthusiasm about her music that is truly infectious,” he said in an official statement in 2010, per Billboard. “It’s rare to find an artist with such innate talent and creativity at such a young age. Willow is about to embark on an incredible journey and we look forward to joining her as she grows in all aspects of her career.”
Perhaps no one was happier about Willow’s budding music career than her sometimes-rapping father Will Smith. But things didn’t go according to plan. In a 2020 episode of Jada Pinkett-Smith’s Facebook Watch show Red Table Talk, the couple revealed that Willow rejected her “Whip My Hair” future mid-way through her first tour. Will said she asked to leave the tour after her fourth or fifth show, recalling, “She kept asking ‘Daddy, it doesn’t matter how I feel?'”
At such an early age, Willow knew when she’d had enough — because the young rebel went and shaved her head in revolt. Can’t promote “Whip Your Hair” without the hair, right? And that was the end of an era. But Willow herself later explained the major reason behind her decision.
Willow says she 'lost her sanity' at the time
After quitting pop music as a child, Willow Smith later redefined her music career as an indie artist with less whipping of the hair and more rock and R&B influences. In a candid and open conversation with her mother Jada Pinkett-Smith and her grandmother Adrienne Banfield-Norris on an episode of Red Table Talk, Willow explained her thought process during that tumultuous time in her childhood. She revealed that she’d engaged in self-harm because of all of the pain she was experiencing internally during her first stint in music.
“[I] totally lost my sanity for a moment there,” Willow said. “I never talk about it because it was such a short, weird point in my life, but you have to pull yourself out of it.”
She added, “I honestly felt like I was experiencing so much emotional pain, but my physical circumstances weren’t reflecting that.” She went on to explain that the self-harm was “something I could feel and put a finger on it, literally, instead of being a ghost in your mind.” At the time of recording the episode in May 2018, she said it had been five years since she’d self-harmed.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, or call the National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264).
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Willow now makes music on her own terms
Willow Smith went on to have a busy and successful music career, working with artists like SZA, Chloe x Halle, Tyler Cole, and of course, her brother Jaden Smith. She writes and produces her solo work almost entirely by herself. Willow and Tyler Cole, longtime friends, are also in a duo named The Anxiety.
Willow released her debut EP 3 in 2014 and her debut album Ardipithecus the following year. The teen told The Fader, “Ardipithecus Ramidus is the scientific name of the first hominid bones found on earth. I wanted to name my musical compilation after it because, while I was making these songs I was in such a transitional state. Digging deep in the soil of my heart and finding bits and pieces of my ancient self that tell stories, which end up being the lyrics to the songs.” She released two more solo albums, The 1st in 2017 and Willow in 2019.
On her Instagram profile with over 6 million followers, the singer posts about her yoga practice, nature-focused spiritual ideologies, and metaphysics. As of this writing, she’s rocking a fully bald head after growing her locs for years. Maybe this time, the shaved head is less about rebellion and more about liberation.
Most importantly, Willow looks to be staying mentally healthy and true to herself. She’s come a long way from the lost “Whip My Hair” days.
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