Growing up in the spotlight mustn’t be easy. It’s easy to think that the rich and famous have it easy – and in many ways, they definitely do – but that doesn’t mean that the constant attention from the public doesn’t have an effect on you. For adults, it can be quite strange, but for children who can’t completely understand or handle this atmosphere – it can be much harder. Willow Smith, daughter of rapper-turned-actor Will Smith and actress Jada Pinkett-Smith, has spoken about the reality of this in the past.
Last year she spoke to Girlgaze, where she said that growing up in the shadow of her parents was “absolutely ter-rible”.
“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 absolute, excruciatingly ter-rible—and the only way to get over it, is to go into it,” she said.
“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… I’m really going to take myself completely out of the eye of society. There’s really no in-between.”
One of the platforms that Willow speaks about her life, as well as broader social issues, is on her mother’s show Red Table Talk – where she, Jada, and Jada’s mother are usually joined by another guest. The show is brutally honest at times, which means some family issues come to the surface from time to time.
When she was just ten years old, Willow had her first single – Whip My Hair – which soon became a worldwide success, going platinum and reaching a level of success that surprised her. However, Willow revealed that this time in her life wasn’t the best for her family.
According to the 18-year-old, her father Will Smith was “so ha-rsh” during this early stage of her career that she spent years trying to forgive him.
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The conversation was started when Jada asked her daughter if there was anyone in her life she’d had to forgive, and she responded:
“I definitely had to forgive you and daddy for that whole “Whip My Hair” thing. It was mostly daddy because he was so ha-rsh at certain times. It was like, a couple of years trying to regain trust for not feeling like I was listened to, or no one cared what I felt during that time.
“I had to forgive myself too. I felt guilty because I was like, ‘Everyone is trying to make me better, trying to make my dream.’ But I didn’t really understand what my dream entailed.”
And, during a previous episode of the same show, Willow voiced similar concerns about how her parents spoke to her at that young age. “You and daddy should have been like, ‘OK, we value her musical growth and knowledge more than her popularity’,” she said.
It’s easy to see a child star and focus on their work, talent, or how much fun they’re having – but even those with supportive families may be having a rough time in the spotlight.