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Will Smith reflects on the important lesson he learned after “devastating” mistake with daughter Willow

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Kayleigh Dray
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Trey Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith and Will Smith attend the World Premiere of Disneys Aladdin at El Capitan theatre on May 21, 2019 in Hollywood. (Photo by VALERIE MACON / AFP) (Photo credit should read VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)

“I saw how much I was making and forcing and pushing the things that I wanted,” the actor said. “And in that moment, I just saw it was starting to hurt her.”

Will Smith is easily one of the most famous dads in Hollywood. It makes sense, then, that the much-loved actor has joined his wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith, on the red couch for a special Father’s Day edition of her Red Table Talk.

The intimate one-on-one conversation saw Smith and Pinkett-Smith share 23 years worth of lessons they’ve learned as parents. However, due to the candid nature of Red Table Talk, the conversation didn’t just focus on the many co-parenting highs the couple have experienced: it also saw them address the failures they’ve had to overcome, too. 

And, in an emotional exchange, the I Am Legend star recalled the moment he pushed his then nine-year-old daughter, Willow Smith, to commit to her music career. 

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At the time, Willow had committed to a 30-day set of dates for her Whip My Hair! album tour. After a few shows, though, she told Smith she was ready to go home, prompting her hard-working dad to impress upon her that she had to complete the job.

“She kept asking; she was like ‘But Daddy, it doesn’t matter how I feel?’ And I was like ‘Yes, baby it does matter how you feel, but you have to finish what you started,” he told Pinkett-Smith.

“She made you have to fall back on your military-style,” his wife responded.

Smith was convinced that he was doing the right thing by his daughter, until she shaved her head in an act of “protest”.

Willow first shaved her head in 2012 and, in 2019, she admitted she had seen the act as “the perfect way to rebel.” 

Looking  back on that moment, Smih has said: “It was so devastating to me when she shaved her head bald. Because her record is Whip My Hair! I’m like, ‘That’s a protest against me!’ Whether it was or wasn’t… I took that as a sign from the Gods that I was like, this little girl is rejecting what I’m trying to do for her. She doesn’t want it.”

He added: “It was like she made music, she enjoyed it and she was finished. And she was hard with it. She was crying. She was scared. But what she wasn’t going to do is do something that she didn’t want to do…

“[And in that moment], I saw how much I was making and forcing and pushing the things that I wanted. And at that moment, I just saw it was starting to hurt her.” 

Quietly, Smith noted: “My desire for her was overriding her desire for her, and I had a real epiphany on that and how bad a person will hate you if you keep forcing your wishes onto their life.”

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Powerfully, Smith noted that Willow “introduced me to feelings” and “destroyed all of my belief systems.”

“Because if I don’t care about how I feel,” the father-of-three explained. “I damn sure don’t care how you feel.”

He finished by explaining: “I would say that Whip My Hair! thing put a pause button on my overt parenting. I stopped, and I just started watching my kids, and with Willow, I started to see that there was a higher value in talking to her about how she feels about the situation versus how to fix the situation.

“It became the new thought process for me.”

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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