Willow Smith: “Don’t Be Afraid to Be Yourself”

Many people may know that last Monday, 9-year-old Willow Smith, daughter of Will and Jada and apparently freshest face in the pop music game, released a music video for her single “Whip My Hair”. So far, the video has been getting tons of play, making its rounds on the internets and just generally causing a stir. I personally have been jamming to the song, but hey, maybe that’s just me.

Willow Smith smiling while dancing in her music video "Whip My Hair"

What many may not know is the meaning behing “Whip My Hair”. In a recent interview with MTV, Willow Smith explained the inspiration behind her lyrics:

“‘Whip My Hair’ means don’t be afraid to be yourself, and don’t let anybody tell you that that’s wrong. Because the best thing is you.” [emphasis added.]

You tell ’em Willow! I’m a fan of this whole thing. I appreciate the popular portrayal of a strong and confident young woman of color that promotes positive self-esteem and doesn’t involve hyper-sexualization.

I know there are those who doubt the decision of Willow’s celebrity parents to put her in the spotlight at 9 years old. And there are those those who complain about the song itself. But don’t worry, Willow has a message for you, too, buried in the chorus between exuberant if repetitive directives to “whip your hair back and forth”: “Don’t let haters keep me off my grind/ keep my head  up/ I know I’ll be fine.” Preach, Willow, preach.

Check out the video for yourself and let me know what you think. I also included a very special remix after the break inspired by this gem of a video, just for funzies :-)


Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is a writer and advocate focusing on race, gender, and sexual and reproductive rights. In addition to her work at Feministing, Lori is an Associate Director at Planned Parenthood Global. Lori has previously worked at the United Nations Foundation, the International Women’s Health Coalition, and Human Rights Watch, and has written for a host of print and digital properties including Rookie Magazine, The Grio, and the New York Times Magazine. She regularly appears on radio and television, and has spoken at college campuses across the U.S. about topics like the politics of black hair, transnational movement building, and the undercover feminism of Nicki Minaj. In 2014, she was named to The Root 100 list of the nation's most influential African Americans, and to the Forbes Magazine list of the "30 Under 30" successful people in media.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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