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 Executive Director of Partnerships at Feministing, where she enjoys creating and curating content on gender, race, class, technology, and the media. Lori is also an advocacy and communications professional specializing in sexual and reproductive rights and health, and currently works in the Global Division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A graduate of Harvard University, she lives in Brooklyn.

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

Read more about Lori

Join the Conversation

  • http://feministing.com/members/toongrrl/ Jessica “Jess” Victoria Carillo

    You tell them Willow! Hair is beautiful in it’s many forms but is only decoration on the head.

  • http://feministing.com/members/reader/ Nemo Omen

    I hate the Willow Smith video. The music is irritating and it has a lot of stereotypical tropes (black person provides color). I also don’t think she’s dressed appropriately for a nine-year-old.

    As I wrote earlier, the idea behind the Sesame Street video is great, but I think some smart little girls will see through it. I also hate the song.

  • http://feministing.com/members/reader/ Nemo Omen

    If a little, upper middle class white or Asian girl were in a video like this, the reaction would be, What were her parents thinking?

  • fyoumudflaps

    Go Willow! Hey Jessica, love the As told by Ginger pic. :)

  • http://feministing.com/members/reader/ Nemo Omen

    I’m also troubled by the glib anticipation in the lyrics: If you disapprove of this video, you’re a “hater.”

    So let’s add anti-intellectualism to the rest of the awful mix.

    As someone who saw Michael Jackson grow from a cute little kid to an inarticulate, uneducated adult, I don’t enjoy silly videos made by kids whose circumstances don’t require them to be public entertainers. Willow and her brother would do better spending more time at their lessons.

    Fortunately, they’ll probably never have to work. Most of the poor (black) kids looking to them as role models, will.

  • http://feministing.com/members/anniew/ Anne Molly

    I probably would have been offended by this at a point in my life, however now I feel the complete opposite. I teach on the southside of Chicago to a room full of vibrant second graders. It makes me SO sad they are infatuated with my hair ( I am white) and only have Justin Bieber and Hannah Montana to look to as idols. Is Willow Smith perfect? No, but she at least gives the kids someone they can relate to and appreciate. I love that they can look at a girl who is close to their age and see that she is getting recognition as a young black girl. This is soooo exciting to me!

  • http://feministing.com/members/jackmojo/ Marc

    I’m kinda torn on this one.

    Yes girls rock, go young artists, woman of color, etc…

    But this is no more empowering to most of the people on the planet then “My Super Sweet Sixteen”, we’re looking at someone who’s probably one of the 1% of richest kids on the planet, getting a video and recording deal, likely largely by virtue of her parents connections.

    I’ll save feeling empowered when someone gets ahead who really had to work at it.

    No comment on the music as pop is not my bag.

    Love the Sesame Street video though, but I’m a sucker for things with muppets.

  • http://feministing.com/members/roxythekiller/ Roxy

    Awe, cute. Willow looks like she’s having fun. And to the fashion police who think her clothes are “inappropriate”… think back to where you were at age 9. Who wasn’t trying to look like a kewl teenager or older celebrity? Let’s not spoil her fun. :)

  • http://feministing.com/members/blueeyes90/ blueeyes90

    Personally I hate the song, but the song has a good message.

    Hollywood so needs more young stars like her these days.

  • lalareina

    You no what, some things are just “fun”. There, I said it. Fun. I know in this forum of political correctness and every damn thing analyzed to death that’s a lost concept to some.