In support of their upcoming movie, After Earth which arrives in theaters this Friday (May 31), successful mogul Will Smith and his teenage son Jaden Smith covers the latest issue of New York Magazine. In their cover story, the two talked about family life, working together, wealth, being educated when it comes to money and much more. Please, don’t try to compare the Smiths to those Kardashians. The interviewer mentioned that the Kardashians have treated their fame as a family business and questioned whether the Smiths saw themselves as similar or different. Jaden didn’t really understand the question, so Will did exactly what a father should do and came to his son’s rescue. Below are some excerpts:
It’s been reported that you might be dating Kylie Jenner. The Kardashians have treated their fame as the family business. Do you guys see yourselves as similar or different? [Will, laughing, holds up his hand for Jaden not to speak.]
Jaden: I’m trying to understand.
Will: Don’t. You know, he’s never had to, to deal with those kinds of questions.
Well, forget the Kardashians … maybe you could just …
Will: [Mimicking] “So how do you think your life is similar or un-similar to people’s names in Calabasas?” For our family, the entire structure of our life, our home, our business relationships—the entire purpose is for everyone to be able to create in a way that makes them happy. Fame is almost an inconsequential by-product of what we’re really trying to accomplish. We are trying to put great things into the world, we’re trying to have fun, and we’re trying to become the greatest versions of ourselves in the process of doing things we love. So the idea of fame or exploitation or orchestrating the media is sometimes even less than desirable for us.
Do you think Jaden could have been a dentist?
Will: It may seem like we have pushed our kids into the business, but that is absolutely insane. I would never, ever, push somebody to have their face on a poster that’s going be everywhere in the world. He is making a choice from the informed. It’s less scary to me than if he wanted to be a dentist in that I couldn’t help with what he’d chosen. I have relationships with some of the biggest filmmakers and actors and producers on Earth. So I can be a huge help.
Willow chose singing and then un-chose it. She said, “Daddy, I want to go to school with my friends during the week, and I want to hang out with them on the weekends.” At the peak of “Whip My Hair,” she’s like, “Daddy, I’m done.” I was like, “Wow, wow, wow. No, baby, I got Annie [the upcoming movie remake, co-produced by Jay-Z], you know. It’ll be New York, you’ll be with Beyoncé. You can bring your friends.” And she said, “Daddy, I got a better idea. How about I just be 12?” At the end of the day, it has to be their choice.
In the past, Jada has described the family as transparent. Do you think that’s true?
Will: Let me see. Are we transparent?
Jaden: You can argue that we’re extremely un-transparent. Everybody knows where we live, but nobody really knows what our house looks like.
Will: That’s true.
Jaden: We kind of live in a fortress.
Will: I think for the most part we are transparent in the sense that there’s very few big family secrets. I think that if Jaden or Trey [Will’s son from his first marriage] or Willow were to write a book ten years from now, it will be very similar to what people think. And, the things about our family that are mysteries or seem strange, when they’re explained, it’ll be obvious. You know, the forum of media that we’re in can’t really handle the complexity of things that we say all the time.
Photos Credit: New York Magazine
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In the movie, Jaden, your character calls his dad “Sir.” Is that the dynamic with you guys?
Jaden: In real life, no. It’s like how it is right now.
How is it right now?
Jaden: It’s hard for me to explain because it’s so normal to me. It’s like asking, “So, Jaden, how do you breathe?” He’s, like, really just cool. He lets us have our freedom as long as we can control our freedom.
In After Earth, the father is a general who is injured and has to watch his son fight for his life. Was this a metaphor for what it’s like sending your kid into Hollywood?
Will: Absolutely. That’s what I wanted the metaphor of this movie to be. A father having to watch as his son makes mistakes in the world, and in an extreme place of life or death. It is the excruciating parental pain of having to let your kids go, and you just have to hope that the lessons you’ve instilled will kick in at the right time.
Will, what kind of relationship did you have with your father?
Will: You know, I grew up where you got the hospital corners on the beds. I grew up with old-school rules where you speak when you’re spoken to. There were hugely powerful ideas about discipline and spirituality.
You were baptized.
Will: Baptized. Went to a Catholic school. Lived in a Jewish neighborhood.
My mother worked on the school board, so she was very serious about education, and my grandmother was in the church. So there was a huge amount of discipline, and I’m trying to maintain some of the old ideals, minus the ownership. We don’t own our children, you know. They own themselves. Not to go too far into that, talking about slavery concepts and how the black community is carrying those …
Jaden: If we started going down that road, Mommy would, like, burst into this room.
In terms of mistakes, Will, early on in your career you had a period of years where most of your wages were garnished for not paying taxes. Have you educated Jaden about all the money he’s making?
Will: Yeah, you know, we met with Robert Kiyosaki, the author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and we’re trying to design a curriculum for children to understand even the basic connection between a bank and capitalism. I mean, I’m very serious with my kids about them comprehending the intricacies of global finance.
Is it hard to educate your kids to be responsible about money when they grew up with wealth?
Will: It’s funny. Willow and Trey went in completely the opposite direction. Like, Willow only shops at Target. Jaden is really the only one of my kids that has a little bit of a taste for, uh …
Jaden: I like Cartier.
Will: That’s a little new.
Jaden: The Cartier is new, but before that it was Louis [Vuitton].
Will: Yes, he has a little bit of a taste. But he connects his responsibility to working and creating to the fun that he enjoys with the finer things.
So, Jaden, you like spending the money you earn?
Jaden: Well, when you say it like that, not really. There was a time in my life when I’d go to Cartier, like, every weekend for like a month. But, now I’m …
What would you buy?
Jaden: I have four rings I’m not wearing today. I haven’t bought anything that expensive in a really long time. The only thing I buy is, like, food and skateboards.
Will: Once he started approving his own bank statements and credit cards and all, yeah, he changed.