The Smith children grew up in a household firmly committed to close-knit involvement in the family "business." From a young age, Willow watched her parents on set, traveled with them to work on location, and saw firsthand just what goes into a Hollywood production.
The Family Business
Smith's second foray into the film business came in 2008 when she played the supporting role of Countee in the family-friendly Kitt Kittredge: An American Girl. The G-rated movie was produced in part by Julia Roberts and based on the Kitt Kittredge stories by Valerie Tripp. Set in the United States during the Great Depression, the story follows a young girl (played by Abigail Breslin) who sets out to be an investigative reporter and ends up becoming a local hero. Smith, along with the rest of the cast, won a Young Artist Award for Best Performance in a Feature Film.
In 2008-09, Smith also tried her hand at voice acting in a pair of animated films, playing Baby Gloria in Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa and Abby in Merry Madagascar.
As it turns out, Smith's flair for acting isn't the only thing young star inherited from her parents. Following in their philanthropic footsteps, in 2009 Willow and her brother Jaden became Youth Ambassadors of Hasbro's Project
Turning back to her work before the camera,
Child Pop StarSmith made a jump to TV when she guest-starred in the Nickelodeon series True Jackson, VP. Though it only was a one-time appearance, Smith loved the quick-fire nature of the TV set and found it easy to "work and have fun at the same time." Always the life of the party on set, her True Jackson cast mates quickly discovered her uncanny ability to mimic her dad, "He's giving me advice like 'Willow, stay in the moment! You have this, you got it down. Just stay in the moment. OK, now go out there and kill it.'"
Smith officially joined the Roc Nation family in September 2010, signed by hip-hop legend Jay-Z, who first heard the smash single without knowing her age or her parentage. Already enthusiastic about her music, when Jay-Z met Smith in person, it sealed the deal. "She walked in and the first thing she said was, 'I'm really nervous,' and I thought, 'That's maturity to explain exactly how she was feeling when she walked right into the room.' I knew right then she was a star," Jay-Z said.
Barely a preteen at the wise old age of ten, Smith has already figured out a few key life philosophies. When asked about the meaning of "Whip My Hair," she says, "It means just be an individual. Like, you can't be afraid to be yourself, you have to be yourself, and you can't let anyone tell you that that's wrong."