Pink is the color of the summer. From the runways to the screen, it is everywhere — even in the kitchen. “Pink sauce,” a Pepto-bismol-colored dipping sauce, has taken the internet by storm. Last month, a private chef and influencer who goes by Chef Pii on TikTok shared a video of herself dipping a chicken tender into a bright pink, savory sauce of her creation. The clip immediately caught onto the TikTok algorithm, gaining 850k views. Pii herself gained over 150k followers on her TikTok account. The internet went wild wanting to know about the rose-colored condiment.
Pii soon gained tens of thousands of followers as she posted burgers, salads, and more foods covered in the Pink Sauce. After a week of virality, Pii started promoting a commercial launch of her sauce with taste tests and giveaways. On July 1 at 11:11 am, the first batch of Pink Sauce went on sale for $20 a bottle in clear plastic containers with yellow lids.
But what actually is the sauce? According to the website, the main ingredients include water, honey, sunflower seed oil, dragon fruit, milk (which has since been changed to dry milk), and garlic. It’s clearly savory, maybe a little tart, but Chef Pii never explained its taste. When asked about it on TikTok, Pii said “honestly, it has its own taste. If you want to taste it, buy it.” Sounds reassuring.
Immediately after shipping out the first bottles of Pink Sauce, Pii faced criticisms and questions from the internet en masse. First, TikTok followers were wondering why the shade of pink kept changing from batch to batch. One customer would receive a hot pink sauce but the next would receive a light coral one. In a Youtube video, Pii said that she changed the color from the hot pink to the lighter shade in response to customer comments.
On top of that, some bottles of Pink Sauce were shipped in bags (rather than boxes) and some claimed the packages exploded during shipment. One Twitter user wrote, “buying PINK sauce that has an unknown flavor and is being shipped in BAGS during summer heat is definitely a choice.” Followers were also concerned that the bottles weren’t shipped with refrigeration and didn’t include refrigeration instructions. (The LA Times notes that there are now refrigeration directions.) Other Twitter users surmised that customers were getting sick from the lack of refrigeration. Pii told the Washington Post, “I’ve been using it and serving it to my clients for a year — no one has ever gotten sick.”
In my opinion, the most striking claim is that there are 444 servings of sauce per bottle. Each serving is one tablespoon. That’s 28 cups of sauce in a relatively small bottle. Pii later cleared that mistake up, mentioning that the label was actually supposed to read 444 grams per bottle and 30 servings. Pii owned up to the typo in a Youtube video.
It all came to a head when one TikTok follower asked Pii on a livestream if the sauce was FDA approved. Pii responded saying, “What do you mean FDA-approved? I don’t sell medical products.” Many then took to Twitter to point out that the FDA is the Food and Drug Administration. However, the FDA does not pre-approve food before it can be sold, the way that it does for medication — but it can regulate foods that pose safety issues.
This past weekend, Chef Pii made a statement on TikTok, writing that the Pink Sauce team is “dedicated to providing our current and future customers with clear, unambiguous, and accurate labels and descriptions of the Pink Sauce and its ingredients that meet and exceed FDA guidelines.” Pii also informed customers via email of delays as she works through the “allegations and claims” against her product.
All we can do now is just wait and see what happens with Chef Pii and her Pink Sauce. Let this be a lesson, though, in not believing — or eating— everything you see on the internet, no matter how pretty it looks.
Image: Giada Canu / Stocksy.com
The latest and wildest TikTok drama isn’t coming from one of the well-known stars on the app—it’s coming from one of their parents. I know what you’re thinking: Why TF are we talking about the dad of a TikToker? Turns out, Addison Rae’s dad, Monty Lopez, has a 5.4 TikTok following of 5.4 million (what am I doing wrong in life) and is something of a celeb himself. But we’re talking about him because news of his affair broke, and it is dramatic. There’s cheating, lying, a pregnancy scare, and it’s a lot. As always, we’re here to explain WTF is going on so you don’t have to watch 10,000 explainer TikToks.
Here’s the backstory: Lopez married Sheri Nicole Easterling in 2017 and together they have three kids (Addison Rae, TikTok star extraordinaire, and two younger sons). (Lopez and Easterling had previously gotten divorced and were on-and-off for most of Rae’s childhood.)
In an exclusive interview with Page Six, a 25-year-old woman named Renée Ash alleges she has been having a five-month affair with Lopez after meeting each other through a mutual friend. Ash spoke out about the affair to Page Six, sharing screenshots of their text messages and sharing more information about their relationship.
