A growing number of African American creators on TikTok are joining the “gyaru” trend, a Japanese fashion subculture that was popular in the 1990s.
#BlackGyaru: Wearing brightly colored outfits and sporting dramatic make-up with oversized lashes, a community of Black women and femmes on TikTok are adopting the aesthetic and sharing their looks with thousands of followers. The #BlackGyaru hashtag has more than 84 million views as of this writing. Some of the best-known TikTok users in the niche include CitrusMalicious and Lady Lavender.
Another popular TikTok user who draws inspiration from Japan’s gyaru culture is Aliyah Bah, who rose to popularity due to her eccentric style known as “aliyahcore.” Her fashion style also mixes aspects of Y2K fashion and streetwear, sporting earmuffs, suspenders and studded belts with creative makeup looks.
Racism against the Black Gyaru: While the style has brought empowerment to the growing Black gyaru community, many creators face ostracization and racism on TikTok. When Lady Lavender first joined the community, she was reportedly criticized and described as an “East Asian baiter” by some viewers.
Some creators defended the Black gyaru community, claiming that gyaru was inspired by Afro American artists. Citrus Malicious, who has considered quitting due to the “severe” hate, believes that the racism surrounding the Black gyaru community should be eliminated as “gyaru was made to combat colorist beauty standards” in the first place.
According to Bah, Black women with darker skin tones are also more discriminated against. “A lighter skinned person could do this alternative stuff and people would eat it up, but when it’s on a darker skinned person we get this negative connotation,” Bah told CNN.
What is Gyaru?: Gyaru, which is the Japanese transliteration of the English slang word “gal,” originated in Japan in the 1970s and was adopted by women who rejected the nation’s traditional beauty standards, which only accepted pale skin, dark hair and discreet makeup. The style was particularly popular in Tokyo’s trendy districts in the 1990s and early 2000s. Some variants of the style, including b-kei, yamanba and ganguro, were also directly inspired by the U.S. hip-hop culture.
According to Masafumi Monden, a professor at the University of Sydney who studies Japanese popular culture, the Japanese subculture stemmed from the growing influence of Western media in the 90s. The fashion style borrows its aesthetic from both the “California valley girl” and R&B styles.