Meet the Smiths
Willow and Jaden Smith represent a new, less-inhibited generation of celebrity.
The legendary Will Smith and illustrious Jada Pinkett Smith have earned worldwide acclaim over the past three decades for their awe-inspiring talents and achievements, yet the celebrity power couple could end up most well-known for their greatest collaborative effort: their children, Jaden and Willow.
Famous in utero, the Smith kids only know life in the limelight. But rather than rest on the laurels of their megastar parents, these siblings are insanely driven. The duo—reared since birth (Jaden in 1998, Willow in 2000) to be self-assured, spirited innovators with a deep respect for the responsibility superstardom carries—is determined to use their fame to break barriers, change perceptions, and take on projects with purpose. Jaden and Willow Smith are redefining celebrity for a new generation.
The breadth and scope of the teens’ abilities and endeavors are staggering. Both sing, rap, act, model, design apparel, represent brands, and more. “I choose the projects that are going to push unity and expression into the world in the most intelligent and artistic way possible,” Willow told Vogue back in January 2016.
Before the progenies hit their preteens, each had attained entertainment industry success—Jaden for his role in the inspiring 2006 blockbuster The Pursuit of Happyness and Willow for her empowering, kid-friendly 2011 platinum debut single “Whip My Hair.” “‘Whip My Hair’ was a great thing,” she told T Magazine in late 2014. “When I look back I think, ‘Wow, I did so much for young black girls and girls around the world,’ telling them…to not be afraid to be themselves.”
Her emboldening message endures, packing more punch than ever with her appointment as style ambassador for fashion powerhouse Chanel. On the surface, her role could appear frivolous—attend the fashion shows, wear the luxury label to major events, star in the ads, including the Fall/Winter 2016-17 eyewear campaign. However, the symbolism of having a dreadlock-coiffed 15-year-old African American girl in this position is groundbreaking. “I know a lot of girls that look like me feel that they’re not beautiful and feel like they don’t have a place in the media or the world,” Willow told the Telegraph in July 2016. “I want them to know that’s not true. I want to show those girls that might not think they’re beautiful, they are.” Willow took this sentiment global, tweeting, “Thank you Karl Lagerfeld and the entire team at Chanel for expanding the perceptions of ‘beauty’ by picking me to be the new Chanel ambassador. I am honored.”
Likewise Jaden has commendable intentions, as he told GQ in October 2015, “I’m just dedicating my whole life to helping the world.” To start, he has become a veritable poster child for ‘gender-fluid’ fashion, blurring the lines of societal sartorial standards with his non-conformist wardrobe. “I feel like people are kind of confused about gender norms,” Jaden told British GQ Style in March 2016. “I feel like people don’t really get it. I’m not saying that I get it, I’m just saying that I’ve never seen any distinction. I don’t see man clothes and woman clothes, I just see scared people and comfortable people.”
His comfort is often brandished by skirts, dresses, and rompers. “I’m going to take most of the blows for my fellow MSFTS,” he said, referencing his street wear clothing line, MSFTSrep, short for Misfits Republic, in the August 2016 cover article for Nylon magazine. “So in five years when a kid goes to school wearing a skirt, he won’t get beat up. I’m taking the brunt of it so that later on, my kids and the next generations of kids will all think that certain things are normal that weren’t expected before my time.”
In this spirit, Jaden became the first male face of Louis Vuitton women’s wear, donning a patterned A-line skirt and crocheted top in the French fashion house’s 2016 Spring/Summer ad campaign. “We all knew that we were going to impact the culture and change the game and make a difference,” he said.
Game changing seems to be a Smith forte. The style icon crowning by two of the world’s most luxurious brands is no anomaly. And while their resumes virtually run parallel, brother and sister have sidestepped sibling rivalry, instead inspiring one another on any given project.
Given their genealogy, the acting projects seemed predisposed. Willow appeared in films such as I Am Legend and Kit Kittredge: An American Girl and provided vocals for Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa; Jaden starred in the 2010 remake of The Karate Kid and plays a recurring role in the Netflix original series, The Get Down.
The siblings also release songs and albums at will. “We don’t think a lot of the music out there is that cool so we make our own,” Jaden told T Magazine. He has his own music app, “Jaden Experience” and an Apple Music Beats 1 Radio show; she is also signed with Jay-Z’s eminent RocNation record label.
Both design apparel as well. Jaden launched MSFTSrep; Willow created a novelty sock collection for Stance. The company, enamored by the then-15-year-old, stated that Willow is “the ultimate provocateur of artistic expression, but even a label like that feels a little too finite for someone so impossible to define…With a confidence and sense of style that feels at once unfathomably fresh and yet well beyond her years, she has a self-possessing originality that makes it feel futile to even mention her age because she transcends it.”
Despite scrutiny from paparazzi and social media, Willow and Jaden exude fierce self-confidence. “We were taught that it’s OK to dress however you want and express yourself,” Willow told the Telegraph. “It’s not what anyone else thinks about you, it’s what you think about yourself.” Jaden echoed his sister’s outlook when he told Nylon, “You just have to believe in yourself. The world is going to keep bashing me for whatever I do, and I’m going to keep not caring.” It is the Smith kids’ impactful efforts and refreshing attitudes that are changing the face of celebrity and influencing a generation, perhaps like no role models before.
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