Now, more than ever, I am aware of how Black genius is exploited. But Peaches, it's your turn to shine.
Whenever I hear the word “fleek,” I go into bird mode.
As in, I immediately start rapping Cardi B’s classic (it’s not too early to say this) “On Fleek” and the legendary Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé collaboration “Feeling Myself.” And then, I try to pay homage by thinking of Kayla Newman, who as Peaches Monroee online, came up with the phrase “eyebrows on fleek.”
We don’t have the internet celebrity equivalent of TV One’s Unsung yet, but I have wondered what’s happened to her. Like most of you, I’ve since learned she has initiated a GoFundMe to launch a cosmetics line. Newman aims to call it Peaches Cosmetics and Hair Line. I am not being sarcastic: this makes me so happy. Anyone that happy with their blackness that early in life and in Tangerine Mussolini’s America no less is gon’ be alright.
Praise Black Jesus.
Speaking with ESSENCE, Newman explained: “What prompted me to start the GoFundMe page now was that my followers have been very encouraging and behind me all the way. People are still using ‘fleek’ or ‘eyebrows on fleek’… I figured I still had a chance to make something out of it. And people were telling me to start something with cosmetics since you are talking about your eyebrows.”
I haven’t given her money yet because I have student loans and I’m waiting on my next check, but Kayla PeachesMonroee Newman, I will be donating to you soon.
And if you have used “on fleek,” so should you. Granted, I have not given money to folks in the past who came up with phrases like “it’s lit” and “whoop, there it is!,” but I think it’s important to honor our cultural heroes all the same.
Moreover, now more than ever, I am aware of how Black genius is exploited. Writer Doreen St. Felix explored this in her Fader piece, “Black Teens Are Breaking The Internet And Seeing None Of The Profits.”
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In it, St. Felix offers a quick history lesson about how Newman’s turn of phrase quickly spread:
“A month after Newman’s upload, someone named Kevin Gadsden reposts her Vine to YouTube, where it acquires around 3 million views. The expression “on fleek” passes through the clutches of Ariana Grande, who vinesherself singing it in August 2014 for another 9 million loops, and then through those of seemingly every other social media-literate celebrity outfit that fall; corporate entities like IHOP and its rivals employ the phrase in an effort to feign cultural relevance; talk show host Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper exchange vaguely unpleasant jabs about its meaning. “On fleek” ascends to near-officialized language.”
“I gave the world a word,” Newman told St. Felix. “I can’t explain the feeling. At the moment I haven’t gotten any endorsements or received any payment. I feel that I should be compensated. But I also feel that good things happen to those who wait.”
Taco Bell and a host of other corporations have used “on fleek” to promote their products. They were within their legal right to do so, but these companies ought to show some goodwill and offer a monetary thank you. It’s the least they could do.
And since we’re talking about rewarding Black creativity, to quote Another Round host, Tracy Clayton, “if the phrase #blackgirlmagic has impacted/improved your life, buy some merch from the creator! #PayBlackCreatives.
You can do so here. We have to do better by our folks — but more so those who continue to exploit it.
Editors Note: Newman has since announced that she plans to trademark her popular phrase in an interview with Teen Vogue.
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