Will Smith Says Daughter Willow 'Really Tested' Him About How He Handled Her Early Fame
The father of three, 50, spoke to Haute Living about experiencing a “mutiny” within his family in 2012 after his daughter Willow, 18, admitted she had to “forgive” him for how he handled her early fame.
His family’s reaction to his leadership style culminated in the movie star changing his perspective on how he viewed his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and their kids. The moment led him to consider joining social media, he said.
“[I] secretly call  the year of the mutiny,” Smith explained. “And 2012 was really the year that my family rejected the direction of my leadership. And that was the main thing that happened.”
Smith shared his father, Willard Carroll Smith, Sr., ran a tight ship during his youth due to his background in the Air Force.
“He dealt with the family like a soldier,” Smith explained. “I was used to the whole family working the family business and being run like a military unit. You follow orders, you have goals, you achieve things and there’s punishment from the higher ranks if you don’t do what you are told to do.”
The Bright actor said he “lightened up” on his three children — Trey, 26, Jaden, 20, and Willow, 18 — over the years but that the “things that I brought in from my childhood were, we are in a family business, we all work together and I’m in command.”
“I am the leader, and the way that we win is by everyone doing what I say,” Smith shared.
Not everyone listened to the action star’s orders. Despite Smith’s tight grip on his family, his youngest child, Willow, pushed back.
“Willow was really the first person during “Whip My Hair” that decided she didn’t want to do what I said,” Smith recalled. “Because she was the baby girl, she really had the most power over me. As a man – if your daughter says no, there’s really nothing you can do.”
RELATED VIDEO: Jada Pinkett Smith and Daughter Willow Get Candid on Monogamy
“She really tested me,” he revealed. “She was like, no she didn’t want to. She was done with “Whip My Hair.” She was done with performing, and as a protest, she shaved her head bald. That was really the first time that I realized that my family wasn’t happy with the direction that I was taking them.”
Willow described that period of time on Monday’s Red Table Talk in which she told her mother, Pinkett Smith, and grandmother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, that she had to learn to forgive her father for how he handled her early fame.
“I definitely had to forgive you and daddy for that whole ‘Whip My Hair’ thing. It was mostly daddy because he was so harsh at certain times,” Willow revealed. She was 10 years old at the time of the song’s release.
“It was a couple of years, honestly. Trying to regain trust for not feeling like I was being listened to or like no one cared how I felt,” she continued.
While she learned to forgive her parents, Willow added she also had to learn to forgive herself.
“And I had to forgive myself because I felt guilty because everyone is trying to make me better, trying to make my dream. But I didn’t really understand what my dream entailed,” she said.
Earlier this year, Willow admitted on the Facebook Watch show that she had cut herself during her song’s success as a way to cope with the pressures of fame.
“After the tour and the promotion and all of that, they wanted me to finish my album,” she continued. “And I was like, I’m not gonna do that. And after all of that kinda settled down and it was like a kind of lull, I was just listening to a lot of dark music. It was just so crazy and I was plunged into this black hole, and I was cutting myself.”
Willow said she “totally lost my sanity” during that time period.
“I never talk about it because it was such a short weird point in my life. But you have to pull yourself out of it,” she explained.