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This post was written by Kiana Fitzgerald, music journalist and cultural critic.
In June 2014, a precocious teenage black girl nicknamed Peaches Monroee jumped on the now-defunct video-sharing platform Vine to share a personal announcement. “We in this B * Tch, Finna are getting grumpy,” the message began. Then came the phrase that would dominate pop culture for years to come: “Eyebrows is fleek. ”
When Monroee, real name Kayla Newman, came up with the phrase right away, she had no idea what impact it was about to have.
The term “on fleek” spread like wildfire throughout the Black Vine space and throughout black culture. It became the contemporary insider way of the community to say, “I’m on the point.” It wasn’t long, however, before the term was adopted by brands. “Hashbrowns on Fleek”, Denny’s diner chain tweeted in September 2014. Not to be outdone, competing restaurant IHOP would tweet “Pancakes on Fleek” less than a month later.
The tweets generated reactions that ranged from confusion to amusement to utter frustration.
Despite her hugely popular idiom adopted by pop culture, Newman didn’t see a penny in revenue. “Everyone used the phrase, but I didn’t get any money or credit behind it,” Newman said uncovered 2017 in the campaign summary of a partially successful GoFundMe, with which she raised money for the start of her own beauty line.
And so began – and ended – another story of blacks who created a cultural moment and were quickly brushed aside.
At the end of last year, it seemed like history was repeating itself. In December 2020, a car salesman named Durell Smylie, who uses Relly B on social media, recorded strangely getting out of the trunk of an SUV. When Smylie stepped on the floor, he immediately kicked the floor begins A fun game that goes beyond any car salesman pitch you’ve ever heard before.
Towards the end of the video, Smylie begins to repeat a catchy phrase and tell potential customers where to find it: “Where the money lives, where the money lives, where the money lives,” he says with a megawatt smile on his face .
It took a few days for the video to spread on social media platforms and the term to be turned into a viral hashtag. Music stars like Megan Thee Stallion and Mary J. Blige have since used the term as a subtitle for their social posts. Other people in the black community borrowed the phrase to help make their own dreams come true. Meanwhile, a creative bunch took the time to recreate Smylie’s homage video, which he endorsed.
However, Smylie exclaimed a white person for doing the exact same thing.
The person in question recreated the original video to try and sell cars at another dealership using Smylie’s mannerism, tone of voice and key phrase. “Please stop posting the colonizer casserole version of my video,” said Smylie tweeted Beginning of January. in the a follow-up tweetSmylie, citing a video of the near-exact replica of Smylie’s video by a black woman, explains the difference between the two examples. “Just so we are clear – THAT is appreciation and not appropriation!” he posted. “I’m not arrogant or anything. Me and my team just want to make sure that #like money stays in our culture.”
The difference is that the replicas made by blacks were jokingly carried out intracommunally and in real support of Smylie, while the white person was intentionally paying attention Benefit from Smylie’s personality for his own material gain.
When Smylie was asked by supporters and curious minds how he would save himself from an “on fleek” future, he said he was in the process of marking his signature phrase, which Kayla Newman was doing hard. (In a 2017 interview with Teen VogueNewman said that despite a few years, she still hoped to be a trademark for “on fleek”. According to public dataits trademark application has been suspended since 2019 because it was “abandoned”.)
What brands should know
While Smylie is taking steps to legally protect his own viral tagline, the problem is that companies and organizations outside of the black community are consistently trying to fit into the cultural narrative. to benefit.
No legwork is done to develop a relationship with the black creatives, let alone to compensate for this creativity.
Lessons can be drawn from these examples of appreciation and appropriation. There are also questions that should be raised and answered before reusing content created by blacks:
- Is our company affiliated with the Black Community in any way? Do we have more than one black person on the staff, if any?
- Will our use of this viral content come from the left panel?
- Can we go directly to the creator of the viral content and create a relationship with that person?
- If possible, we can work with the creator for our own inspired content?
In answering these questions, it should be clear whether a company can or should co-opt a phrase for its own benefit.
Kiana holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism (2011) and a master’s degree in new media in mass communication (2013) from Texas State University. She has been a freelance writer, multimedia reporter, academic and editorial researcher, photographer, social media strategist, college teacher, web developer, and more.
She has worked for NPR, and more recently Complex Networks, interviewing artists, criticizing albums, songs and videos, both mainstream and underground. As a Fellow for Diversity and Inclusion at True Blue Inclusion, she researched, analyzed and presented the impact of politics on media and culture and continues to write and analyze DEI efforts today.
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