The Commodication of Blackness: The Rise Instagram “Baddie” and Kylie Jenner

 

It remains exceedingly attractive and possible in this post-black, post-soul age of black cultural traffic to love black cool and not love black people.”- Harry Elam

From her beat face with fleeked eyebrows, boxer braids, her perfectly crafted “street-style” ensemble, and the choker around her neck; the Instagram baddie is a washed up performance of Blackness at its very best. Moreover, the fascination with the lips and body of Kylie Jenner by the media sparks a discussion about the acceptability of Black features on non-Black bodies.

 

We are living generation that prides itself on the careful curation of our Instagram profiles, desperately seeking the right aesthetics to present to the world. So when the Instagram baddie trend flourished during the summer of 2016, I was confused as to why white girls were wearing cornrows all of a sudden. However, the baddies called this hairstyle boxer braids, in an attempt to commodity the traditionally Black hairstyle. In “Black Hair/Style Politics, art historian Kobena Mercer notes “Through aesthetic stylization, each black hairstyle seeks to revalorize the ethnic signifier and the political significance of each rearticulation of value and meaning depends on the historical conditions under which each style emerges.” (Mercer, 1987: 36) Black hair and the way in which it is styled is political, and it cannot be erased through the creation of name.

Hannah Kutchinski via Odyessey

From the stacks of gold rings piled on their fingers to their 6-inch acrylic nails, their style is not a style it is a rip off of Black culture. This Instagram baddie aesthetic, of which these girls aspire to, is a product of the mass disenfranchisement of Black women. Their style has been co-opted by the mass media, as the new cool, just without their faces attached. The women who inspired this look are called ghetto and hood, while the white and ethically-ambiguous girls of Instagram are appalled.

The lips of Kylie Jenner sparked a firestorm of conversation when they suddenly went from nothing to something. Jenner, initially, responded the increased attention by denying she had any work done. But after months of speculation, she confessed that she had lip filler. Recently articles online have been exalting Kylie, as #bodygoals, which confuses me in more way than one. The first being the presence of a curvacious figure, whether bought or nature, and lip enhancement. Historically large, full lips have been associated with Black women, but the presence of these features on Kylie is a spectacle, is a slap in the face for Black women who have been shamed for the way their body looks, naturally. Janell Hobson, in her article about the “Venus Hottentot”, argues that “Bartman, on the other hand, came to signify the “ugliness” of her race. It is this connection between blackness and grotesquerie that has haunted many people of African descent, especially those living under the influence of dominant white culture, to the point that a slogan such as “Black is beautiful” seems a radical statement.” (Hobson, 2003: 94)

Kylie Jenner plastic surgery: Before and after

The presence of the Instagram baddie and Kylie Jenner’s newfound curves represents the way in which dominant white culture has made Blackness consumable. By watering-down Black culture, white society has made the Black body something to aspire to, while erasing the bodies and the stories of Black women in the process.

-tgainezz

 

Sources:

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/how-to-guide-instagram-baddie

“The “Batty” Politic: Toward an Aesthetic of the Black Female Body” by Janell Hobson

“Black Hair/ Style Politics” by Kobena Mercer

 

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2 thoughts on “The Commodication of Blackness: The Rise Instagram “Baddie” and Kylie Jenner

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  1. I looked at the Odyssey article you referenced here, and I’m particularly fascinated by the frequent references to “street-style,” which is such clearly coded language. White girls in the suburbs who are curating their looks on Instagram don’t exist in “the streets” in any capacity; their style is influenced by “the streets” only to the degree to which it is appropriative. However, the author continues to talk about the “girl on the street” and how a flannel gives you “street cred” – is that because it’s associated with masculinity/queer women? Is there some other reason for this I’m missing? I’m so confused. The author further works to find a choker that has “the punk feeling of the look” whether or not the choker (or the Instagram baddie-wannabe) are actually punk, and reminds readers that being a Baddie doesn’t mean you have to have a bad attitude. The article seems to be explicitly recommending appropriation – you don’t have to think this way, act this way, or be this type of person, but here is how to imitate this (coded) “street” aesthetic through clothes that don’t feel too threatening to you.

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