“Unfortunately, he misled me on his marriage, he lied to me,” said Ash. “He told me that we were going to be together and have babies together. He even introduced me to his mom, his youngest brother, and I thought we had something real. He told me a story of his marriage that convinced me that they were apart and in the process of getting a divorce.”
Simultaneously, Lopez has been accused by several young women of hitting on them while partying. These incidents were ultimately why Ash broke things off with Lopez last week. “I loved him and I believed him,” said Ash. “When I found out about the other young girls, my heart broke. I am so sorry if anything I have said has hurt his family any more than he already has.”
The screenshots of Ash and Lopez’s texts show Lopez making promises of moving in together, getting married, starting a family, and explaining that he had a “weird relationship” with Easterling. Ash shares that in one text message, Lopez told her that he left his wife for “bitching and f*cking with” him and, in another message, warned Ash against acting the same way. Ash also says she had a pregnancy scare in June, during which she says she “had no support from” Lopez. Ash texted Lopez, “You handled my pregnancy scare really poorly especially after you kept saying I’ll never pull out and I want to marry you.” Screenshots obtained by Page Six show Lopez responding to the pregnancy news by texting, “Just wait it out” and “Your not.”
Just hours before Ash’s story came out, Easterling released a statement saying “personal matters being brought public are always challenging and overwhelming.” Easterling went on to share that her “biggest concern is—and always will be—my children and their fragile hearts and minds. I will always do my best to protect them.” She changed her Instagram bio to “single mom.”
Meanwhile, Addison Rae has unfollowed her dad on Instagram. Lopez’s bio, however, still reads “husband to @sherinicole.”
Images: Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Netflix
“That Girl”: she’s the 6am-waking, 10,000-step-walking, green-juice-drinking embodiment of wellness taking over TikTok. If you haven’t met her on your For You Page yet, you likely soon will. Despite many people’s efforts to be her, no one specific person is “That Girl”. Rather, she is an aesthetic composed of face masks, lemon water, journaling, Olaplex, and Aritzia. Once you remove the mask of “That Girl’s” perfect minimalistic and clean lifestyle, though, you can see her toxic positivity and homogenous view of wellness.
Starting last summer, “That Girl” made its way to TikTok feeds in small numbers. It took off as a trend last fall and had a sharp rise in popularity in late December as people were setting their New Year’s goals and resolutions. The TikTok hashtag #ThatGirl currently has over 2 billion views. Most of the trending videos are along the lines of “my morning routine as ‘That Girl’”, or “this is your sign to become ‘That Girl’”. Plenty of influencers are also posting shopping round-ups about what to buy to achieve this lifestyle including self-help books, yoga mats, or monochromatic workout sets. After diving down the trend’s hashtag, I noticed that one thing almost always present with “That Girl” content is some type of promise to “be the best version of yourself” if you adopt this lifestyle.
If you are anything like me, learning about this trend—specifically, its “live your best life” messaging—set off blaring alarms in your brain. It’s reminiscent of the themes from dietitians and fitness influencers promising fulfilled potential if you adopt certain habits. The only difference is now this toxicity has just been repackaged as not just a diet, but a full lifestyle. Seriously? Are we really going to believe that someone on TikTok knows what’s going to changes our lives? I thought we moved past this.
I’ll admit, some of the ideas are there. Don’t you think I want to drink more water, eat more vegetables, and get more than 5 hours of sleep every night? Don’t you think I want to put myself first and be more mindful? I sure do. But by wrapping these messages in the unrealistic, uniform, expensive, aesthetic bow that is “That Girl”, they appear out of reach and their significance is lost.
There is one common denominator with “That Girl”: she is almost always skinny, she is almost always wealthy, and she is almost always white. She has more time and resources than the average person, giving her the ability to live this idealized lifestyle and make it look so easy.
Even though being “That Girl” is inaccessible for most, it’s an attractive lifestyle. Sure, I would love to know what my life would be like if I spent every hour of my day working out, reading self-help books, and making intricate smoothie bowls, but for myself and most others, that’s not realistic. This trend is so idealized, though, that there is a sense of shame or disappointment in every normal person that can’t live “That Girl’s” perfect life. I almost feel like she’s staring through the screen as I scroll TikTok in bed at 1am and screaming “Oh, you can’t be me? Well, then you’re not the best version of yourself.”
