ethereal reality: introspection inspired by willow smith

Activists of color contribute to political activism through mediums of art such as music, poetry, drawing, writing, photography, and film. Activists create art to express themselves, to self-heal, to feel a part of a community, and to force someone outside of their community to consider things from a new perspective.   Art is engaging and requires self-reflection. It can relieve anxiety, make a person feel less isolated, and assert a person’s individuality.         

Because art is not objective, it contributes to a conversation whether it be about race relations, gender inequality, or just cross-cultural interpretations of the same idea. Naturally, art warrants a reaction, a response and hopefully, backed by activism, transforms thought into mobilization.

Although most activism through art will not be as overt as Frank Ocean’s song “Nikes”,  Beyoncé’s “Formation”, or Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright”, music that depicts any humanizing narrative for any marginalized person, whether social justice related or not, challenges constructs of racism and sexism by making people rethink their race or gender based generalizations. Through the conscientious acknowledgment of personal biases and the acceptance of our similarities with people outside of our community, we generate empathy for marginalized people through likeness.

In a perfect world, we would love each other for our differences. For now, we will settle for connecting through our commonalities.

Willow is a black surrealist, activist, and vocalist. Her music is quirky and turbulent and weightless. Gravity doesn’t apply.  She is very open about her blackness and she is vulnerable, but not in the way that is presumed weakness. She's vulnerable like falling in love and in turn, she makes you fall in love with her by letting you inside her universe. It is one full of weird, sort of romantic, sort of juvenile, light-hearted content that if it was definable by one adjective, would be ethereal.

Willow’s activism is manifested through her “female energy”. She doesn't adhere to strict gender roles for women but she expresses her femininity nevertheless, understanding the difference between complacency in a patriarchal system and her own individual self-expression. You can be hyper feminine and like traditionally feminine things and it is not you “giving into sexism”- it is you having a distinctive personality. She is also ultra modern, always styled in something colorful, and friendly. She frequently uses “you” in her songs as a personal invitation into her female perspective.

Willow Smith did not create music videos for her latest songs, which made me all sorts of pissed off. At the same time, when I listened to her music, my own thoughts filled in the blanks with colors and familiar textures. My female energy became compatible with hers and there was an artistic exchange without even meeting. I was her and she was me.  I recalled pastel sunsets, dancing in my sister’s community garden, sneaking into Paradise Cove. All of the experiences that reminded me I was breathing made her music more impactful.

These are a few visuals I put together that were inspired by Willow’s sound and my own daydreams. I hope that you see yourself in some of the art and that in the visuals you don't relate to, you learn a little bit more about a woman of color’s experience.

“Wait A Minute”

Her serotonin levels are high, blue paint dripping off her fingertips and her thick hair getting caught up in the mess of it all. She is a blank canvas.


Don’t ask her if you can touch her hair. She is not yours to touch. She is not yours.


She is constantly scrutinized for trying to shape her own reality.


Transcending, she pays no attention to yellow mustard plants. She imagines bright blue skies with black stars.

article by: victoria barrios

visual by: victoria barrios

model: christine collins



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