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Willow Smith Recalls Being Bullied for Listening to My Chemical Romance and Paramore

"There's a lot of, 'Hey, you're Black. You're not supposed to listen to that.'"

willow smith bullied paramore my chemical romance
Willow Smith (photo by Dana Trippe), Paramore (photo by Ben Kaye), and My Chemical Romance (photo by Pooneh Ghana)
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    Willow Smith is now praised for her eclectic influences and diverse musical palette, but even the daughter of famous actors wasn’t free from being bullied while growing up and listening to bands like My Chemical Romance and Paramore. In a new V Magazine interview, she commiserated with former frontwoman of the metal band Straight Line Stitch, Alexis White, about the challenges of being a Black woman in the rock scene.

    After thanking White for being an example of a Black woman whom she could aspire to be, Smith opened up about receiving pushback for her music tastes while growing up. “Being a Black woman in the metal crowd is very, very different on top of the pressures that the music industry puts on you,” she said. “Now, it’s like an added pressure of the metal culture, the metal world, and just rock in general. I used to get bullied in school for listening to Paramore and My Chemical Romance.”

    White chimed in, “Yeah, there’s a lot of, ‘Hey, you’re Black. You’re not supposed to listen to that.'” Smith continued, “Exactly! And it’s not okay. Just through the music that I’m putting out right now and the representation that I can bring to the mix, I just hope that the Black girls who are listening to my music and listening to this album see that there’s more of us out there. It’s a real thing, you’re not alone. You’re not the only Black girl who wishes she could flip her hair to the side, and wear black eyeliner, you know what I mean?”

    In the current day. Willow is not alone amongst Black musicians when she cites her love of bands like My Chemical Romance and Paramore. Late emo rappers Juice WRLD and XXXTentacion openly drew influence from pop punk songs, while Lil Uzi Vert has name-checked Paramore’s Hayley Williams as his biggest songwriting inspiration.

    For her newest material, Willow is taking a more direct approach. She teamed up with blink-182 drummer Travis Barker for her most recent single, “transparent soul”, and has linked up with Avril Lavigne as well.

    “I’m so excited that I’m going to be having a song on the album with Avril Lavigne,” Willow told White. “She is so iconic. From [ages] 13 to 16, she was my idol. It’s really nice to be able to have a quintessential pop-punk record with the pop-punk queen.”

    Elsewhere in the interview, Willow also opened up about her mother, Jada Pinkett Smith, receiving death threats while performing with her own metal band, Wicked Wisdom.

    “She actually got lots of death threats. It would be mostly through letters, though. When she was on stage, people would say violent things and throw shit at her,” Willow recalled. “Luckily, Jaden and I never got caught in any physical crossfire. I used to get sneaked into her shows on the security’s shoulders, put my hands up, and just rock out. I never saw anything violent be done to her, it was a lot of verbal harassment.”

    Read the full interview at V Magazine.

    Editor’s Note: Check out Heavy Consequence’s recurring feature Heavy Culture featuring interviews with artists of different cultural backgrounds in heavy music as they offer their perspectives on race, society, and more as it intersects with and affects their music.

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