Willow Smith Talks About Her Mother’s Experience With Racism in the Rock Music World

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Willow Smith has been a part of the public eye since she was a child, and having two very public parents means being exposed to many of the struggles those famous parents deal with, including issues of race. In an interview with L’Officiel, she talks about watching her mother, Jada Pinkett Smith face hate.

In the early 2000s, Pinkett Smith had a nümetal band called Wicked Wisdom, and Willow joined them on the road. There, she witnessed the backlash that came from Pinkett Smith being a Black woman in an overwhelming white male genre.

“My mom got so much hate,” Smith said in the interview. “It was intense racism and sexism, just packed on to the tens. People giving her death threats, throwing glass at her onstage. Some crazy stuff went down.”

Smith said these moments were fraught with physical danger. But it left a lasting love of metal/rock in her musical heart, which has come through in her latest single “Lipstick” and will be collaborating with Travis Barker on her upcoming album.

“I just wanted to fulfill that desire that I had ever since I was 10 or 12 of singing rock music, of being a Black woman singing rock music,” she said.

Now, I think we can all agree that nümetal is a … divisive (and by that I mean mostly bad) era of music. However, as someone who grew up in that era and absorbed a lot of the different kinds of metal and rock that came out during that time, it is all in my veins.

I love metal and rock—my first serious concert was seeing the Italian metal band Lacuna Coil—but I also know what it is like to be a Black woman in those spaces and to feel inherently othered.

A few years ago when I went to a Halestorm concert, every time I saw another Black face—and there weren’t that many—it made me feel safer. I love the genre, but when it comes to diversity, while there have always been Black artists, we get told it isn’t “for us.” But that hasn’t stopped Black girls from wanting to rock, scream, and mosh, and I’m glad it hasn’t stopped Willow.

(via USA Today, image: Jerritt Clark/Getty Images for Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 2 Presented by Amazon Prime Video)

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Princess Weekes
Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.