In this digital age, parents are subject to more widespread judging and shaming than previously, especially those who are celebrities. That's why actress Jada Pinkett Smith decided to bring up the topic on her Facebook Watch series, Red Table Talk. She recalled the criticism she received when her daughter Willow decided to shave her head, sharing the powerful lesson that came from the event. Read on to see what was behind Willow's bold statement, and what the experience taught Hollywood giants Jada Pinkett and Will Smith about parenting.
An Unorthodox Love Story
Will Smith was already married when he realized he was meant to be with Jada Pinkett. The two had met the year prior, and something about Jada made Will sure that she was the one. When his first marriage ended, he pursued the young actress.
After two years of dating, Will asked Jada to marry him. The timing was impeccable, because the very next day, the couple discovered that they were expecting. They had a private wedding ceremony on New Year's Eve, when Jada was three months pregnant.
A Rapidly Growing Family
Though Jada's child with Will would be her first, the actor already had a son with his former wife, Sheree Zampino. At the time that Will and Jada got married, Will's eldest son, Trey, was just five years old.
Jada became Trey's stepmother at the same time that she was getting ready to become a mom. The couple rapidly transitioned from a pair to a family of four. Just seven months after saying "I do," the couple got ready to meet their son.
A Surprisingly Fast Delivery
Jada Pinkett Smith had the kind of delivery expecting mothers dream of. She told Fit Pregnancy, "It took me 20 minutes to push him out. My mother’s a nurse, and she was in there with me, and she was amazed!"
Even the doctor thought it would take an hour longer than it did. Instead of naming him Will Jr., the couple made the unique choice of adapting Jada's name to suit their boy, naming him Jaden Smith.
Willow Came Along In 2000
The Smiths have a way of making major life changes happen on holidays. Jada and Will got married on New Year's Eve; their first son together, Jaden, was born four days after the fourth of July in 1998; and on the first Halloween of the new millennium, their little girl came along.
The same way that the famous pair named their son after Jada, they named their daughter after Will, coming up with the name Willow. Their family had officially grown to five.
Following In His Parents' Footsteps
Jaden proved that he had inherited the acting bug from his parents at a very young age. He became a fellow movie star when Jaden co-starred with Will in The Pursuit of Happiness at just eight years old.
The young star made a name for himself when he became the new Karate Kid, acting alongside Jackie Chan in the remake. The same year, Jaden made his rapping debut in Justin Bieber's "Never Say Never." Jaden's career in both acting and music has continued to flourish ever since.
Making A Name For Herself
Like her brother Jaden, Willow started her career in the entertainment industry as a child. She was only seven years old when she appeared in her first film alongside Will, I Am Legend. The following year, she voiced the younger version of her mom's character in Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.
As with acting, Willow started her music career at an even younger age than her brother did. Months before her 9th birthday, the young star released her hit "Whip My Hair."
The Pressure Of Being A Child Star
Though Willow was born to one of the most famous couples in Hollywood, she still felt the pressure of being a child star. Her single "Whip My Hair" launched Willow into stardom and had her touring before she turned 10.
When Willow was 18, she revealed in an interview with InStyle that the song was meant to be about doing what you want. Yet, she didn't feel at the time that she had control over her own career.
Taking Matters Into Her Own Hands
Willow was tired of going through the motions of stardom. Wise beyond her years and full of confidence, the 11-year-old decided that she wanted to detach from her "Whip My Hair" status by shaving her head.
Cutting off all your hair seems like a drastic move for any middle-schooler to make, but especially one who's a huge star. Since Willow was most known for her hair-whipping song, the move was obviously a statement.
A Self-Proclaimed Act Of Rebellion
Plenty of adult celebrities have struggled with the exhaustion of touring, so we can only imagine how it felt for the young Willow. She wasn't even a teenager yet at the time, and there she was trying to navigate the complicated world of fame.
Willow told InStyle, "I was just over it; I was literally so done and said, ‘I’m going to show people that I'm not attached to this." Fans immediately took notice, and so did her parents.
Backlash About Willow Not Looky Girly
Though it's hard to imagine grown adults shaming a child's appearance, the internet is full of unbelievable behavior. Jada Pinkett Smith later called the ensuing response a "firestorm."
