"It's like we're told to pack on makeup and hide our pores, then we're told to drink water and show off our natural skin,” Willow Smith tells Refinery29 as she sits barefoot on the couch of an expensive-smelling Soho hotel room. “It's a lot...”
Those were the 18-year-old's sentiments when we sat down to talk about the ever-changing beauty standards in the digital age. Her position on the topic is what you'd expect of a teenager that grew up with Instagram and Snapchat, but Smith is not your average barely-legal for reasons beyond her famous bloodline. She’s more mature, wiser, and way cooler than we were at 18.
Since emerging onto the scene with her Whip My Hair single, Smith has blossomed into a refreshing source of beauty inspiration for Gen Z, not only for her ever-changing hair (and painfully gorgeous genes) but for marching to the beat of her own drum. “I, personally, feel like the future of beauty is individual. If you want to be glam in full makeup all day do it, by all means, but don't feel pressure to do what you don't want," she says.
Smith has been navigating life in the spotlight by doing just that: whatever the hell she wants. She's had nearly every hairstyle under the sun (from braids to buzz cuts), but her latest style, which happens to be her favorite, happened by accident. "I wasn't planning to have locs," she says. "I would twist my hair with my fingers as a nervous habit, which ended up like this." However, her unplanned look reduced the time spent in front of the mirror for Smith, which made it a keeper. “I re-twist them every few months, moisturize, and add extra hair for length. Overall, they’re so low maintenance, and I love them.”
Smith's overt sense of "self" is obvious and infectious as we speak, but it didn't happen overnight or all on her own. She credits her Red Table Talk co-stars, her mother (Jada Pinkett-Smith) and her grandmother (Adrienne Bandfield-Jones), for shaping her relentless approach to life and beauty. “I tried to do the whole makeup thing between 10 and 14 years old and I failed, miserably. I prefer to just let other people put it on me,” she tells us. “But my mom and grandma really taught me that the most important thing is feeling good inside and letting that show externally."
Those lessons have spilled out into her professional life and has allowed Smith to explore passions that excite her like music, anime, and writing. "I am working on my new album, but I am taking my time," she says. "I am constantly coming up with new ideas for Red Table Talk. I am also writing a lot and working on my anime — so there's definitely a lot on the way."
And in addition to singer, actress, and author, Smith can now pencil "face of Maison Margiela's Mutiny fragrance" on her impressive list of accomplishments. The musician joins five other “mutinists” (like Princess Nokia and Sasha Blane) to front the campaign for the new fragrance which promotes nonconformity and creativity — all of which makes Smith’s involvement fitting. "This fragrance is for everyone and that is what I love most about it," she says. "No matter who you are, you can feel good in this." The scent is a woody floral with notes of orange flower, tuberose, and vanilla bean, which reminds Smith of her happy place: nature. "I love just being outside and sitting and listening to my surroundings or reading. It's when I feel most beautiful and content."
Smith may be years ahead of her time, but when it comes to figuring life out there's no rush. "Nowadays everyone is so wrapped up in instant gratification. I am just trying to make the things I love happen, but when they need to happen." In short: Smith is living life by her own rules, which is the most beautiful way to do it if you ask us.