Willow Smith has spent most of her life in the spotlight, known as a singer, poet, and the daughter of one of Hollywood’s most famous couples: Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. Though her family’s fame and wealth gave the 17-year old some pretty big opportunities (she landed her first hit song at the age of 10), Willow insists it’s extremely difficult growing up in the public eye. In fact, she called it “excruciatingly terrible.”
“Growing up and trying to figure out your life … while people feel like they have some sort of entitlement to know what’s going on, is absolutely, excruciatingly terrible—and the only way to get over it, is to go into it,” she told Girlgaze. “You can’t change your face. You can’t change your parents. You can’t change any of those things.”
Willow, who’s fresh off the release of her sophomore album The 1st, went on to say that social media has exacerbated the struggles of childhood fame.
“I feel like most kids like me end up going down a spiral of depression, and the world is sitting there looking at them through their phones, laughing and making jokes and making memes at the crippling effect that this lifestyle has on the psyche,” she explained. “When you’re born into it, there are two choices that you have: I’m either going to try to go into it completely and help from the inside, or no one is going to know where I am and I’m really going to take myself completely out of the eye of society. There’s really no in-between.”
Though her parents’ fame resulted in a lack of privacy and other unique hardships, Willow has previously praised her mom and dad for the way they’ve raised her. In a 2016 interview with Pharrell, Willow said she admired her parents for setting a good example—never acting as if they were better than anyone simply because of their notoriety.
“Growing up, all I saw was my parents trying to be the best people they could be, and people coming to them for wisdom, coming to them for guidance, and them not putting themselves on a pedestal,” she said in Interview magazine. “But literally being face-to-face with these people and saying, ‘I’m no better than you, but the fact that you’re coming to me to reach some sort of enlightenment or to shine a light on something, that makes me feel love and gratitude for you.’”
You can read Willow’s full Girlgaze interview here. The singer also spoke about her new album, The 1st, as well as the anxiety plaguing her generation.