Refinery29 summed up the backlash by quoting one social media user as saying, "She just looks like her dad, what little girl wants to look like a boy?" Many rejected the new hairstyle, seeming to miss the point that the young celebrity was trying to make.
Jada Addressed The Topic On Social Media
Jada Pinkett Smith stepped into the social media ring to stand up for her daughter's right to style her hair how she wants. In 2012, Jada made a Facebook post that thoroughly described how she felt about the ordeal.
Part of her lengthy post read, "I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair."
Years Later, Jada Still Remembers The Shaming
Though Willow is all grown up now and strong as ever, Jada still remembers the days when she was shamed for allowing her daughter to cut her hair. That's why the actress deciding to bring up the topic on her Facebook Watch series, Red Table Talk.
Jada invited fellow celebrity moms Ashley Graham, Jessica Alba, and Maren Morris onto the show to discuss the topic and their personal experiences. That's when Jada looked back on those times and what got her through.
Jada Said The Look On Willow's Face Made All The Difference
When Ashley Graham asked Jada how she combated the anxiety of being shamed, the actress said it all came down to one thing: how Willow felt. She said that Willow's "expression of freedom looking at her hair falling to the ground" made her sure it was the right thing to do.
While some girls would cry if they watched their beloved locks getting shaved off, Willow proves that not all kids respond the same. For Willow, it wasn't a matter of losing hair; it was a matter of gaining freedom.
Willow Helped Jada To Not Care What Anyone Thinks
Though parents have lots to teach children, kids can teach their elders some valuable lessons, as well. Willow's shaved head helped Jada not care what people think, even about her own children.
She said on her show, "I was there, I was looking at her, I saw her face, I knew the journey that she and I took together to get to that point, and so, it didn't really matter what anybody said." At the end of the day, all that mattered was Willow's sense of self.
Willow's Haircut Also Taught Will Smith An Important Lesson
Jada Pinkett Smith wasn't the only one who faced a parenting challenge when Willow shaved her head. Will Smith was the one his daughter's rebellion was pointed at, and he got the message loud and clear.
The actor talked about the experience in Jay-Z's film Footnotes of Adnis. He said Willow wanted to go home on their fifth concert of 30. Will pushed her to finish the "Whip My Hair" tour, so she shaved her head.
Learning To Listen To His Daughter's Emotions
In Jay-Z's video, Will explained how Willow's act of rebellion made him shift his parenting style. He said, "I'm looking at that girl like, 'got it.' I understand. You will not have this trouble out of me ever again. Let's go baby, we can go."
Will then explained how his father raised him to have a soldier mentality that caused him to avoid "paying any attention whatsoever to what was going on emotionally with this beautiful little creature in front of me."
Willow Says Her Parents And The Internet Made Her Bold
In her 2018 interview with InStyle, Willow credited her parents and the internet for teaching her to embrace herself. She said that growing up with the internet "cemented" in her that negative comments "are always going to be there."
She explained, "You might as well do whatever you want at the end of the day because someone's always going to have something to say." Willow also mentioned that she avoids reading comments unless they're made by a loved one.
Shaving Her Head Taught Willow To Go With Her Gut
Willow called shaving her head the first of three standout moments in her life when she followed her gut. She said, "When something inside of you is just telling you no, you have to follow that no matter what."
The singer said that her intuition led her away from pop music, a genre she "was done with" at a young age. Her current musical style is considered a mixture of several genres, including hip hop, electronic, and neo-soul.
Willow Has Continued To Rebel Artistically
Since Jada and Will have gone out of their way to foster Willow's independence, she's grown more and more confident in ignoring pressures and finding herself. Willow told InStyle that she continued to rebel against her parents growing up by wearing "crazy" outfits like "purple pants with this yellow duck shirt and sandals or whatever it was."
As an adult, her fight for independence has translated to a rejection of stereotypes as she explores different parts of herself "through clothes, through music, and through art."
Willow Wants To Encourage Girls To Grow Their Self-Love
If there's one thing Jada and Will Smith have taught Willow, it's to love herself. The singer now hopes to encourage other girls to embrace their own self-love. She told InStyle, "You're the only one who knows what's going to make you happy and what's going to grow self-love within yourself."
She continued, "So whatever that is, you need to go for that and keep your focus on that." The star continues to listen to her wise words as she blossoms into adulthood with her parents' support.