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Will Smith makes honest confession about daughter Willow's 'mutiny' after he pushed child stardom

The Fresh Prince star shares Willow and son Jaden with wife Jada Pinkett Smith


will smith and daughter willow smith© Frazer Harrison,Getty Images
Ahad Sanwari
Ahad Sanwari - New York
Senior WriterNew York
August 3, 2023
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On the season finale of Kevin Hart's Hart to Heart, guest Will Smith got real about entering show business and charting that same career for his kids.

The Oscar-winning actor, 54, opened up about why he considered 2010 in particular to be a banner year for him as a parent, sharing his excitement over seeing children Willow and Jaden, now 23 and 25, hit it big with their respective career choices.

"2010 was like the greatest year as an artist, as a parent," he told the Peacock show's host and comedian. "Karate Kid [starring Jaden] came out in June, 'Whip My Hair' [Willow's single] came out in October. I'm building this dream of a family I've had in my mind. 

VIDEO: Will Smith shares proud video of daughter Willow performing at Coachella

"'I'm going to do it better than my father did it.' We've talked about it, my father was abusive. I told myself I would never have that kind of energy with my family and I had a dream, an idea of a family I was building. Pretty much 2010 to 2012 I had achieved everything I had ever dreamed."

Willow, in particular, broke into the mainstream with her debut single at the age of nine, instantly becoming a viral sensation, receiving a Platinum certification in the States and charting at number 11, her highest to date.

MORE: Will Smith in tears over daughter Willow's Coachella appearance – and so is her brother Jaden

However, Will admitted that the push for them to succeed in the way he and their mom Jada Pinkett Smith had proved to be too much pressure for their household.

Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith, and Will Smith attend the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 27, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California© Getty Images
Will reflected on pushing his daughter Willow into stardom as a child

"Nobody in my family was happy," he confessed. "No one wanted to be in a platoon. Willow was the first one to begin the mutiny and it was my first realization that success and money don't mean happiness. 

MORE: Will Smith reunites with children Willow, Jaden, and Trey in video from special day out

"Up until that point, I really believed that you could succeed your way – to a house and a family – and you could win your way to happiness."

Willow Smith and Jaden Smith at the Louis Vuitton Spring 2024 Menswear Collection Runway Show on in Paris, France© Getty Images
Willow and Jaden both broke into the mainstream in 2010

The negative reactions he received from his family forced him to confront their feelings and his own notions of fatherhood. "Material circumstances do not equal happiness and, in a lot of cases, they can be the reason you're not happy."

MORE: Peek inside Willow Smith's $3 million Malibu mansion

He continued: "You can have so much stuff that it makes you miserable. That was my first pull-back and I was like, 'OK, what am I missing?'"

Will Smith poses with kids Jaden, Willow, and Trey Smith in a photo shared on Instagram© Instagram
"No one wanted to be in a platoon. Willow was the first one to begin the mutiny and it was my first realization that success and money don't mean happiness."

Back in 2021, while speaking at the New York City event Will Smith: An Evening of Stories with Friends, he specifically recalled a moment at the time with a young Willow that opened his eyes.

MORE: Willow Smith supported by famous family in new head-turning photos after dad Will Smith's tearful tribute

After describing a tense exchange when she got offstage while on tour and was told by her dad to keep performing, he described how the nine-year-old had shown up for breakfast one morning with her head shaved.

trey smith willow smith jaden smith will smith jada pinkett smith premiere emancipation 2022© Getty Images
Will and Jada share Willow and Jaden, and he is a father to son Trey from his first marriage

"It was terrifying," Will said of the moment. "I felt like I had been texting looking at my phone and stepped out into the street in front of a bus and Willow snatched me back. 

Willow Smitharrives at the Apple Original Films' "Emancipation"  Los Angeles Premiere  at Regency Village Theatre on November 30, 2022 in Los Angeles, California© Getty Images
Willow has recently been thriving as a rock and punk singer

"As strange as it sounds, in that moment I discovered feelings," the Men in Black actor said. "I had to really think about the question she was asking me. The question she was really asking was 'Daddy, does it matter to you how I feel?' It was so explosive in my mind. That was like a deep, existential question. My parenting style changed in that moment."

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