Willow Smith & The Stripper Pole: Kids Will Be Kids—Even Will And Jada’s

I mean, I get Willow Smith rocking the curly, hot pink-laced powdered wig that her musical mentor, Nicki Minaj, gave her after the two worked on Willow’s song, “Fireball.” And I know Will and Jada’s baby girl, the daughter of one of the most recognized stars on the planet, can, on any day, find herself in places most adults with way less cash and access will never see in their lifetimes. But why—WHY?!—is Willow Smith posing on stripper poles?

You read that right: 11-year-old Willow was photographed on a stage, in what appears to be a bar, gripping a stripper pole, with her head thrown back in ecstasy. The picture, which was posted on her instagram account and her official Twitter page, was captioned, “Vegas chick.”

Of course, the picture has since been removed {Note: MyBrownBaby chose not to show the photo, which was captured by Necole Bitchie before it disappeared off instagram,} and I trust Will and Jada are somewhere putting the smackdown on Willow, the photographer, whoever was involved in taking their daughter to a Las Vegas strip club, and anyone else who had anything to do with this mess. But the fact still remains that Will and Jada, who’ve already come under some pretty intense scrutiny for allowing their daughter to shave her hair, hit the read carpet wearing provocative, not-very-kid-like clothing and talk to grown-ups with the kind of sass, impudence and tone children shouldn’t be using with adults, won’t be escaping harsh parental judgment over this particular episode.

I raise my hand and admit to being a champion of their parenting style; I’ve encouraged us as a community to fall back on questioning Will and Jada’s willingness to let Willow whip her hair and color outside the lines. Like, I know she’s in a Nikki Minaj video, and I know she’s wearing a big, gigantic wig and the whole side of her head is bald, and I know she’s wearing an outfit that looks a little bit like she’s been playing in a dominatrix closet and that her thigh-high black leather boots aren’t sold in the children’s section at Stride Rite. But fall back—Will and Jada got this.

This stripper pole thing, though? Scary. I mean, wasn’t it Chris Rock who joked that a father’s primary responsibility in raising daughters is to make sure she stays off the stripper pole? That if a man’s daughter wears clear heels to work, he’s failed as a father? Clearly, no one has to worry about Willow showing up for the day shift at Magic City, but seeing images like this does invite the perennial black people pronouncement that her parents aren’t being strict enough for our community’s tastes.

I will say this: looking at it from the perspective of a mom with little girls practically the same age, I can see how something like this can happen. I mean, just yesterday, I walked into my bathroom to find my Lila, 9, standing in the mirror in a pair of my stilettos and my sexy, shimmery, extremely low-cut New Year’s Eve party tank, talmbout how she needed to have more boobies so that the top could fit better. Five minutes later, she was in a long, flowing wig and one of my African wrap dresses with long, dolman sleeves, twirling like she was Diana Ross in a scene from Mahogany. I don’t have a problem with her shimmying in my dresses or rocking my wig or traipsing across my bedroom in the red showstoppers, but out of context, one might get a very different impression of my daughter and her parents if they were to see her playing dress up in a single photo on Twitter. Seriously, I shudder to think what kind of mother you’d think I was, or what kind of mother any of us would think you are if our young kids, with their lack of filters and the sense God gave a billy goat, had cell phones and unrestricted access to the Twitter.


That’s my way of saying, yeah, you’re right—seeing Willow Smith prancing around a stripper pole in Las Vegas? Not a good thing. But as parents, we all know that behind closed doors, our kids can be a bit, well, extra, and it’s a good thing the entire world doesn’t have access to it. Maybe Will and Jada can sit young Willow down, though, and explain to her that there are just some things that 11-year-olds, particularly the ones who spend an enormous amount of time in front of cameras, shouldn’t be doing. Hanging off a stripper pole in Vegas, taking a picture of it and posting it on Twitter, even in jest, is definitely one of them.

{Hat tip to Clutch for the story}


1. That New, New: Willow Smith, The Hair Whip, and Coloring Outside the Lines
2. Score Two In The Black Girl Battle Against Lazy Beauty Standards!
3. Angelina Jolie Put Synthetic Braids In Zahara’s Hair. And We Care Because… Why?

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. Amen! Amen! Amen! I so love your perspective on this and we truly need to fall back and not be so judgemental. Believe me, if someone was to photograph snippets of what goes on in my household…I don’t even want to go there!!! As celebrities, they are constantly being watched and, hopefully, Will and Jada are using this as a learning experience / teaching tool for Little Miss Willow.

  2. kinda cringed when she was on Oprah and said, “gurrrl!” I was like gurrrl! That is Oprah you’re talking to! After all my kids are perfect! NOT!

  3. Hmm. I love your perspective!

  4. I do not care for the Smiths’ parenting style at all, especially when it comes to Willow. Having seen her do about a dozen interviews I find her to be somewhat brazen and acting much too old for her age. I think it’s great that she is displaying her talent and is experiencing things that most children will never have the opportunity to, but she is still a child and should not be encourage to grow up faster than need be.

  5. You are so BALANCED is your assessment, and loving. Thank you for that. And I really, really hope Jada or Will get it—for Willow’s sake!

  6. Why does it always have to be a stripper pole? Why couldn’t the one she be on be referred to as a fitness pole? Think about it – we put negative thoughts on things that society has convinced us to be only associated with negativity or frown upon behaviors. Not every woman that spins on a pole is a stripper. I took a pole dancing class and the instructors 12 yr old daughter was there in the class. Why? Because the instructor was teaching the class for fitness reasons, I wasn’t training to be a stripper.

    Willow is the child of a celebrity couple. Their lives are very different from us “common folk” so NO ONE should be surprised about anything that anyone in the family does. She may be more mature than we know. Has anyone actually met her?

  7. Definitely very scary. It’s great to be open minded but one also has to be careful. Even if it’s not a “stripper pole” I’m concerned that this 11 year girl is being over-sexualized.

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