Are Will and Jada Pimping the Mini-Mes?

How stupid unobservant am I? (Rhetorical question. Don’t answer that.) Um, yeah, so I just (like, just this minute while writing this piece) figured out that Jaden and Willow smith’s given names are tributes to their parents. Will/Willow. Jaden/Jada.


Okay. I know. It’s pretty damn obvious. But, whatever. I feel a wee bit smarter now that I figured that out.


(Anyone out there who didn’t get the Smith’s naming strategy until just now, please do leave a comment admitting it–it’ll help soothe my bruised ego.)

Anywaaaay, I said all that to introduce the fact that Jaden and Willow were both nominated for this year’s NAACP Image Awards–Jaden, for his starring role in the remake of The Karate Kid, and Willow for her hit single, Whip My Hair.

For these two cuties to have been raised by “Hollywood” parents with a combined net worth somewhere in the quarter of a billion dollar range, they seem relatively grounded and down-to-earth. (Though I do think Willow has the potential to get full of herself if her mama doesn’t rein in her little ego right quick.) Love you, Willow…but I’m just sayin’.

Jada and Will have gotten quite a bit of Internet flack recently for supposedly “pimping” their kids, and “depriving them of their childhoods,” but I don’t see any evidence of that here at all. These little Smiths are truly talented, and they seem to really love what they’re doing. And, why wouldn’t they? Though they do have to work hard and put in long hours to achieve the success they’ve enjoyed so far, they also have that huge and powerful SMITH MACHINE behind them, which has to make the whole experience that much sweeter.

Though they barely have 20 years on earth between them, both Smith kids seem to “get it” that they are privileged to have the parents they do, and they understand that most of the world doesn’t have they advantages they were born with. Their parents have done an excellent job of instilling this in them from a young age–not just by setting an example of what philanthropy and concern for community look like in action, but also by encouraging their children to become actively involved in charitable causes themselves.

Jaden and Willow have lent their names, images and time to Project Zambi, which supports children orphaned by AIDS in Africa,and Buy Life which provides medicine, food and shelter to millions of people affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India.

If you’re wondering what the criteria for winning an NAACP Image Award are, read on:

1. Fair, Accurate, and Inclusive Representations Rather than portraying people of color in broad stereotypes, the project deals with the characters or themes in a fair, accurate, and multi-dimensional manner. Inclusive means that a broad spectrum of people of color is represented. This includes economic, geographic, and political diversity, as well as seniors, differently abled, youth, families, etc.
2. Boldness and Originality The project breaks new ground by exploring subject matter relevant to people of color in a way not traditionally explored, and handles the content in a fresh and original manner. Is this project “cutting-edge?”
3. Impact The project impacts society in a significant way. Does this project dramatically increase the cultural dialogue about issues that pertain to people of color? Or, does this project reach an idea that is not regularly exposed with regard to images and issues pertaining to people of color?
4. Overall Quality The overall quality of the project should be considered. A project which is of high quality production value adds impact, significance, and weight to the images and issues portrayed.

If my little daughter wanted to put a poster of either or both of these kids up on her bedroom wall, I would allow it. I think they stand for something positive, and so far their images are definitely uplifting and admirable.

I hope they both win.


4 thoughts on “Are Will and Jada Pimping the Mini-Mes?

  1. So … in many ways I agree with you. Good kids, talented, positive projects, what appears on the outside to be good parenting. Here’s the larger issue that concerns me and I feel that the Pinkett-Smith kids may play into the dynamic. Our culture seems to be shortening childhoods. Kids are trying to be grown faster, they are more sassy earlier and earlier, they dress more precociously, speak more ironically and cynically. I think part of this is due to images and shows and songs and magazines they are constantly bombarded with. Willow was 9 years old (or thereabouts) when her song came out. She seemed awfully sophisticated and savvy in that video. I’m not sure it was age appropriate, even though it was in no way sexual or suggestive. I think the culture-wide dynamic of continuing to chip away at our children’s childhoods, and their innocence and naivete will have dramatic repercussions for us as a society. I think it already does. That said, I love these 2 as well and wish them the best. They are talented and lovely and positive. Would I let my kids see their work? No.

    1. I recently attended a holiday pageant at my granddaughter’s preschool which included performances by all of the children (ages 18 months to 7 years). Most of the kids were proud and happy to display their budding theatrical skills (my granddaughter was awesome 😉 ) but there were toddlers onstage actually crying from the pressure of being viewed by so many people. The audience laughed and cooed at the struggling ones, but not one parent or teacher came to the rescue of those traumatized kids. To the contrary–the children were prodded to entertain us, and I must say, it was all pretty damn cute. We were waaaaay entertained.

      It is an integral aspect of American culture to immerse (pressure?) children into dance and performance from toddlerhood. We dress them in tutus and sequins, tap shoes and top hats, and then applaud with glee when they perform for our family and friends. (How many YouTube and Facebook video uploads are of babies and toddlers singing, dancing and acting?)

      Willow and Jaden are doing exactly what the rest of their American peers are doing – they just have a much bigger audience (not to mention greater-than-average talent and parents with bigger pockets)

      I didn’t see Karate Kid, so I can’t speak on what messages it sends to kids, but I loved Jaden in Pursuit of Happyness, and I would be proud of my son if he did that. When my little one is old enough to understand and discuss the movie, we will definitely watch it together. She has already seen Whip My Hair, and doesn’t care about it at all. When she’s old enough to talk about it, we’ll watch it together and decipher the messages in it together — otherwise her peers will do it for me, and I don’t trust them to get it right.

      Of course we must practice moderation and wisdom when it comes to deciding how much of modern “entertainment” our kids can handle, but banning it outright can backfire. Often the very images we seek to protect our children from become the ones they develop the greatest appetite for.

      When my now grown daughters were little I refused to have cable in my home because I didn’t want them bombarded with the materialistic, sexual and violent imagery and influences. To some extent, that worked when they were very young, but as they got older (school-aged) it made them THIRSTIER than the average kid to watch BET, MTV and VH1 and they were pretty slick about finding ways to make that happen outside of our home. I can’t know if there is a direct correlation, but two of my now grown girls are aspiring model/actors who have appeared in (no, say it ain’t so) music videos! (So much for “protecting” your kids from what ails society)

      I’m not saying that, in retrospect, I should have given them unlimited access to cable, I’m saying I should have navigated the imagery with them while their minds were impressionable.

      In the sense that media exposure tends to minimize humility and amplify ego, I agree with your assessment that the Smith kids’ time in the limelight will chip away at their childhood. (I mentioned in the piece that Willow does seem like she could step over the line into diva-ness without some parental intervention. But, I can already see that diva thing in my 3-year-old granddaughter, and she isn’t signed to JayZ’s record label.

      I don’t think these two children are any sassier or more precocious than the average kids next door in any community. (Actually, they seem to be more respectful, more modest and less obnoxious than many of the kids I’ve seen interacting with their parents in public) I love that they exude confidence and I love that they are using their talents to convey a message of non-conformity to the “norm.” Young children are so at-risk of demeaning their own uniqueness and conforming to esteem-killing ideas about what it means to be cool. I like that Willow and Jaden tell kids that being your unique self is the coolest.

What do you think?

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