We have seen it happen time and time again with black art, AAVE, and our culture as a whole with corporations using our ‘likeness’ to appeal to a larger group or to get them to buy or use things. Let’s use the phrase “on Fleek” as an example, it was created by a 16 year old black girl on an app called vine. The phrase became so popular it was on every shirt, bag, and accessory at Forever 21. Ariana Grande said it in her video, which resulted in every beauty app and magazine using it in ads to describe how to have perfect eyebrows. Other artists used it in their songs such as Young Thug, Cardi b, and many more. Television stations and news stations made jokes using the phrase until it eventually made its way to several corporate social media accounts such as Denny’s Twitter page. Throughout all of this the teen never received any money or credit. Social media has a way of capitalizing and commercializing black culture for the consumption of others while usually leaving the creator with nothing. Many non POC did not sympathize with her some even ridiculed her for not having a LLC and not trademarking the word but there’s substantial evidence that she pioneered the term, also it's much deeper than that. Companies and many artist raised millions off of the term “on fleek” and the originator still has a go fund me dedicated to helping her pay tuition.
We see the same thing happening all the time but most recently with the phrase “Hot Girl Summer”, not only is it being commercialized; people are trying to define what it should mean to us. The phrase was coined by Megan Thee Stallion, one of the newest female rappers on the scene. She oozes positivity, female empowerment, and a certain Texas flare that can’t be impersonated. She’s organically herself hence why she’s so innovative in everything she does. As of recently everything she says is turned into a hashtag and used to some company's advantage. Wendy’s called their lemonade the official drink of “Hot Girl Summer”, Forever 21 sent out a promotion with the title “Hot girl Summah”, Maybelline even tweeted “Summer 19 In three words: Hot Girl Summer. PERIODT.”
Honestly it seems like pandering and IS cringey as hell. We can be real and call it what it is: appropriation. None of the companies even know that hot girl derived from Megan calling her fans Houston hotties.... they don’t understand her Texas culture nor have they invited her to do a fashion collab, interviewed her, or even know who she is. They know POC (specifically black women) start a lot of profitable trends and are the number one consumers instead of creators in America, which puts us at a disadvantage.
I feel as though some women of color have a certain creativeness that can’t be taught or learned. It’s organic, so when big corporations or even people who don’t identify with our culture try to capitalize off it or tell us what it should mean to us; it can be a bit frustrating. I truly don’t believe Black culture is American culture and it should not be up for the consumption of the highest bidder. The problem is simple, outside of AAVE and Hip Hop music most people have no interest in our culture or us as people.
Another issue is that social media has certain clauses that state the fact that they own any pictures, ideas, or words you post. It is evident that social media does not care about us either unless we are influencing culture. Clear examples of this appropriation happening repeatedly are phrases like “spilling tea”, "black girl magic," “and I -- Opp” ; basically all memes that have become larger than life and were created by a femme black poc.
Thankfully Meg is a very smart business major and is in the process of trademarking the term so any merchandise can come directly from her.
Don't forget to stream Hot Girl summer by Megan thee stallion ft Ty Dolla $ign & Nicki Minaj
noun the process of managing or running something principally for financial gain.
*AAVE- Ebonics derives its form from ebony (black) and phonics (sound, the study of sound) and refers to the study of the language of black people in all its cultural uniqueness. Other writers have since emphasized how the term represents a view of the language of Black people as African rather than European