Thursday, December 23, 2010

VIDEO: Check Out Behind the Scenes Video of Willow Smith's 'London Sunday Times' Photoshoot + Pics & Interview!

Willow Smith and mom Jada showed up at Smash Box Studios in L.A. for an exclusive photo-shoot and interview for The London Sunday Times. The images were shot by Sheryl Nields and styled by Brea Stinson, while mom Jada provided guidance, direction, and support on the sidelines. More pics, behind-the-scenes video, and full article is in the trunk...

Check out the behind-the-scenes video:

Full The London Sunday Times article:

Photographs by Sheryl Nields. Styling Brea Stinson
The night before I fly to Los Angeles to meet 10-year-old Willow Smith, I watch the video for her single, Whip My Hair, with my daughter Dolly, who is a couple of years younger than her. We’re both mesmerised by Willow’s impression of a snarling ghetto girl with lashings of mean attitude and the dance moves actually to pull it off. There’s nothing childish about her. “I wish I could dance like her, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to,” Dolly says as I rub my eyes, replaying the video several times. Can this girl, with her curled lip, her bejewelled nails and her big hair, really be 10? As I left for the airport, Dolly, who hasn’t exactly led a sheltered life, was avoiding learning her spellings by rearranging her hair bands and choosing which pair of sparkly gloves to wear to school.
Willow Smith is a child star. She made her acting debut in 2007 in I Am Legend, and won a Young Artist award for her role beside Abigail Breslin in Kit Kittredge. She’s signed to Jay Z’s Roc Nation label and her first album comes out in March. The daughter of Will and Jada, Willow has grown up in the First Family of Hollywood, with the accessories — million-dollar mansions, private jets and so on — that go with that. So I can guess her authentic ghetto attitude wasn’t shaped by the same school of hard knocks that informed, say, Missy Elliot, or Mary J Blige.
The Smiths — such an unassuming name, such a big family — are loyal to their team and surround themselves with people they know and trust. The family has a full-time style director, Fawn, who has known Jada since she was a teenager, and who describes working with Willow as “like working with my daughter”. When I arrive at the Smashbox Studio, everyone is adazzle with excitement at the prospect of seeing Willow again. They hug and greet each other like old friends, like the extended family they really are. Fawn shepherds the team around. They trail boxes of glitter and bling, every little girl’s dressing-up dream, only this is LA, so the leopard-skin trainers are Jimmy Choo, the gold quilted backpack is Chanel and the mini riding jacket is Ralph Lauren. This is veeeery exciting, a stylist says, rearranging a rail of clothes. “Can you believe it?” the hair and make-up assistants, the dressers and stylists, ask each other again and again. Can you believe how young she is? How young she is to have come this far? How cute she is? Can you believe it?
Then the child star arrives with her mother and, because she’s so slight, she’s lifted up into her make-up chair. I am taken aback, not for the last time, because they’re all absolutely right Willow is very cute and very young. The pose of the ghetto bitch is gone, and in her place a tiny mouse of a girl sits playing with glittery lipstick. I wonder for a moment quite what all the fuss is about, but then she steps in front of the camera and, well, comes alive. She’s a professional performer, very focused. So focused, in fact, that I’m told I’ll have to wait until the end of the shoot to get my 15 minutes with Willow’s fame. And that I mustn’t talk about school. School is something Willow doesn’t like talking about, and they all want her to have gone away having loved the shoot. So don’t ask about school.
Luckily, Jada is there, direct, connected, maternal, milling among the team, walking Willow’s dog, Lil’ Homie, who has accompanied her on the shoot, or preparing a plate of food for her.
Mummy and Daddy Smith, though, have copped some flak, in between the ooohs and aaahhhs over their delicious children, for having taken the concept of hot-housing the showbiz gene and stepped it up a whole new gear. She’s accused of being the ultimate pushy showbiz mum, but I’m impressed by her warmth, her manners and her connection with Willow throughout the day.
“How ya feeling, Jada?” someone asks. “Oh, crazy,” she replies, fluffing her magnificent mane of ink-black hair. “Like I do every time she does something.”
Because I’ve been told not to talk about it, school is the first thing that comes into my head when Jada steps over to introduce herself. She doesn’t miss a beat. “Every day she’s learning something that’s not on a specific curriculum,” she replies carefully. Normally, she assures me, Willow’s tutor would be right by her side all the time, although how any 10-year-old can learn their times tables in between recording pop videos, I don’t know. But Jada assures me that both Willow and her brother, Jaden, who is an actor, are learning about life — the kind of life they will lead — all the time, and she has a point. “It’s all a learning experience. Being part of the family she’s from, and working in the industry she’s chosen, she needs some guidance. So I’m here to teach her how to look after herself later. I mean today is school, right?” Anyway, as a Smith, does Willow actually need to know her tables, to be able to spell?
