While taking part in Jay Z’s video for “Footnotes of Adnis” in 2017, Will Smith talked about parenting, and how he realized that he couldn’t apply the same sort of tough love to his kids that his father used on him. He mentioned, specifically, a time when daughter Willow told him that she didn’t think she could go forward with touring to promote her hit single, “Whip My Hair,” but he tried to push her to.
“We’re on the Whip My Hair tour and she comes off the stage, had a great show, and we were in like Dublin,” he said. “She was like, ‘Oh daddy, it was great. I’m finished!’ I said ‘Yeah, you’re finished for the night.’ She’s like ‘No, daddy I’m ready to go home.’ That was like the fifth show. I was like, ‘You know you’ve got another 30 days on the tour. You can’t be finished now.’ So she went to sleep, and we come down, and she had shaved her head bald. She shaved her head bald in the middle of her ‘Whip My Hair’ tour, right? I was like, ‘Oh, sh-t.’”
“I’m looking at that girl and I’m like, ‘Got it. Got it. I understand,’” he added. “‘You will not have this trouble out of me ever again. Let’s go, baby. We can go.’ For me, it was that soldier that was pushing and wasn’t paying any attention whatsoever to what was going on emotionally with this beautiful little creature in front of me. And that was the first part of the collapsing of my father’s suit that I was wearing that wasn’t mine.”
In the newest episode of Red Table Talk, where the ladies discuss loss, Willow actually spoke in depth for the first time about the emotional turmoil she was struggling with at that young age, and the scary ways in which she tried to deal with it. It went a lot deeper than just shaving her hair.
he conversation started when Jada asked her what her biggest loss in life had been so far.
“I would have to say, honestly, I feel like I lost my sanity at one point,” she said while speaking with her mom and grandmother, Adrienne. “It was after that whole ‘Whip My Hair’ thing, and I had just stopped doing singing lessons. And I was kind of like in this gray area of like, ‘Who am I? Do I have a purpose? Is there anything I can do besides this?’”
Following what she could do on tour, Willow, again, around 9, 10 at the time, went on an emotional downward spiral.
“After the tour and the promotion and all of that, it was like, they wanted me to finish my album. I was just like, ‘I’m not going to do that.’ And after all of that kind of settled down and it was kind of a lull, I was just listening to a lot of dark music and it was just so crazy. I was like plunged into this black hole and I was like cutting myself. Yeah, and doing crazy things.”
This was information both Jada and Adrienne were hearing for the first time, and they were in shock.
“What?! Really? When were you cutting yourself?” Jada asked. “I didn’t see that part.”
“Long time ago,” she replied. “On my wrist. You can’t even see it. There’s still a little something there, but like, totally lost my sanity for a moment there.”
Willow said that she hadn’t told anyone but a friend about her cutting because it was something the now 17-year-old says was a brief period in her young life.
“I never talk about it because it was such a short, weird point in my life,” she said. “But you have to pull yourself out of it.”
When asked why she thought she cut herself, Willow said she wanted the pain she was feeling internally to match externally.
“I honestly felt like I was experiencing so much emotional pain, but my physical circumstances weren’t reflecting that,” she said. So by harming herself, it made her pain feel all the more real and not “like a ghost in your mind. But one night I was just like, this is actually psychotic, and after that, I just stopped. It’s been like five years.”
Willow would go on to speak on the fact that many young girls these days struggle with self-harm but don’t talk about it. However, she says now that the best way to cope with the emotional pain, for her, is to keep teaching her mind and heart to work together.
“It makes me feel like what I need to keep doing is training my heart and my mind to accept and move with loss,” she said.