I returned from lunch and saw that Kristen at Dear Black Woman, posted the music video to Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair.” Ya’ll, it’s delightful. I’ve been into her look for a while and am happy that she’s making music. We can search for nefarious doings involving her family’s alleged relationship to the Hubbard cult, but I don’t have any problems with the Smiths. They seem like nice famous people who are trying to maintain their careers while raising their children and encouraging them into creative endeavors without buying them fame or foisting it upon them. Here’s what I like about the song and the clip.
1. The song’s catchy.
2. The video takes place in a school. Willow turns ten this month, so it’s where she and many in their peer group spend their time.
3. The school isn’t depicted as a sex dungeon or a sweaty club. Put it differently, I’m glad Willow isn’t hyper-sexualized. This seems like good parenting and image control, something the fathers of Jessica Simpson and Miley Cyrus might want to have worked on. Kudos to director Anthony Mandler, who is best known for his work with Rihanna, for being sensitive to this as well.
4. Her hair makes the environment change colors. How cool is that?
5. Importantly, her surroundings are white before she whips her hair around. As her hair is braided into long cornrows or styled in puffs for the video, I have to read race into this. The video and song are obvious celebrations of hair, but not a white lady’s sleek ponytail or wavy tresses. I could potentially read it as a reclamation of the whip from its treacherous Antebellum context. Regardless, bringing color into the setting is a charged act. It’s no coincidence that people are pairing this song with Sesame Street’s “I Love My Hair” segment. Here’s the original, which Snarky’s Machine clued me into.
And here’s a mash-up.
6. Whipping hair is something I always associate with headbangers. Even if video vixens, Beyoncé, and that regrettable episode of Glee make it acceptable, the subjects of Heavy Metal Parking Lot still come to mind. But Willow’s actions make me think of her mom Jada, who fronted metal band Wicked Wisdom. Not a lot of women of color are associated with metal, which makes Laina Dawes writing on the subject exceptional before one even takes the quality of her work into account. Thus the video and clip also destabilize how we relate women and girls of color to genre.
7. If items #5 and #6 sound heavy, they don’t play out that way in the video. This looks like such a fun shoot.
8. Can more videos please have babies break-dancing?
Good on you, Willow!