We watch as Willow poses, dances and smiles at the camera. When she passes for yet another outfit change, Jada grabs her, and Willow shakes my hand and smiles again, a big bubble-gum smile that looks well practised. Any parent who can get their child to shake hands and make eye contact with a new adult will know it’s not an innate quality, but one that has to be learnt with repeated practice and hefty parental prompting.
I’m impressed, I tell Jada. How do you get her to obey the rules? Jada looks surprised. “Rules? We don’t have rules,” she replies. “We come up with agreements. Kids are little people, and we’re in life to guide them. Trying to rule someone is always an illusion, and it’s no different with children.” Jada and Willow don’t fight, but they have altercations, like when Willow made herself a Myspace page. “I’d told her not to, so I was so mad. I said, ‘What do you think I should do now?’ So Willow said, ‘Mom, take my computer away.’ And I said, ‘How long for?’ She said a month. So it’s negotiations. I’m not saying it’s always perfect. I have my bloops and my blunders. But I’m doing my best.” This all sounds like clever parenting, the kind of stuff any parent who has argued with the iron will of a young daughter will understand.
During the long shoot, Willow does four big outfit changes, transforming from ghetto girl to rock’n’roll kid, preppy punk to romantic princess. That’s a long day, a lot of pressure for a little girl, I say to Jada. It must be quite a thing, preventing Willow from getting exhausted, from crashing and burning before she’s even hit puberty. “Willow isn’t the breadwinner. Most times in this situation, a kid is supporting herself and an entire family,” Jada says, looking straight at me. “She’s not doing this to support a family, so she can do as much or as little as she wants to.When this shoot is finished, we’ll go straight home, then Willow can do exactly what she wants.”
And Willow is good. She’s so good. That Willow was born to be a star isn’t really in question. Fame is written into her DNA, because the family are not merely stars, but their own constellation. Willow has the showbiz gene in spades. She keeps that energy up in front of the camera all day. She looks like a teenager, not a 10-year-old. Either Jada or Will is always with the kids when they’re working, and even Jada’s mother is here today. I ask her if she sees Jada in Willow, who is now wearing the preppy punk look — a kilt and giant hair extensions, which she’s whipping with enthusiasm. “I think she’s a little more precocious than Jada was,” she says.
Precocious and talented, confident and bold in front of the camera, certainly, but, when I finally get my 15 minutes, Willow’s just a little girl sitting in a chair that’s too big for her, rifling through piles of glittery make-up. What do you like best about fashion, I ask. “Wearing it,” she replies, face a little blank. She likes hanging out with her friends the best, listening to Lady Gaga and sometimes doing baking. None of her friends minds about her success or is jealous, she says, because they’re all just friends. She gets her inspiration from her mum and dad. Macaroni cheese is her favourite food and, if she’s not working, she likes to play. What do you play, I ask.
“Hide-and-seek. I like playing hide-and-seek.” She’s a bit like a deflated balloon, like my daughter after a long day at school.
Her final change is a huge, fluffy red lace dress. For just a moment, though, Willow looks small in the big dress, and a little alone in front of the camera. As if sensing it, Jada walks over to her, cradling her daughter’s little face in her hands and kissing her, a tender moment, like any mother watching their daughter at a school ballet performance, perhaps.
Restored, Willow walks back out for her final shot. On the sound system, there’s a song playing very loud: “She’s so dangerous, she’s so dangerous, she’s a bad girl.” Everyone is clapping, because Willow is so, so cute. Someone shouts: “Work it, Willow! Isn’t this so much fun?”
I look around at the piles of clothes, the labels, the music, the glitter. I think of my daughter at home, how her little-girl heart would die with envy at the thought of Willow in that big fluffy dress.
And yet…
Something inside me wants to ruffle Willow’s hair, to set her free from hair and make-up to run around with her friends, play hide-and-seek and eat macaroni cheese. I’m not saying Jada isn’t doing a good job, because she’s obviously a great mother, and Willow is a sweet, well-brought-up kid. But she is just a kid. A lifetime in front of the camera is a tough prospect. Good luck, Willow.

No comments:

Post a Comment