It might seem like “That Girl” has it all: she has a fridge full of colorful foods, a clean room, clear skin, a wardrobe on-trend, and a healthy, relaxed mind. But she’s missing something. She’s missing balance. Does “That Girl” eat four slices of pizza with her friends after a night out? Does “That Girl” body a Chipotle bowl while lying on the couch in sweats watching Sex and the City? Does “That Girl” even cry? Judging from her constantly smiling videos, no she does not, and boy is she missing out.
So just remember that even though “That Girl” might wake up at 7am, don’t be afraid to sleep until noon. Even though “That Girl” works out daily, take a rest day. Even though “That Girl” wears minimalistic color-coordinated sets, wear your old high school sweatshirt and the same pair of sweatpants you wore two days ago.
If you have become “That Girl” then… congrats I guess? But for every other normal person on the planet, just remember that being productive and being your best self looks different for everyone. As aesthetically tempting as it may be, stop focusing on skinny, wealthy, white women’s highlight reels, and start living the life that works for you.
Image: Julia Volk /Stocksy.com
It’s a Friday night in 2011. You’re getting ready for a night out with friends. You’ve thrown on a yellow shift dress from Modcloth, polka dot tights, and a faux collar that eerily resembles a doily straight off your grandma’s kitchen table. On your way out the door, you grab your ukulele—you and your friends are having a coffee shop photoshoot so you can post on a new app everyone’s using called Instagram. You don’t actually know how to play anything, but it doesn’t matter. Instagram only allows pictures anyway.
If this image fills you with nostalgia—congratulations! The aesthetic of your youth is now considered “vintage” (cue the existential crisis) by teens on TikTok, the gatekeepers of all things cool. GenZers have discovered this era of fashion, media, and culture, known as “twee” as of, like, 15 minutes ago, and some of its most prominent fashion elements are making their way onto For You Pages and even fashion runways. Trend experts are forecasting that “twee” is the next fashion era to return from the grave, in all of its cutesy, preppy, lo-fi glory.
After diving deep into the twee hashtag on TikTok (which has 56 million views as of writing this article), it seems people are struggling to put their finger on the pulse of where exactly it came from. The word “twee” is British slang for anything cute or quaint, usually in excess. And although nobody remembers calling it that when it was actually a thing, the images of what it supposedly means are striking a chord. Most videos under the hashtag follow a specific formula: people share throwback photos of themselves in the peak twee era of the late 2000s, usually clad in some kind of loud whimsical pattern, and almost always posing with props like tea cups and typewriters, or standing in front of random brick walls. The videos are usually paired with the song “Why Don’t You Let Me Stay Here,” by She & Him, Zooey Deschanel’s folk duo with M. Ward. The song has been named the “twee” anthem, much like Deschanel herself has become the unofficial poster girl for its aesthetic. Both encompass the essence of what “twee” is about: rompy melodies and all things preppy, pastel, and cutesy.
But there’s a debate on whether it can come back, or even if it should—the last time around, twee peaked at a time when Tumblr was full of fatphobic, pro-ED content, which spilled over into the fashion at the time. Many people are worried that with the resurgence of this trend will come more toxic narratives around body image in the mainstream. As someone who was a chubby teenager at the convergence of Tumblr and twee’s respective peaks, I understand the concern around what the revival of this trend could potentially mean for a world that is even more social media centered than it was ten years ago when it first emerged.
However, I think more than anything, trends aren’t so much about the visuals or the aesthetics of the thing, but more the memories we associate with them. The real power comes when we are able to make our own rules, to learn from the past while still giving ourselves permission to be nostalgic for the things that genuinely brought us joy. When I think of “twee” I don’t necessarily think of the doom scrolling through my Tumblr feed and the grueling workouts I saved to the Pinterest board that were born out of my own self-loathing. I think of the day I bought my first Modcloth A-line dress, and that it was the first time that I felt safe and comfortable in my body, celebrating it for what it was, not what I thought it should be.
