At this year’s Met Ball in May, our friend, Interview alumnus André Leon Talley welcomed Willow and Jaden Smith to the red carpet by enthusiastically proclaiming them the future of fashion. We happen to agree with him—and not just because the two teenage artists project an earnestness and general, as well as gender, nonconformity that happens to align with the fashion industry’s present tastes—we believe that Will and Jada Pinkett Smith’s children and namesakes are the future, and we wouldn’t necessarily even narrow the claim to fashion alone.
For starters, will we be able to so easily differentiate between artist, designer, model, and performer in the future? And will those differentiations even matter? Will difference hold back the great merge? Or will industries—be it fashion, music, movies, technology—integrate even more comprehensively than they are now? Maybe in the future, the Buddha will have been right and all will be one.
If increasing intersectionality and multiplicity is where we’re headed, the fresh prince and princess of Calabasas are indeed the vanguard. Between them, Jaden, 18, and Willow, 15, have more hyphens in their descriptions than Morse code—which, tbh, they probably speak: recording artists, actors, designers, entrepreneurs … They check so many boxes that they actually present a few conundrums (and not just the intentionally cryptic koans in which they often speak on social media).
Fittingly, perhaps, for a couple of avatars of an intricate and maybe more nuanced future, the Smith kids are a matrix of seeming contradictions. They are both to the manor born, and born woke af. In conversation and on their media streams, they are intensely engaged, conscientious, and yet utterly removed—heavy in the issues on these streets, but from deep within their gated community. In person, at least during interviews, they are undeniably present, self-aware, but always seem, somehow, aloof. They have been hugely, internationally famous nearly their entire lives, and yet they remain, well, riddles.
And, more even than their Billboard hits, more than their blockbuster films, more than the brand ambassadorships and art projects, it is probably this curious projection, their utterly inscrutable public personae, that remain the most beguiling bit about them. On their own or in tandem, the two seem as unshakeable as Siddharthas—above it all, maybe, but somehow seemingly unaffected by the gossip on the ground, mundane concerns. And if they can sound a bit utopian in their imaginings, albeit somewhat surfer-dreamy in their syntactical meanderings, isn’t it, like, pretty cool that they want to change the world?
What does seem certain about this projection is that it is purposeful—wrapped in a mille-feuille of irony and self-consciousness, maybe, but not accidental. When, a few days before mugging for our cover, Jaden turned a random paparazzi ambush at a local mall into an impromptu photo shoot, he seemed to be mockingly, jokingly (or rather, deathly earnest, according to his expression) taking ownership of his public image, tagging the paps’ pics with his imprimatur. “You can’t steal a shot of me,” he seemed to be saying. “Your dispersal of my image, as well as its construction and creation, I’ll allow on my terms.” It was also the funniest/weirdest reappropriation of the celebrity-industrial complex in a long while.
A few days later, Jaden, who has starred in the 2010 remake of The Karate Kid, as well as The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) and After Earth (2013) with his pops, and more recently played Marcus “Dizzee” Kipling on Baz Luhrmann‘s The Get Down on Netflix, showed up onstage at Madison Square Garden to rap a bit with his friend Justin Bieber. That same month, for his 18th birthday, Jaden released a new track, “Labor V2.” Willow, who made her film debut in 2007, alongside dad in I Am Legend and went platinum with her first single, “Whip My Hair,” released the album Ardipithecus in 2015. If these two are any indication, maybe in the future everyone will be everything, even if only for a little while. As they tell their pal Pharrell, they’re only getting started.
PHARRELL WILLIAMS: So, what’s up, guys? What’s on your mind, Willow?
WILLOW SMITH: This morning actually was pretty intense because I was thinking about the world and my place in the world, things that I have made or want to make. I was thinking about all the things that I could do that I don’t do. But, you know, I was just thinking about the world and everything.
PHARRELL: Well, you guys are the future. There’s an older generation that feels like they know what the future should be. And then there’s your generation that may have an idea of what the future should be, but that could evolve. How old are you now?
Read more at Interview…