TikTok has done it again: taken a beauty technique that has been known, used, and celebrated in communities of colors for decades and rebranded it as a new trend for white people to try. The culprit this time is "brownie glazed lips."
Brownie glazed lips involve a completely unheard-of technique: lining your lips with a brown liner and then topping it off with lip gloss. Fascinating, I know. Hailey Bieber, who popularized the term, first shared a video of her "brownie glazed lips" in late August, claiming it as her go-to fall lip combo. Crystal
Admittedly, I didn't see the "trend" when it first dropped (knowing me, I most likely would have ignored it if I had). It was brought to my attention once I saw Black creators rightfully expressing their annoyance with how an everyday beauty staple in our community (and other communities of color) has become rebranded as the hot new thing on TikTok without due credit to the look's originators.
So when I finally watched Bieber's initial video, I immediately wished I hadn't. Besides the fact that I don't think the simple act of lining your lips and adding gloss counts as a trend or anything particularly exciting, it's another reminder of how things aren't popular in the mainstream until they are done by or seen on a thin, white person.
The thing is Bieber, didn't claim to have invented anything with "brownie glazed lips," but people immediately heralded it as a new trend anyway. She has inspired several trends under the "glazed donut" umbrella not only because of her fans' devotion to her but also because she meets every one of society's high standards of beauty: She's a thin, conventionally attractive, white model. Everything she does is somehow noteworthy no matter how basic or well-known that thing is. Glowy skin and glossy lips wouldn't be heralded as a brand-new trend or even seen as astounding if someone who wasn't white, thin, or conventionally attractive did it.
I wish I could say this was isolated to the clock app but sadly, it's not. Long nails were once seen as "ghetto" when Black and Latina women proudly flaunted them. But within recent years, they have become en vogue for white women. Back in 2018, Kim Kardashian dubbed her blonde Fulani-esque braids "Bo Derek braids," in reference to the white actor who wore a similar style in the '70s film 10. Derek has been credited with making the very braids a "cross-cultural craze," according to People Magazine. It's insulting for a variety of reasons but especially because Black folks have been demeaned and even barred from wearing the same style in schools and in the workplace.
Destiny's Child at the 5th Annual Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards in 1999
These beauty "trends" that are seen as new when claimed by white mainstream media tend to be very basic techniques for people of color, too. For example, the clean girl aesthetic, for whatever reason, has had TikTok in a chokehold, despite just being no-makeup-makeup and a slicked-back bun. Take a walk in any Black or Latinx neighborhood and I assure you there will be several folks walking around with their slicked-back bun, hoops, and "brownie glazed lips."
Just because something is new to you doesn't mean it hasn't been used, seen, or done before. It just means you don't know about it. Also, for the love of God, not everything is or needs to be a trend with a flashy new name! I am thoroughly exhausted from constantly seeing basic beauty "trends" that are things I have been doing or have seen others doing for decades. If you're only interested in things because they are trendy, then you may have some larger internal issues to tackle.
The urge to deem everything a trend is how we end up with these situations wherein people of color's inventions become appropriated or, at the very least, borrowed without credit or knowledge of origins.
Halle Berry at the 16th Annual National CableACE Awards in 1995
TikTok has been an egregious example of this within and outside of the beauty space. In 2020, Charli D'Amelio and Addison Rae were called out for failing to credit dancers, who were mostly Black, for choreographing the moves that helped them go viral. The "Renegade" dance, in particular, created by Jalaiah Harmon, sparked a conversation about Black TikTokers failing to receive the credit or money for the viral trends and cultural impact they create. Harmon eventually gained credit for the dance largely because Barrie Segal, global head of content at Dubsmash, connected Harmon with the New York Times, leading to an article that set the facts straight about Harmon's ownership.
However, even with the credit, Harmon's social media footprint pales in comparison to Rae's and D'Amelio's. Harmon has 607,000 followers on Instagram and 2.9 million on TikTok, which is impressive, but both Rae and D'Amelio have followings of over 35 million on both TikTok and Instagram. And thanks to Harmon's choreography and that of other creators of color, the two have appeared on countless red carpets, collaborated with beauty brands, and starred in TV shows and films. Rae even got to perform several TikTok-viral dances, none of which she created, on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
It feels demoralizing for folks of color when they see how easily conventionally attractive white folks — such as a Bieber or a D'Amelio — can profit from attaching their images to such simple "trends." A white woman can put her hair in a simple ponytail or messy bun, swipe on some lip gloss, and be declared a style icon by the same people who wouldn't bat an eye at a woman of color doing the same. In fact, for Black women, it's expected that we go the extra mile to make ourselves look "presentable;" for our hair alone, we use braids, weaves, wigs, and slicked-backed hairstyles to do this. Folks of color have to work harder just to potentially be acknowledged — both in real life and on social media.
I've been on the internet way too long, so conversations around cultural appropriation and folks of color not getting their well-deserved credit feel very repetitive to me. Are you not tired? Because I am, and there's only so much foolishness I can handle in one day. At this point, I just want Black folks to get the recognition — and more importantly the money and opportunities — that come with being deemed trendsetters. Anything else, I'm not interested in.
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