Fashion can be a mirror of the ugly cultural implications of the time, but it can also be a vessel for self-acceptance, a way to materialize the version of ourselves that we want to be. The cool thing about the cyclical nature of trends is that it allows us to pull the things we want to take with us, and leave behind the things that we don’t. As far as I’m concerned, the glamorization of thigh gaps and faux collars are not a package deal. As the dialogue around body positivity continues to gain traction, and pressure is subsequently put on the fashion industry to make more decisions that are informed by size inclusion, the trends of the past will have no choice but to morph accordingly. Maybe 2022 will come with Modcloth dresses and faux collars and statement cardigans. But it will mean something entirely different this time around, and then it will be gone again, just as quickly as it came. As fleeting as trends are, can’t they just be seen as memories, as either relics of our past selves or celebrations of how far we’ve come—can’t that be enough?
Image: Jason Merritt/WireImage
Well, brokes… We’ve done it again. We’ve officially been marked safe from yet another luxury scam that’s out of our tax bracket.
If your TikTok FYP has yet to recover from the Bing Bong of it all, let me catch you up to speed: Chanel is celebrating the 100th birthday of the N°5 fragrance by getting people to spend $825 on an advent calendar. Lest you believe that a month’s worth of luxury goods for under a grand is a good deal, I regret to inform you that the contents of the advent calendar are equivalent to anything you may find if you were to reach into the depths of your closet and root through the purse dirt of the Michael Kors crossbody you haven’t touched since 2014. (Let me guess… a pantyliner, a crusty hair elastic, and a fossilized stick of Trident gum? You are not alone.)
In a series of videos, TikTok user Elise Harmon treated the world to an unboxing of Chanel’s festive disappointment, which begins with the number 5 because it’s 2021 and branding always beats logic. Although the calendar had a few kinda-useful items in it—like hand lotion, a red lipstick, and a small perfume sample—most of the little boxes that filled up the enormous perfume-shaped packaging were the kinds of things you wouldn’t necessarily be upset over losing if your vacuum cleaner accidentally sucked them up. Sticker sheets, wax seals, and little pieces of random materials shaped like Chanel motifs left Harmon feeling like the advent calendar was a waste of money, and it doesn’t seem like she’s the only one.
TikTok users are having a field day with the calendar, including a creator named Bryan who loosely broke down the value of all of the products in a video, and another named Savannah who went viral for pointing out that the $195 calendar from MAC Cosmetics was a much better buy. There are, however, a few people who just keep unboxing the calendar each day as their comments sections fill up with people dragging the product. User Nicki Cheng agreed that although she doesn’t “think it’s valued to $825,” she’s “still having fun unboxing it,” while Fionn also found the price to be ridiculous, but in a TikTok, said she would “spend anything for packaging,” and has continued to defend her financial decisions in her comments section. I have personally never related less to a sentiment in my entire life, and do not think I would enjoy blowing $825 just to spend 25 days opening boxes full of items that I can’t even tell if I should recycle or trash. But, hey! To each their own!
The Chanel Advent Calendar mess doesn’t end at the unboxing videos. Harmon is in a very Real Housewives-esque squabble with Chanel at the moment, after claiming that they’ve blocked her. In a statement to PEOPLE, a representative from Chanel said, “The recent claim of a person being blocked by Chanel on TikTok is inaccurate. We have never blocked access to the Chanel TikTok page to anyone, because it is not an active account and no content has ever been published.” You can’t tell me this response doesn’t sound like it was manufactured by a woman sitting next to Andy Cohen on a velvet couch (or at the very least, Mariah Carey when asked about her relationship with J.Lo).
Harmon also ended up receiving quite a bit of backlash from TikTok users who pointed out that the contents of the Chanel Advent Calendar were clearly described on the brand’s website, and that she shouldn’t have been so shocked to discover the contents of each box. (I would just like to take a moment to point out that the literal point of an advent calendar is to receive a surprise, but by all means, continue to spend your limited time on this Earth defending a luxury brand by yelling at a stranger through the comments of a video app.) In a video, Harmon explained that she purchased the item in-store, where, she said, “there is no description” of the contents. Harmon also kind of hit the nail on the head when she said, “When you’re buying from a brand like Chanel that is coveted and known for quality and luxury and you receive something that’s like, gum ball status and free things that they had given away months prior… it’s questionable.”
Still, the calendar is sold out and is now being resold for even more money on websites like eBay. God bless consumerism!
Image: Laura Chouette / Unsplash
Well, internet. Congratulations. You’ve done it again. You’ve taken something that we all loved and you’ve crushed it in your cold, clammy hands. No, I’m not referring to Y2k fashion or even just like, the general concept of privacy: I am talking about “no-bones day.”
