Why Jaden and Willow Smith’s Existential Angst Is So Exciting
In a new Interview magazine cover story, Jaden and Willow Smith show why their genuine intellectual curiosity shouldn’t be dismissed because of their age.
Jonathan Safran Foer and Natalie Portman’s New York Times Magazine interview, extremely indulgent and incredibly thirsty, set a new bar for intellectual navel-gazing on newsstands. Luckily, Jaden and Willow Smith, America’s favorite over-achieving “binary stars,” just blew those literarians out of the water.
Foer and Portman’s pretentious email footsie rubbed a lot of people the wrong way—people who aren’t as passionate about Hebrew etymology as Natalie Portman, for instance, and those who would really like Jonathan Safran Foer to put it back in his pants. In contrast, Willow and Jaden Smith’s intellectual ambition, which appears to come from a place of genuine curiosity and creativity, feels fresh and exciting.
At 18 and 15, Jaden and Willow aren’t putting on airs. They’re not worried about sounding stupid or overly precocious, as evidenced by their game discussions of everything from physics to fashion to The Karate Kid. This voracious appetite for observation and opining has transformed the Smiths into nationally beloved content creators. This is Jaden, after all, the eccentric auteur behind such Tweets as, “That Moment When Peeing Feels So Good You Start Crying” and “I Saw Owen Wilson One Time From A Distance And We Just Stared At Each Other, Then His Car Drove Off.”
As with all celebrity spawn, there came a time when the Smith kids had to prove that they were artists in their own right. That time was 2010, when a 9-year-old Willow Smith released “Whip My Hair,” a true banger. Even if the Roc Nation-signed artist never releases another hit, “Whip My Hair” has already proven that Willow is so much more than just Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s progeny. In the siblings’ new Interview cover story, Jaden Smith tells interviewer Pharrell Williams that “Willow’s always been better than me at everything.”
Jaden is being more than a little modest. Before he could legally vote, the elder Smith had already made considerable contributions to the genderqueer aesthetic, both as a designer and a fashion plate. He introduced a generation of boys to the world of breathable tunics, along with the valuable lesson that if you can rock a skirt, you too might be worthy of taking Amandla Stenberg to prom.
When he’s not revolutionizing the fashion game or hanging out with his Instagram-famous girlfriend, Jaden Smith stars in blockbusters like The Pursuit of Happyness, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and The Karate Kid. More recently, he played Marcus "Dizzee" Kipling on Baz Luhrmann’s The Get Down on Netflix. He arguably looks better in a skirt than Young Thug, and can probably move small objects with his mind.
Interview struggled to introduce their multi-layered cover stars, ultimately describing the siblings as having “more hyphens in their descriptions than Morse code—which, tbh, they probably speak: recording artists, actors, designers, entrepreneurs.” The subsequent conversation between the Smiths and Pharrell Williams, playing the role of cool college kid babysitter who will spend hours listening to your theories about Osho and the myth of reality, is long and expansive. Luckily, time and space are illusory and Willow and Jaden Smith are fun to listen to. Here’s what we learned:
You might be old, but Willow and Jaden Smith aren’t.
Willow and Jaden Smith are many things—Twitter users, amateur physicists, Chanel and Louis Vuitton brand ambassadors. But one thing they aren’t is old. At 18 and 15, these multi-hyphenates struggle to understand the gripes and grudges of anyone born prior to the Internet. The shade is unintended, but the bewilderment is real. Willow analyzes these wrinkled, alien lifeforms, musing, “It seems like they don't understand our thought process. Or, like, things have happened in the past that they're still mad about. We want to accept them and move forward. I mean, I can definitely see things that have happened in the past that they're holding on to and things that are happening right now that bog them down, but this generation wants to transcend them.”
But putting these hordes of angry elderly aside, there are a few adults whom Willow and Jaden genuinely vibe with, on account of their similar DNA and near-identical names. Willow cites her parents as her biggest idols, recalling, “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, 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.’ They always give back what people give to them.”
For two teens with an unfathomable amount of money, Jaden and Willow are very quick to insist that, “It’s not just about money.” Willow insists, “It’s not just about giving people gifts or whatever. What my parents have given to me is not anything that has to do with money or success or anything that society says people should be focusing on—it's something spiritual that only certain people can grasp and accept. And that's how I act and move in the world today.”
“Woke Baby” isn’t just a meme.
