Willow Smith tells Jada Pinkett Smith she was cutting herself after finding fame

Elise Solé

Willow Smith has revealed that she cut herself after shooting to fame with the release of her song “Whip My Hair.”

The 17-year-old daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith shared her experience on Monday’s episode of her mother’s Facebook Watch series “Red Table Talk,” which she co-hosts with her grandmother Adrienne Banfield-Jones. During the episode, titled “Surviving Loss,” in which Pinkett Smith learns that a friend with brain cancer has died, she asks her daughter to describe her biggest loss.

Willow pointed to the moment where she became famous with her 2010 hit song, “Whip My Hair.”

“I would have to say, I feel like I lost my sanity at one point,” she said. “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?’”

Willow Smith revealed that she engaged in cutting behavior at the height of her “Whip My Hair” success. (Photo: Getty Images)


Surviving Loss

This week around the Red Table, Jada Pinkett Smith reveals the impact of the tragic death of her longtime best friend, Tupac Shakur. While Willow Smith shares a painful secret for the first time. Follow Red Table Talk for episodes and updates, only on Facebook Watch.

Posted by Red Table Talk on Monday, May 14, 2018

Willow continued, “After the tour and the promotion and all of that, they wanted me to finish my album. And I was like, ‘No, I’m not gonna do that.’ And 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, like, cutting myself.”

Pinkett Smith replied, stunned, “What? When were you cutting yourself? I didn’t see that part. Cutting yourself where?”

“On my wrist,” said Willow. “I mean, you can’t even see it but there’s still a little something there. But like, totally lost my sanity for a moment there. I never talk about it because it was such a short weird point in my life. But you have to pull yourself out of it.”

The teen added that neither her brother Jaden Smith, 19, nor her friends, with the exception of one, knew she was cutting. “I never talked about it because it was such a short, weird point in my life.”

Willow Smith has revealed that she cut herself when she shot to fame as a tween with her song “Whip My Hair.” (Photo: Getty Images)

When her mom asked why she was cutting herself, Willow answered, “I was so out of it, you know. I honestly felt like I was experiencing so much emotional pain but my physical circumstances weren’t reflecting that.” She added that physical pain was a manifestation of her feelings “instead of a ghost in your mind” and that one night she realized her actions were “psychotic” and stopped the behavior.

Pinkett Smith and Banfield-Jones said they never saw the signs that Willow was harming herself. 

Willow didn’t indicate whether or not she wanted to die by suicide or if she was engaging in “nonsuicidal self-injury,” the latter of which can start among kids between the ages of 12 and 14, according to a study published in the journal Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health.

“Many people who cut themselves without the intention of suicide experience a release or stress relief from the behavior,” Julie Cerel, president of the nonprofit American Association of Suicidology, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It can be a way to convey emotional pain or undercut emotional pain with a strong physical sensation.”

According to a theory by Thomas Joiner, a leading suicide expert and psychology professor at Florida State University, three factors must be present for someone who is cutting to have suicidal intent: a lack of belonging, the perception that that person is a burden to others, and an emotional stoicism that makes that person feel nonchalant about either living or dying. 

Cerel says that young celebrities may feel as though they lack a relatable peer group or face impossible pressures due to the demands of fame and that nonsuicidal self-injury can be a risk factor for suicide.

It’s uncommon that people who are cutting themselves simply stop upon a realization, as in the case of Willow, says Cerel. “The behavior is typically treated by examining the triggers and gains of the cutting and teaching a person how to regulate their emotions with safe stress-relief tactics.”

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