For those of you who may be living under a rock (or at the very least have a TikTok algorithm niche enough to shelter you from the zeitgeist), a “no-bones” day is when a 13-year-old pug named Noodle is awoken by his owner, Jonathan Graziano, and shows no signs of having a single bone in his body. Graziano picks Noodle up and sees if he can stand on his own—if he can’t, it’s a “no-bones” day; if he stands, it’s a bones day. Noodle’s loyal followers have started looking to the state of the pug’s bones as a report for how their day will go, and obviously, a bones day is the ideal outcome. A no-bones day, however, is rough news. In an interview with The Washington Post, Graziano explained, “A no-bones day is not a bad day. It’s not that you can’t accomplish things, but you need to make sure to take care of yourself. That’s what Noodle does.”
Now, before you come for me (I’m assuming Noodle stans are as deservedly as ferocious as even Swifties or Directioners), I would just like to note that I’m not here to bash Noodle. I’m simply pointing out that our collective reaction to the concept of no-bones day is exactly why we can’t have nice things. I’ve already heard “must be a no-bones day” mustered up as an excuse for technical difficulty on a Zoom call, and though I welcome any break from “Is Mercury in retrograde or something?” comments, I do worry for Noodle. I don’t want us to get sick of him, and he’s already flying dangerously close to the sun. Just a few days ago, John Bel Edwards, the Governor of Louisiana, co-opted “bones day” in an attempt to inspire residents to get vaccinated. Do you know what comes after that? If your answer was Fashion Nova referencing Noodle the pug in a promotional email subject line, you were correct.
A message for Louisiana on a Bones Day 🦴 #lagovhttps://t.co/1J0Bld7oJm pic.twitter.com/omDkjUODd3
— John Bel Edwards (@LouisianaGov) October 20, 2021
Unfortunately, the internet is full of people who spend most of their time working insufferable jobs, and love nothing more than a silly, snappy little quote to sum up how miserable they feel throughout the work week. Once they get their hands on a new one to throw around, it’s game over. It will be part of the vernacular until the day robots take over, rendering a human workforce obsolete. And it’s not just that people will be saying “sorry, I can’t, it’s a no-bones day!” until the end of time, it’s that we’re about to have people try to sell us all things that rip the concept off in any way imaginable. I’m sure as you’re reading this, some Etsy shop owner is already breaking their back trying to hand letter mugs with the phrase “It’s a no-bones day. I need coffee.” Femfetti already has a crew neck. Eventually, Rae Dunn will catch wind of it, and the shelves of every HomeGoods across the nation will be full of little desktop signs that allow you to indicate if it’s a bones day or not. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Noodle the pug graces our screens in at least one TV advertisement come Super Bowl Sunday. He just has that relatable, commercial quality that makes ad executives go absolutely nuts, like Mindy Kaling, Ryan Reynolds, and the guys from Queer Eye.
If you think I’m being dramatic, just think about how you felt the first time you saw a tweet noting that “the first five days after the weekend are always the hardest.” It was pretty funny, right? And now, it’s just an eyeroll-inducing phrase that’s plastered all over candles, notebooks, and T-shirts. The human brain is clearly incapable of seeing something humorous, thinking “haha, nice,” and moving on.
In the spirit of saving the sanctity of Noodle, I vote we follow Twitter legend Dionne Warwick’s lead and “let the dog rest,” as she requested in an October 20 tweet. He deserves better than the overworked “HUMP DAYYY” Geico commercials treatment. Please, continue to excitedly search for Noodle’s bones report each morning, if it truly brings you joy. But please stop dragging this elderly dog into your attempt to be quirky while joking about your own unproductivity! Here are a few phrases that have already been beaten to death that you can use whenever you’d like.
- The Mondayest Monday that ever Mondayed.
- “What a week, huh?” “Lemon, it’s Wednesday.”
- No talkie before coffee.
- If Monday had a face, I would punch it.
- I thought about it, and I just do not think that being an adult is going to work out for me.
- Any variation on “adulting is hard!”
- Is it wine o’clock yet?
- Fresh out of fucks to give.
- Some basic joke about needing to take your bra off at the end of a long day.
