Jaden Smith has spent the summer and fall months of 2016 dodging suicide rumors, rumors that have dogged the 18-year-old since just before he became a “for real” adult in July. In the midst of constantly freaking out devoted fans concerned about a premature end to his life, Jaden has been working on his impressive career as an entertainer and (perhaps even more impressive) aspirations as a social and environmental activist.
Since the rumors of his death began, Jaden Smith has been working on his highly successful (and sometimes controversial) modeling career, a career in which young Jaden has made a name for himself as the first male face of Louis Vuitton’s women’s clothing line. Jaden has also had remarkable success as a recording artist, with a long-anticipated solo album expected to drop any time, as well as frequent recent collaborations with A-list recording artists.
Add to that his successful acting career, including a starring role in Netflix’s The Get Down, and you’d think that Jaden Smith would have enough on his plate to keep anyone’s life more than full.
But his career success was apparently not enough for someone with Jaden Smith’s ambition; in addition to his impressive career resume, a resume that reportedly netted the young son of Hollywood superstars Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith roughly $8 million in the bank before his 18th birthday, Jaden Smith set his sights on social activism, too.
Jaden Smith’s apparent first social goal was, in a sense, “selling inclusiveness,” both with his personal brand and eventually his clothing line. As a younger teen, Jaden raised the world’s eyebrows when he started publicly cross-dressing, wearing dresses and skirts to social gatherings and even a prom or two. While some of the less open-minded folks of the world used Jaden Smith’s personal style as an excuse to attack his burgeoning sexuality, Jaden reportedly had a different reason for his in-your-face public gender-bending.
“I feel like people don’t really get it. I’m not saying that I get it; I’m just saying that I’ve never seen any distinction. I don’t see man clothes and woman clothes; I just see scared people and comfortable people.”
Indeed, even before his newfound adulthood, Jaden Smith seemed to have lofty personal goals that went above and beyond being a Hollywood powerhouse.
“I’m really working towards just fixing the whole planet Earth. I really just want to create a utopia on this planet. I really want to make it so that people don’t have to die to pay bills and just work to survive. So that they can work to actually live and do the things that they love to do.”
After a few years of publicly flaunting his disregard for traditional gender roles and clothing norms, Jaden Smith rolled out his own clothing line, MSFTSrep, with his target customers being people kind of like himself. As CNS News reports, Jaden designed his clothing label to be ideal for “the girl that wants to be a tomboy or the boy that wants to wear a skirt.”
“It’s pronounced ‘misfits.’ I took the ‘I’ out of ‘misfits’ because we’re a team and there is no ‘I’ in team. It’s a place for the lost kids and everyone to go, and something for them to have. We’re here for you… If someone at your school’s trying to pick on you, it doesn’t matter because Jaden Smith’s got your back.”
Now, at the young age of 18, Jaden Smith has taken his goal of making the world a better, more inclusive place for as many people as possible to the next level with his latest project, JUST Water. As Teen Vogue reports, Jaden’s take on water is bottled water with an ecologically-friendly twist: no bottle. Or at least, no plastic bottle, but rather a biodegradable cardboard carton instead.
The potential positive environmental impact of Jaden Smith’s new water project is huge, and it landed him some recognition at Variety’s Power of Young Hollywood event in recent weeks. As he was being honored for his activism, Jaden Smith also gave a rousing and motivational speech to those in attendance and around the world.
Now, as 2016 quickly draws to a close, Jaden Smith is being honored yet again. Keep in mind, most of the accomplishments listed in the article above took place in the last 12 months. While the Internet was busily trying to kill Jaden Smith off, Jaden Smith was working tirelessly to improve his life, career, and the world. Now, as Hollywood Life reports, TIME has included Jaden among its touted annual “30 Most Influential Teens.”
Check out the rest of the many and varied Influential Teens that TIME honored with recognition on their 2016 list, including the first daughters Sasha and Malia Obama, Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, human rights activist Malala Yousafzai, and even reality TV star Kylie Jenner here.
What do you think? Were all of these teens worthing of some 2016 recognition? Was Jaden Smith a worthy addition to the TIME list?
[Featured Image by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images]