Jaden Smith Says He’s Blazing a Trail for Misfits Everywhere

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At 17, Jaden Smith is not your average teenager. Between running a clothing label, modeling, manning cryptic (and popular) social media feeds and regularly pushing the sartorial envelope by wearing capes and skirts, the son of the Fresh Prince has spent his adolescence experimenting with the limits of fame and identity. And now the bonafide cool teen is the first-ever male cover star of fashion magazine NYLON.

“You just have to believe in yourself, you know,” Smith told the magazine. “The world is going to keep bashing me for whatever I do, and I’m going to keep not caring. I’m going to keep doing the same things—I’m going to keep doing more things. I’m going to take most of the blows for my fellow MSFTS. So, you know, in five years when a kid goes to school wearing a skirt, he won’t get beat up and kids won’t get mad at him. It just doesn’t matter. I’m taking the brunt of it so that later on, my kids and the next generations of kids will all think that certain things are normal that weren’t expected before my time.”

Smith is a “wild kid,” according to his friend (and former Disney star) Moises Arias. “From the beginning, he’s just always been himself and that’s something I think the whole world can appreciate,” Arias said, adding that Smith has a sensitive side: he likes to get friends to “sit down in a circle” and “talk to people about how they’re feeling.” Then again, he’s also a karate master: the kid’s full of surprises.

“The greatest lesson I’ve learned from my parents is to be myself, at all costs, no matter what anybody thinks,” Smith told NYLON. So far, that seems to be working out quite well.

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Write to Raisa Bruner at raisa.bruner@time.com