Images: @jongraz / TikTok; LouisianaGov / Twitter
Are you still reeling from the revelation that skinny jeans and side parts are no longer cool? Well that’s too damn bad, Jessica, because Gen Z have come up with another way to make fun of millennials, and this time, they’re not coming for one or two sartorial choices, but for our entire aesthetic. Thanks to the rise of the catch-all insult cheugy, declaring millennial lifestyle staples as cringey has gotten easier than ever before. If the emergence of a trendy new term is making you want to, not take a nap, but just rest your eyes for a bit, then I regret to inform you that
you’re old you’ve come to the right place. WTF is cheugy, am I cheugy, is writing an article explaining cheugy, cheugy? The answer to those last two questions is definitively yes, so at least you’re in good (if you loosely apply the meaning of “good”) company.
The term cheugy, which, since I know you’re about to ask, is pronounced chew-ghee (hard G sound), was actually coined in 2013 by a then-high school student to describe people who, as the New York Times put it, “are slightly off-trend”. The term gained popularity on, where else, TikTok, after a video posted on March 30th went viral. For a visual definition of cheugy, think of MLM boss babe energy, millennial #girlboss aesthetic, and anything the cast of Vanderpump Rules would have worn in seasons 1-3. Chevron is cheugy; Gucci belts with the overlapping G’s are cheugy; captioning an Instagram with “thank u, next” is cheugy; I haven’t gotten the official report yet, but I’ve got to imagine statement necklaces are extremely cheugy. (Using an adverb before cheugy may or may not be cheugy.)
To put it more precisely, Urban Dictionary defines cheugy as “another way to describe aesthetics/people/experiences that are basic”; the second most popular definition says it’s something that was “stylish in middle school and high school but no longer in style.” If you aren’t sure, here’s a quick rule of thumb: pretty much everything you hold near and dear is probably being derided at this very moment by college kids and high schoolers via a made-up word that sounds like what Vice would name their next food vertical.
Here’s the thing. While some millennials are already probably mounting their defenses of Starbucks and Live, Laugh, Love signs, let’s just… not. Have we forgotten that we based our entire personalities for multiple years around appropriating the term “basic” within an inch of its life? What, it’s only fine for people to make fun of pumpkin spice lattes, but we’re drawing the line at blanket scarves? Let’s not turn this into the skinny jeans and side part war, which was fun at first, but got completely blown out of proportion once we got to the stage of making musical parodies telling Gen Z to “kindly shut the f*ck up”. (Even worse is that this battle that still rages on to this day despite it now being almost shorts weather.)
I get why the emergence of cheugy feels like a blitz attack on millennials, but there’s a difference. What hit me so hard about the skinny jeans/side part debacle, and I don’t think I’m alone in this, is that I never considered those stylistic choices to be trends, much less up for debate. You parted your hair on the side because that was simply what you did—god forbid you part your hair down the middle and make your face appear rounder! You wore skinny jeans because that was just the style, and because we didn’t want to get caught dead wearing mom jeans. I never questioned these things, and to hear that these elements I took for granted were secret markers of my uncoolness this entire time felt like being told the color black was suddenly cringey. Who even am I?? But this other stuff? Take it! Who cares? Like, I really hope chevron is not a cornerstone of your personality.
It’s one thing to not want to part your hair down the middle (I tried it; doesn’t work for my face shape, but if you can rock it, more power to you), but it’s another thing to live in a fantasy world where no trend in which you participate ever goes out of style. Millennials, I know we grew up as the darlings of the internet and never imagined a time when we would not be the hottest and most in-demand age group for publishers, advertisers, and brands, but it’s literally the circle of life. Did I think I’d be a washed-up old hag before my 30th birthday? Not really, I thought I’d have a bit more time, but c’est la vie! The internet is a fickle place. At least this way I can now lean into my lifestyle of only wearing leggings and doing bath bombs and face masks—which is probably cheugy to do. I might as well embrace it and get a stemless wine glass that has “yes way rosé” screen-printed on it in gold script.
We’re all cheugy in some way or another. Lasagna might apparently be cheugy. Don’t fight it. It’s fun to be kind of embarrassing! What’s the alternative, constantly changing your entire aesthetic to fit in with what people decades younger than you find trendy? You’ll never win that game. No matter what term you call it, that’s the worst look of all.
Image: Jose Martinez / Unsplash
As demonstrated by the most recent skinny jeans and side parts scandal that rocked millennials everywhere, tying ourselves to shared generational labels is a pillar of meme culture — or broadly, today’s culture. Generational stereotypes have fueled the formation of countless online communities, but they’ve also caused hot-blooded arguments across age lines. After Baby Boomers criticized Millennials for not buying houses, it sparked economic discourse around responsibility and capitalism, and the “OK Boomer” meme popularized during the 2020 election signified Gen Z refusing to feign respect for racist and misogynistic elders. To say the least, there is weight and substance behind these memed stereotypes.
