Jada Pinkett-Smith went from teen star to one of the most talked about mothers in Hollywood. For some she's a beacon of progressive parenting but for others, her decisions around her kids, particulary 11-year-old daughter Willow are questionable. Never one to be swayed by public opinion Pinkett-Smith sat down with EBONY.COM to talk parenting, Willow’s dramatic hair cut and why she stands by it 100% because at the end of the day, “it’s just hair."
EBONY: Hair is always such a touch topic for Black women and after the pictures of Willow’s newly shaved head went up, there was a lot of reaction against her assumed freedom regarding her hair. As a Black mother, how did you feel about this?
Let me tell you something…this is really important. Let me tell you what I was proud of with my daughter. She knows that her hair is not her identity. And she knows that she’s beautiful and [she is] everything that she needs to be with or without hair; that hair can’t make or break a woman. The other thing I was proud of is that she didn’t give two hootie who’s about who thought what about it. She really didn’t and then turned around and dyed it green! I call her my 'little miss radical'. She’s truly my child.
EBONY: So you weren’t at all upset or in any shock when she decided to cut her hair off?
I can’t even be upset in any form but I want to tell you what I feel we, as women in general, must do. We have to understand that we should at all times, have the right and the power to make decisions about our bodies. And that is an idea that must be taught at a young age. You can’t wait until a person is 18 years old and say ‘now you have the right’. You have to start that form the gate. So what I am trying to show Willow, is that it’s her hair. I might not want her to cut it, but guess what? It’s not mine. And at the end of the day it’s not for me to make that choice for her. So I need her to be empowered now, with that. At the end of the day, it's hair.
EBONY: It’s been said that she actually wanted that style because her Grandmother had it. Is that true?
Will’s mother’s hair is the same way as well as my mother’s hair and I'll tell you what’s interesting. When she first got her hair cut, she wanted that style. She said to me, ‘I want my hair like Gammy’s!' So we went step by step by step, till we got to the day, three years later, when she said, “I told you, I want my hair like Gammy’s'.
EBONY: It’s amazing that a young teen her age could be so forward and confident with her appearance.
She wanted that style. And it took everything I had. I was like okay, why don’t we start with one side. She was like “okay!” Then she was like mom, I really want to cut more, so I said okay let’s do the other side. She’s like “okay!” So she rocked that for a little while till finally we got down to that little strand. And she still landed on what she had wanted from the beginning! I had to give her props on the fact that she ain’t let it go, and she knew what she wanted. And after she did the BET Honors, she looked at me and she was like ‘Mom I’m sick of it! I want to cut it off! I was like, all right. When she saw that hair fall to the ground she was like “Yes, now I am going to bleach it and make it pink!” So there you go.
EBONY: Young Black men can learn a thing or two from her confidence!
Here's the thing, men have to also mature in how they see women too. Because they need to understand that it’s not just about how we look, it’s about who we are. And I am going to tell you like this if you cant love me with short hair, and you telling me I got to have long hair to be loved, guess what, I ain’t the one for you.
EBONY: And women have to learn to raise their young girls to think the same way.
And you know I just think as women, we have to give ourselves room to be individuals. So when a woman makes a decision for herself, we as women shouldn’t set those hardcore boundaries for another woman. Just like we don’t want men setting hardcore boundaries for us. We as individuals should be able to say if we want to keep our husbands [last] name and also say we don’t, and hi-five on that.
EBONY: Do you feel like women are harder on women?
I think what we have to do in our womanhood, is if we’re asking for certain freedoms from other people, we have to learn to: (A): give those freedoms to ourselves, and (B): give those freedoms to one another because if we can’t do it, if we’re going to sit up here and slam 11 year old child for wanting to cut her hair, how we going to ask these men to back off these issues dealing with our bodies? I believe that we want to take a stand to be individuals, that has be across the board and we have to give it to one another and it can’t be “we can have freedom there, but we can’t have freedom there”. And I think you have to be responsible about it. A lot of people don’t understand the process that we went through with Willow. It wasn’t that Willow just decided this in one day, that was a three-year process. Because from day one she said, “I want my hair like Gammy’s”.
EBONY: You both are so alike in your personalities and confidence. What would a Willow and Jada musical collaboration sound like?
That’s so crazy because she and I have been talking about that. She loves music and I have expanded a little bit more from the Burn thing that I did for Will into like an R&B rock thing, into more edgier rock stuff. [I’m] not doing the metal stuff, I’m a little too old for that! So you know we’ve kind of evolved into something else. But we [Willow and I] actually have been talking about that.
EBONY: With the evolution of your family and all of your successes, especially Willow, are you anxious to see what’s going to come next?
I’m very excited, you still have a little anxiety, because I’m still a mother, and these are my most vigilant years with these kids. Willow is on my hip, I'm watching every step. Willow’s going through womanhood training right now, you know what I mean, so it's that balance between giving her enough room, but also staying right by her side so when she bumps a little it's like, okay I'm there. And being there but not dictating and its scary because, lets keep it real, we know that the best lessons we’ve ever learned is when we fell on our ass. You learn more from your failures. Your mother could sit here all day and tell you "baby don’t do that, I can tell you right now what that’s going to look like". So you kind of have to, without judgment, and without guilt, kind of have to step back. And when your baby falls down, you just got to be there. That’s it. That’s all it is.