From combatting stereotypes to shedding literal tears over the patriarchy, these youths are woke af. According to Jaden, making sure “every kid goes to school” is a crucial component of his amorphous mission: “Where they feel like their teachers are actually on their side. Or they feel like law enforcement is actually on their side. We want to create a society that is working for us and with us—and we’re working for society, not against it.” Additionally, Willow has some thoughts on “Like, racism …” Namely, “People are dying at the moment because of unconscious cops. And I just had to take a moment to grieve for the world. But sexism is also a huge problem in society. And that book [The Red Tent] really opened my eyes to a whole other world of insanity and humanity.”
Jaden Smith was in New York, and you didn’t even know it.
Like many celebrities, Jaden Smith prioritizes his hard-earned privacy. And like many millennials, Jaden Smith knows how to use emojis to denote his location. However, “I’m not posting an emoji of a plane on Instagram, like, ‘New York.’ I don't want anyone to know that I'm here in New York. And by the time this comes out, I won't be. We don't like people to really know what's happening with us or what we're into.” That being said, Jaden did let one person know of his whereabouts.
His name is Ian, he’s a “super young dude” and MSFTSrep fan, and now his unlikely friendship with Jaden Smith has been immortalized in Interview magazine. Apparently, Jaden got him “a hotel room at the spot that I'm staying at, for him and his homies to just to, like, witness a lifestyle, see that anything's possible. I put him here in New York City, his first time ever in New York City in his life, to be like, ‘Yo, this is what it's like. Anything's possible. Keep going.’ We're trying to inspire kids, like, ‘Join me and Willow. Join with the squad. And let's really, like, change the world.’
Osho is cool, Christopher Nolan is goals, and Pharrell Williams is doing too much.
When asked about dream collaborators, Jaden quickly responded, “I would love to work with Christopher Nolan, 100 percent.” Because he is a kind empath, he also gave his interviewer a shout out, continuing, “It would be a dream for me to hang out with you in the studio. Not even to make music but just hang out.” Pharrell Williams’ response was incredibly extra: “Well, you guys know the power of speaking things into existence. You're more than welcome.” Calm down, Pharrell.
Willow Smith is probably also a Christopher Nolan fan, but she doesn’t love the English-American director as much as she loves Osho, the Indian spiritual guru. Willow says, “I love Osho. I don't know if you would call him a philosopher; I would just call him a really cool dude. Osho really changed my life. Because the way that he spoke about emotion and the male and female energies in the world and how people react to the world around them, it's so simple, yet it has such a depth.”
Speaking of philosophy…
You might be wondering if Willow and Jaden have any specific philosophical questions they’d like to let loose on the universe. Luckily, Pharrell Williams has your back, asking, “Do you guys have any philosophical questions that you'd like to present to the world that's going to read this?” And boy, do they ever. Jaden Smith has seen people killin’ and people dyin’, and they’ve got him questioning: “Where is the love?” Also, “What are we doing? Who’s making the decisions that are putting us in the predicaments that we are in, with all of these people losing their lives around the world in so many different ways? I feel like a serious revolution needs to take place in order for human beings to evolve in a way where we can truly exist as a society. Because, right now, we do not act as a true society. We act as a world under terror, just scrambling to survive.”
Willow agrees that that’s “definitely one of my biggest questions,” without specifically pinpointing one of her brothers’ many interrogatives. She continues, “How are humans going to start taking responsibility for the actions that they take? When are we going to stop pointing the finger at someone else for something we do unconsciously? How are we going to start being aware of those things and changing those things?”
But how can you start being aware of things and taking action when nothing is real and we’re all living in a giant fishbowl? Willow investigates: “A fan came up to me in New York a couple days ago, and they’re like, ‘Is this real life?’ And I looked at them, and I go, ‘I don't think it is.’ It was a crazy moment because I actually, like, looked into her eyes and thought, ‘She's actually asking me this question. Like, she's not BS’ing me. This isn’t a joke. She's actually asking me, ‘Is this real life?’ And I'm giving her my truest answer, which is, ‘I don’t think it is.’”
Pharrell Williams hates the word “famous” for some reason.
Pharrell: It seems that you've always been—I hate using this word—famous.
According to Willow Smith, Hanya Yanagihara’s 2015 bestseller A Little Life is not important.
Willow: I'm reading a book called A Little Life right now, but that's not important.
And then there’s this.
Pharrell: Where do you see yourself in ten years?