Every mother is genetically programmed to protect their young, no matter what the threat is. It is this inherent sense of duty that causes every mother to fear the day that their child experiences pain, be it emotional or physical.
Why? Because even if not directly involved, a mother will always feel guilty for their offspring’s suffering – a feeling which only intensifies if they could have done something to prevent it.
So, every mother can relate to Jada Pinkett Smith when she learned that her teen daughter had been hiding a secret about self-harm for years.
The truth was revealed during an episode of Smith’s Facebook Watch talk show series, Red Table Talks. The episode, which aired on Monday, featured Smith’s mother, Adrienne Banfield-Jones, and her 17-year-old daughter, Willow.
Listen as she talks openly about her struggle with self-harm…
Together the three generations discussed ‘Surviving Loss’ in their own individual way, prompting a surprise admission from teenage Willow.
For Smith, her biggest loss came in the form of her close friend, rapper Tupac Shakur, who was fatally shot in 1996. “That was a huge loss in my life,” the Smith family matriarch explains.
“He was one of those people that I expected to be here. My upset is more anger, because I feel that he left me and I know that’s not true and it’s a very selfish way to think about it, but I really did believe that he was going to be here for the long run. When I think about it, I still get really mad, I get mad at God, I get mat at him, I get mad at everybody.”
As a teenager, Willow has luckily been free from experiencing any great loss in her life. However, she did admit to feeling like she’d lost herself during her rise to fame in 2010 – when Willow was just nine-years-old.
“I honestly feel like I lost my sanity at one point,” she explains. “It was after that whole ‘Whip My Hair’ thing and I had just stopped doing singing lessons and I was kind of just in this gray area of, ‘Who am I? Do I have a purpose? Is there anything I can do besides this?’.”
‘Whip My Hair’ was Willow’s first single which, thanks to the help of her famous family, saw great success. The catchy track went platinum in the US, prompting Smith to announce that she’d be releasing an album – but that album never materialized.
“After the tour, the promotion and all that, they wanted me to finish my album and I was like, I’m not going to do that,” says Willow, acknowledging her uncompleted album for the first time.
Around this time, Willow famously shaved all of her hair off, a clear distress signal that displayed her desire to disassociate herself from her ‘Whip My Hair’ fame.
Later, in an interview as part of Jay-Z’s ‘Footnotes of Adnis’ video, Will Smith stated that this was the moment he realized that he’d pushed his daughter too far.
“We came downstairs and she had shaved her head bald. She shaved her head bald in the middle of her ‘Whip My Hair’ tour. I was like, ‘Oh, s–t’,” the Fresh Prince of Bel Air icon remembers. “I’m looking at that girl and I’m like, ‘Got it. I understand. You will not have this trouble out of me ever again. Let’s go, baby. We can go’.”
Up until now, Willow herself has never acknowledged that turbulent moment in her young life. Clearly feeling comfortable, the California-born teen candidly explained to her mother how that affected her mental health.
“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,” she explains, whilst her mother’s face turns to one of horror.
“What? Really? I didn’t see that part. Cutting myself where?” asks a concerned Jada.
“On my wrist. You can’t see it. I totally lost my sanity there,” Willow responds, almost matter-of-factly.
“I never talk about it because it was such a short, weird point in my life,” she said. “I honestly felt like I was experiencing so much emotional pain, but my physical circumstances weren’t reflecting that. One night I was like, this is actually psychotic and after that I just stopped.”
Clearly stunned by this revelation, Jada is momentarily speechless before replying: “That’s good to freakin’ know, Willow, I had no idea. I never saw any signs of that.”
The honest and open discussion has received a lot of support online from fans of the series. Despite having only been uploaded 18 hours ago, the episode has already been viewed more than four million times.
Willow’s story reduced many fans to tears, but there is no doubt that nobody felt more pain than Jada.
Thankfully that episode in her life is over and now she has her own path to forge in the industry if she wishes to. We wish her all the best!