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Willow Smith has been called many things: too grown, weird, entitled, strange. But while she’s been derided in the press, and by folks across social media, for daring to be different, the 14-year-old singer seems completely unbothered by the criticism.

“My parents always said, ‘If you don’t carve your own path, someone’s going to carve it for you,” the teen explained in a recent interview with I-D. “And that’s not fun.”

Willow’s parents, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Will Smith, have been accused of being neglectful and letting their children run wild, but from watching the Smith clan on TV, and in interviews, Will and Jada seem to be doing something right.

Whether you agree with the Smith kids’ esoteric musings on life or not, there’s no escaping the fact the teens are thoughtful, creative, and articulate.  Still, some folks seem to be rooting for the Smith kids’ swift and public demise, but they have yet to be caught up in any drunken or drug-fueled scandals–or anything serious at all, really.

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Let’s be real. Being a Black girl or woman in America can be a challenge. As Tami Winfrey Harris writes in The Sisters Are Alright, “the more Americans are exposed to stereotypes about Black women in the media, pop culture, and other places, the more these stereotypes are subconsciously triggered where real Black women are concerned.” Harris explains in her book, some “Black women angle so hard against it that they break their backs.”

Willow, and other carefree Black girls, don’t seem to have this problem.

Unlike many sisters, carefree Black women and girls aren’t constrained to the stifling “black box” that dictates how “real” Black women should and shouldn’t act. They aren’t bound by stereotypes that constrain what being a Black woman means, but instead, make their own way in the world—haters be damned.

Willow credits her parents for giving her the gift of freedom—something so many Black girls need, but rarely enjoy.

“If it wasn’t for my parents, I wouldn’t have learned that becoming still and traveling within is the only thing that really matters,” she explained.

“The only thing that I ever want to do is to be on the next level because if you’re not, then either you’re staying in the same place you’ve always been or you’re following somebody else,” she told I-D. “I don’t care what anybody says, following everybody else or staying in the same place and not venturing out to try other things is not fun,”

Self-reflection, self-awareness, and the ability to govern oneself no matter what other people think are the hallmarks of carefree Black women and girls. And while daring to be an individual and going against the grain often means opening yourself up to be criticized, the sense of freedom that comes from being your own woman is totally worth it.

Photos via I-D

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