Fresh Prince of Hollywood: The fabled life of Jaden Smith
“Don’t ever let someone tell you, you can’t do something” — that’s Will Smith’s dialogue from the 2006 movie, The Pursuit of Happyness, as he speaks to his on-screen son, Christopher Jr, played by his real-life son, Jaden Smith.
Over a decade later, looking at the range of projects that Jaden has been involved in, even before he steps out of his adolescent years, that piece of advice from his father seems to be more relevant for the star kid than ever before.
Jaden has certainly grown beyond the lovable Christopher, and the feisty Karate Kid, having chosen a path where he assumes total accountability for the decisions he takes. Perhaps that’s why he remained unperturbed when he received mixed reviews for showing up wearing a skirt at a Louis Vuitton show, last year. Jaden knows what he’s doing and believes he’s doing the right thing.
His career choices too are as intriguing as his experimental fashion sense. Unlike his father, who started out as a musician (as the rapper Fresh Prince) before making it to the movies, Jaden started in front of the camera, before setting out to make music. He’s currently promoting his debut album that will be launched next week, while also making it to lists of high-profile influential teens.
All of 19 years in age, Jaden has developed a mature vision for himself, and he’s intent on changing the way we eat, dress and interact with nature. Ahead of Children’s Day, we got Jaden over the phone to speak about how he’s looking to shape the future in his own unique way.
Yes, and Syre thing!
Jaden’s set to take his biggest leap yet in his music career by releasing his debut EP — Syre: A Beautiful Confusion. Using his social media following to good effect — he has over six million followers on Instagram alone, the star kid is going all out to promote the album, releasing a series of first-look videos before the launch. Not to forget, breaking up the album cover into multiple Instagram thumbnails and posting it on his page as a giant collage of him sitting against a magenta sky — possibly revealing that he’s serious about using social media for professional reasons.
“The songs in the album are all about young love and livelihood,” says Jaden. The theme is evident from the lyrics of the album’s first single, Fallen, an atmospheric fast-paced rap track that was released last December, and garnered positive reviews from industry bigwigs like Kid Cudi, one of the artistes whom Jaden looks up to. That was followed by a series of singles, which he dropped consistently all year, including the latest Batman, where he dons an all-white superhero costume in a trippy hip-hop video.
“What I really want to spread through the songs in the album is the idea of opportunities, to the youth and people in general. You know, you can be anything in this world if you’re looking up to your own community,” says Jaden. This train of thought seems to have also inspired his 17-year-old younger sister Willow Smith as well, who followed up her first album with a second, The 1st, which released last month. As for an excited Jaden, he hopes his fans in India will love Syre too.
The skate bait
The Pursuit... may have been Jaden’s first proper movie role, but Karate Kid remains his breakthrough film. Reminiscing fond moments from the sets of the movie, where he starred alongside martial arts legend Jackie Chan, Jaden reveals, “The best part about shooting was waking up every day and heading straight to work out, to get ready for the day. It was such a blessing, and I really like looking back at those moments.”
Jaden’s last outing on the big screen, however, the sci-fi movie After Earth, which also stars his father, is one that many viewers would like to forget. But that was four years ago. Currently, he’s putting his skateboarding skills to good use as well, while shooting for an upcoming untitled movie by Crystal Moselle (known for the documentary series Wolfpack). Meanwhile, the Senior Smith, Will’s new project, the Netflix movie Bright, is primed for a highly-anticipated release. All in all, that’s a very busy Smith family!
Apart from Jaden, Crystal has cast a team of real-life women skaters in the movie, with Elizabeth Rodriguez (from Orange is the New Black). “I would be skating on the streets of New York, and it is not easy!” remarks Jaden, who’s also shooting for a movie called Life in a Year, where he’s cast opposite 24-year-old model-turned-actor Cara Delevingne, who played the Enchantress in Suicide Squad, alongside Will Smith.
Saving the world?
Jaden may not be Batman in real life, but he’s doing every bit he can to better the environment. Much before the fame, and away from the glitz and glam, he always wanted to take up environmental causes. That led him to launch the eco-friendly water company Just Water, to manufacture bottles out of natural raw materials such as sugarcane, while sourcing spring water from Glens Falls, New York. He was also in the news recently for collaborating with fast food chain Umami Burger and Impossible Foods, to create a trio of unique vegetarian burgers, explicitly to provide a measure of relief for hurricane victims in the US.
Initiatives like this made him an ideal choice as an emcee at the Environmental Association Awards earlier this September. “There are a lot of people I look up to and like to study. I especially love Elon Musk (founder, SpaceX). He’s an amazing and awesome person. There’s also Al Gore (former US President and environmentalist), whom I absolutely love for being able to engage and open up conversations about the environment wherever he goes,” says Jaden.
Meanwhile, as gender-fluid sensibilities rock fashion shows across the world, it only seems fair to expect stars like Jaden to broaden their playing field. We learn that Jaden is contemplating coming to India very soon, in an attempt to widen the cross-cultural spectrum in his designs, which are distributed under his multi-purpose collective, MSFTSRep.
That apart, he’s constantly innovating to make his clothes sustainable. “Sustainability in fashion is the next big thing, which I’ve been working on. I think it will be great if people could recycle their old clothes. That said, I’d love to bring my apparel to India. I have been studying the fashion scene in the country very hard and I’d love to talk to the kids there, and bring them clothes too,” he promises.
Until then, his eccentric fashion statements might well continue to raise eyebrows — be it while shopping with girlfriend Odessa Adlon or attending high-profile events; for one, it’s hard to forget the dreadlocks that he sported at this year’s Met Gala. But will the inevitable attention unsettle Jaden in the long run? We’re quite certain, it will not.
Syre: A Beautiful Confusion releases on November 17.
The Karate Kid airs on Sony PIX on November 12, 2.30 pm, as a part of the Children’s Day PIXathon.