Jaden Smith Told Us To Tell You To Drink Water (Ideally His Water)

Jaden Smith offered us some self-care tips before he clocks onto his one-off shift at Woolworths.

Jaden Smith in Australia for the launch of Just Water

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Jaden Smith is offering me self-care tips before he clocks onto his one-off shift at Woolworths. It’s the sort of thing you’re likely to mull over in your head before starting a new job.

“Man, it’s just like drink water,” he says. “A lot of it. As much as you can. And exercise and read books and learn new things and travel the world. That’s what I would really say.”

The 20-year-old’s advice rings true, and honestly, resonates with me in a way that hearing self-made billionaire Kylie Jenner say it doesn’t. It’s hard to deny that water, exercise, reading, learning and travelling aren’t ways to show yourself that you care about your wellbeing, rather than just telling yourself you do.

There’s a Twitterbot that offers reminders a few times a day to drink water or stop looking at a screen or to stretch your back; it’s incredibly infantilising and quite useful, with one outweighing the other depending on where you’re at when it pops up on the timeline. This is something Jaden Smith, avid Twitter user, would probably would be interested in talking about, but there’s no room to test this theory.

We have a list of pre-approved questions, and I can feel the air tighten down the phone-line (Smith’s in Melbourne. Devastatingly, I am not.) whenever I try to riff off his comments, which is also known as ‘having a conversation’.

Smith is in Australia for a specific reason — he’s here to launch JUST WATER, a sustainable water brand which he’s been involved with since inception in 2012. Its bottle is paper-and plant-product-based and 82 percent recyclable, and according to them, choosing it above a regular water bottle reduces the carbon footprint by 78 percent. The down-under version is bottled from spring water in Victoria’s Mount Warrenheip, and — you guessed it — is available at Woolworths (and 7/11).

We don’t just talk about water, though. I try and gain some info on his new music, which doesn’t work (“Actually I’m not telling anyone anything about the new album”), and then how creatively, he approaches being a polymath — actor, environmentalist, musician, Twitter philosophiser, clothing designer, Woolworths worker.

“They all influence each other,” he says. “They all interconnect in certain ways because they’re all driven by true inspiration and passion. So that’s how they all interconnect.”

We also touch upon Netflix animé Neo Yokio, where he voices pink-dreadlocked demon hunter and socialite Kaz Kaan alongside the likes of a robot butler (Jude Law), cash-hungry aunt (Susan Sarandon), and a former fashion blogger who denounces materialism (Tavi Gevinson).

The show — pointedly bizarre, stunningly animated, vaguely poignant — feels tailor written around Smith, and I ask about his role working with the show’s writer, Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig.

Kaz Kaan (Jaden Smith) in Neo Yokio.

“You know it was literally me just sitting in a room and recording all those lines individually without seeing anything,” he says. “Ezra knew how it was going to be so he would tell me how to say it…. I might pitch a line here and there, but the whole thing was completely a surprise.”

“I really loved the whole demon slaying thing, and I really loved the whole ‘me being an anime character and having pink dreads’. I love pink too, so that’s what really drew it to me. People always think that I write the script but I really don’t at all. It’s funny though, I love it.”

Smith is super friendly on the phone, but our conversation, admittedly, isn’t quite reaching the heights you might expect. His interviews are infamous: in 2014, he told The New York Times he wanted to be “the most craziest person of all time”. In the years since,  he’s caught journalists off-guard time and time again with non-sequiturs that leave them speechless.

Smith is super friendly on the phone, but our conversation, admittedly, isn’t quite reaching the heights you might expect.

Less so with me. When he tells me why he and his parents first floated the idea of JUST when he was 11 years old, he tells me it came from a reoccurring terror he’d have.

“I was learning about the environment, sustainability, the effect that greenhouse gases had on our atmosphere, pollution and rising sea levels,” he said. “[And] I live right next to Malibu so that’s always really scared me as a child because I thought that one day I would just drown in my bed.

“I became very frantic about the environmental crisis that we’re going through globally. That’s when I decided that I really wanted to be part of the change and for other youth to be able to get behind me and the mission that we had and really make a difference.”

The day we meet, tens of thousands of Australian youths are skipping school to protest our country’s refusal to act on Climate Change. They speak eloquently and passionately. Apocalyptic terrors and nightmares aren’t dramatised or oversold, but simply exist in their speeches as they do in their current futures: a likely reality.

Smith is most engaged when I ask about the clean water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Since 2014, the 425,000+ population city’s water has been exposed to high lead levels, possibly leading to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease which saw two deaths. While officials claim the water is now safe to drink, many locals still report health concerns — and completely discoloured water.

Like many water companies, JUST has been providing water bottles since 2016, though Smith recognises that isn’t ideal.

“It’s still very difficult to take showers and to brush your teeth and to cook your food with just like 500ml bottles of water,” he says. “Which is what people in Flint are currently doing and have been for the past five years.”

We both say “it’s insane” down the phone line at the same time. A few weeks before we chat, JUST announced they have created a portable filtration system for Flint — something celebrity water brands shouldn’t have to do. But here we are.

“It filters 10 gallons (37.84 litres) of water every 60 seconds,” he says. “What this does is it helps people get larger quantities of clean water in Flint so that when they’re taking a shower they can take a shower with a few five-gallon drums of water opposed to cases and cases and cases of bottled water.”

We only have about 10 minutes on the phone together, and we blitz through my questions. Smith has a shift to start, and water to sell.

Jared Richards is a staff writer at Junkee, and co-host of Sleepless In Sydney on FBi Radio. Follow him on Twitter.