Eyebrows on fleek? Check. The term “on fleek” went viral back in 2014 after Vine user Peaches Monroee (a.k.a. Kayla Lewis) coined the phrase during one of her videos.
Since then, companies and celebrities have profited off of the term — in music and in marketing — and becoming a cultural phenomenon in the process.
But Peaches Monroee hasn’t seen a dime and rarely gets credit for the popular meme and phrase, leading the 19-year-old to open a GoFundMe campaign back in March aimed at raising $100k to open a cosmetics and hair line.
So how do Damn Daniel and Chewbaca Mom end up on Ellen with prizes and money, and Peaches left with an crowd sourced GoFundMe campaign? According to an essay written by Emma Grey Ellis on Wired, it (unsurprisingly) has a lot to with race and cultural appropriation.
“Lewis’s problem is part intellectual property law, part access to influence, and all systemic racial inequalities. However, egalitarian the iInternet was supposed to be, creatives’ ability to profit off their viral content seems to depend on their race.” Ellis goes on to quote #OSCARSsoWHITE creator, April Reign “I cannot name a person of color who has created something viral and capitalized off of it”.
Whitewashing and cultural appropriation is not a new concept. We have seen Black culture in music and arts “borrowed” and copied for centuries. Every song you hear with drums has African roots. We’re seeing more and more monetizing of cultural slang and viral phrases on t-shirts and hats, from “bae” to “bad and bougie.”
So what happens next? April Reign explains in her essay, “I’m in conversations now about what we can do for Black content creators to make sure that they’re monetizing. The next step is to determine how to ensure people are recognized as the original creator of a work. Nobody envisioned the internet when they were writing intellectual property laws.”
As for Peaches and her fundraising goal, she’s raised $15,000 so far, $85,000 short of her final goal.