Willow Smith Was Forced to Do Her Own Hair on a “High Fashion” Photo Shoot

Onitsuka Tiger T-shirt; her own boots. Hair by Vernon François for Redken at the Visionaries Agency;...
Photographed by Lea Winkler

Willow Smith is opening up about her personal hair journey on her talk show series, Red Table Talk. In a new episode of the Facebook Watch series—which is hosted by Willow Smith, her mother Jada Pinkett-Smith, and grandmother Adrienne Banfield Norris—airing today at 12 PM EST, the three women are joined by Tiffany Haddish and Yvonne Orji, both of whom discuss their own experiences navigating childhood, then adulthood in the entertainment industry, as Black women surrounded by white-focused beauty standards.

For Willow, that struggle was exemplified during what she describes as “a very high fashion photo shoot.” The hairstylist working on set was unaware of how to groom Black hair, and couldn’t execute a look for Willow. In the clip below, the “Transparent Soul” singer describes being forced to create her own hairstyle, and the discomfort and disappointment that came along with it.

“All of the white models were getting their hair done, they all had somebody,” she recalls. “The person that was supposed to come do my hair looked at it, and tried to do something to it, tried to touch it. They were just like, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing.’ That anxiety, looking at them in the mirror, not knowing what to do with my head, made me feel like, I’m going to take the reins on this. So I basically did my own hair for that really high fashion shoot. That should never be happening.”

The musician and actress has never shied away from discussing the nuances of being a Black woman in Hollywood. In a recent interview with W magazine, she remembers going on tour with her mother’s band, Wicked Wisdom, at around seven years old. During a performance at Ozzfest, Willow recognized racism taking place right before her eyes. “A lot of people weren’t happy about seeing a Black woman in that space,” she said. “I saw her gracefully do her thing while so many people were being racist and sexist and just not being nice. She handled it with such strength. She was like, ‘Some people are upset, but we don’t focus on that. We focus on doing our best and being strong and doing what we want to do.’”