Rumer Willis, the Individual
The eldest child of actor Bruce Willis and his ex-wife, actress Demi Moore, Rumer Willis has had a spotlight shining upon her ever since she was born. Indeed, that spotlight has only grown with her, especially as she follows in her parents’ footsteps and navigates the world of show business.
Having first debuted on the big screen at age 7 alongside her mother, Demi Moore, in the film Now and Then (1995), she has since then appeared on Broadway as Roxie Hart in Chicago, played Juliet and Mia in Love Actually Live, and has been involved in a number of movies and TV shows, most notably season 20 of Dancing with the Stars, which she won, and FOX’s hit drama Empire, where she played singer Tory Ash as a series regular. An actress, a dancer, and a talented singer in the vein of the late Amy Winehouse, she’s a verifiable triple threat, a charismatic performer who is as comfortable on stage as she is in front of a camera.
However, growing up in the spotlight isn’t easy for a child. Despite her parents’ high profile and her privileged upbringing, according to Willis, she was a target of persistent bullying as a child, a situation which had a long-lasting negative impact on her early life. Of course, over the course of her career and her life, the 30-year-old actress has learned to adapt to the intense and inescapable scrutiny that comes with being a celebrity in the public eye, particularly in the age of social media, where access to people’s lives has never been easier and where everyone’s comments and opinions, no matter how innocuous or vile, are only a click away. Her circumstances and her past experiences as a victim of bullying, though, enabled her to develop a thicker skin over time, and to “hold value for yourself.” Adds Willis, “It’s really difficult to have any sort of happiness in your life if you base the value that you hold for yourself on other people’s opinions. To me, you have to hold value for yourself regardless of what anyone else has to say. That’s one of the most important things you can do.” However, despite her confident demeanor, her success and her strength of character, it’s evident that the abuse that Willis suffered as a child left deep scars in her – the kind that sometimes may never fully heal.
“It’s really difficult to have any sort of happiness in your life if you base the value that you hold for yourself on other people’s opinions.”
That said, her personal experience with abuse has contributed to the development of her social consciousness, to a sensitivity for the struggle of the innocent and the vulnerable. In her Instagram profile, Rumer Willis lists herself as an activist, among other things, and a quick scroll down her page reveals post after post in support of a number of current social movements, including #MeToo and Time’s Up, gun control, environmentalism, and animal rights. She has supported the Art of Elysium, an arts organization that aims to bring about social change by supporting artists that provide their services to those in need, and is looking to come up with a more concrete campaign that she could possibly work on with them. With countless fans and a wide range of connections in the entertainment industry, she has a larger platform than most, on which she can and does advocate for social and political causes that she deems important. The fact that she is willing to speak out in support for the causes that she believes in on social media – whether it be gun control, Planned Parenthood, or supporting Idaho Democrat Paulette Jordan’s gubernatorial bid – means that those causes reach a marginally wider audience, some of which might not have come across those causes otherwise. Here comes the question, though: Do celebrities and public figures have a moral obligation to use their large platforms to advocate for social reforms and to speak up in support of what they believe? To Willis, that would be an unfair imposition on people. “I don’t think anyone should ever feel pressure or obligation,” she says. “Because when it becomes work, people tend to maybe shy away from it. I think it’s really individual. I think that if it’s something that’s important to you and that if it’s something that you want to talk about and you support, then you should. I would never tell someone, ‘Oh, you have to do this,’ or ‘You should do this,’ but I think it’s great when people do, but I would never tell people to do it.”
Writer: Monica Dias
Photographer: Seung Lee (www.kokumastudio.com)
Photographer Assistant: Andy Kim
Stylists: Brit + Kara ELKIN (for Starworks Artists)
Hair: Anthony Holguin
Makeup: Amy Oresman
Videographer: Wanhi Lee
Editor: Eiko Watanabe
Special thanks to Amber Thayer (@amberthayer - www.amberthayer.com) & The
Henry (@thehenryrestaurant - www.thehenryrestaurant.com)