As digital natives in a digital world, Gen Z’s cultural influence is undeniable, but the one stereotype that overpowers the rest is that we are “diverse.” A quick Google search will show you that Gen Z is labeled as the “most diverse generation in history” and that we “demand diversity in the workplace.” However, of the top 100 creators on the social media platform most commonly associated with Gen Z, TikTok, the vast majority are white or white-passing. Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae, the golden girls of Gen Z, are thin, upper-middle-class white women. Simply put, it ain’t adding up: if we’re so diverse, why aren’t the people we idolize?
When Addison Rae appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in March to perform multiple dances originally created by Black TikTokers, it sparked a conversation about white mediocrity. D’Amelio and Rae are certainly not as talented as Keara Wilson, who created the “Savage” dance that propelled Addison Rae to superstardom, or Jalaiah Harmon, the originator of the “Renegade” dance that did the same for Charli. But comparing talent isn’t the problem: these women took Black choreography and used it for their own benefit, and were rewarded. Whether it’s subconscious or not, the fame that we’ve given them is because they fit the mold of who women are supposed to want to be.
In the same way that millennials adore celebrities like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, the supposedly diverse and inclusive Gen Z continues the cycle of rewarding attractive, rich, white women for existing. While society’s cultural icons have evolved from supermodels (1990s) to celebrities (2000s) to reality stars (2010s), the skin color and proximity to wealth of our superstars has remained consistent. Despite their wealthy, white California childhood, the Kardashians adopted Black culture to differentiate themselves from the thin blonde stars popular in the 2000s. They injected their butts and lips to recreate features found naturally on Black women, appropriated Black hairstyles, almost exclusively dated Black men, and recreated age-old Black and Latina fashion trends.
This look was, yes, a departure from parallel generational icons Paris Hilton and the Olsen Twins, but it wasn’t new. Black women, who grew up wearing wigs and had naturally big lips, certainly aren’t growing multimillion-follower fan bases or offered the cover of Vogue, but rather are discriminated against for living out their own culture while white women run through their trends faster than Fashion Nova can produce a rip-off.
The Kardashians shared everything from their petty fights to brutal divorces, parental blowups, and personal anxieties on national television. But the “relatability” or “reality” they may have shown on TV does not a billion-dollar empire make: they wouldn’t have had the lip kits, curvy shapewear, or half as much media coverage without appropriation.
TikTok was supposed to democratize the social media industry with an algorithm that let anyone get famous — or at least “TikTok famous.” Instead, we’ve repeated the same process of propping up white women who manipulate Black culture to appeal to the masses, yet remain safe from systemic racism in their peach skin. As the biggest Gen Z idols in the world, Addison Rae and Charli D’Amelio pocket millions while the Black girls who created the dances, and the music they dance to, remain nameless or endure hate at an alarmingly higher rate. Black creators’ followings remain significantly lower, and their sponsorship deals even sparser. Meanwhile, these white TikTok stars are hanging out with the Kardashians, with nary a Black woman in sight.
Would we still be idolizing these people, however, if corporations like NBC (the network that airs Jimmy Fallon’s show) and TikTok itself weren’t inching us in that direction? In March 2020, an internal memo was leaked revealing that TikTok’s algorithm doesn’t push darker, disabled, or “ugly” videos, making it significantly harder to “blow up” as a Black creator even if you have better content. Most of the companies giving out these sponsorship deals are run by majority-white Millennials or Baby Boomers who are inclined to stick with the already-advantaged white women that look like them or their children.
We won’t reach equality for these influencers until the most prominent corporations and influencers make a conscious effort to give Black creators the exposure their white counterparts get. Companies must do this through providing equally lucrative sponsorship opportunities, and the biggest celebrities must take responsibility for benefitting from the systems that allowed them to grow by offering slices of their fame to prop the culture originators up.
Gen Z definitely cares about diversity, but the systems in place created by previous generations don’t allow that to be reflected in our culture idols. If algorithms don’t allow Black creators to make it on their own, it’s up to influencers and social media users to make conscious choices to highlight and reward that talent, or we’ll be watching history repeat itself for the next generation, too.
Image: Todd Williamson / E! Entertainment