︎︎︎episode 45

CH-CH-CH-CHEUGY! (pt 2): WTF is Cheugy? 

June 8th, 2021

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Welcome to part 2 of our super mini series about cheugy.

In our last conversation, we traveled back in time to 2014 to break down the term “basic.” We found that it was based in misogyny, classism, and just general insecurity about one’s place in the world.  And it is a term that is so entangled in consumerism...basically (no pun intended) it takes one consumption habits and transforms it into a female archetype, a personality profile...which makes sense because we know that millennials really base their identity on the brands they buy and the media they enjoy consuming.

Well, today we are finally going to get into cheugy. And I promise, you will understand why I had to spend an entire episode talking about “basic.”

So let’s start where all great podcasts begin...with another stroll over to the Urban Dictionary.


  • The opposite of trendy. Stylish in middle school and high school but no longer in style. Used when someone still follows these out of date trends. This may include but not be limited to fashion, habits on social media, usage of slang, etc.
  • Another way to describe aesthetics/people/experiences that are basic. AHHHH NOW YOU ARE STARTING TO SEE THE TIE IN, BUT I PROMISE WE AREN’T DONE!!!

Now I know some of you are saying, “Amanda, I just don’t consider Urban Dictionary a reputable source.  You and Kim are grown ass professional women and I want to see a more legitimate source of information!”

Fine, let’s consult the New York Times:

It’s not quite “basic,” which can describe someone who is a conformist or perhaps generic in their tastes, and it’s not quite “uncool.”

It’s not embarrassing or even always negative. Cheugy can be used, broadly, to describe someone who is out of date or trying too hard. And while a lot of cheugy things are associated with millennial women, the term can be applied to anyone of any gender and any age.

So let’s talk about what we are hearing so far here:
  • Cheugy things are “out of date,” which implies a sort of ageism involved, right?
  • Once again, just like with “basic,” cheugy seems to involve liking/consuming a lot of popular things.
  • It’s definitely associated with women, particularly millennial women...even if the NYT says it can apply to someone of any gender.

Well, where did this term originate?
  • Gaby Rasson, 23, a software developer in Los Angeles coined the term.
  • From the NYT:
    • “She said she started using the word back in 2013 while attending Beverly Hills High School. She wanted a way to describe people who were slightly off trend. But she couldn’t quite come up with the right term, so she created her own.”
    • “It was a category that didn’t exist,” she said. “There was a missing word that was on the edge of my tongue and nothing to describe it and ‘cheugy’ came to me. How it sounded fit the meaning.”
    • It went viral when she started using it on TikTok
    • It’s no coincidence to me that cheugy began on TikTok because TikTok is the anti-instagram...influencers aren’t welcome (Danielle Bernstein hasn’t had a good time there), and neither are big corporations.   Meanwhile, IG has been basically ruined by both. At its core, IG IS cheugy! IG is out of date!

Already you’re starting to see an overlap between cheugy and basic, right?

“Alex Lugger, 32, a boat marketer in Springfield, Mo., said that she self identifies as a bit cheugy. “We were basic in our 20s and now we’re cheugy in our 30s,” she said.

But as we discussed in the last episode, we use words like basic and cheugy to distance ourselves from things we feel apprehensive about.  Everyone has anxiety about being out of date, off trend, and just plain old.  So naturally the internet is filled with thinkpieces and quizzes about Cheugy.  It’s how we work out our anxiety about these kinds of things.

There are some who believe that there is misogyny is a the core of cheugy, just like it was for “basic.”  But I will say that the biggest rationale for this argument seems to be the inclusion of “girl boss,” which we know was a massive fail/fraud.

From Rolling Stone: “On social media, some have condemned the term “cheugy,” accusing it of being misogynistic and used as yet another way to “bully” women. This is misguided: bullying is what happens when you weaponize markers of someone’s identity against them, and if you consider wearing Tory Burch sandals an integral aspect of your identity, then you probably need to take a long hard look at your own privilege. Misogyny is insidious and takes many forms in our culture, but making fun of someone for posting Minion memes is not one of them.”

One thing that cheugy does seem to chip away at is this idea of being quirky, of being a “manic pixie dream girl,” of being zooey deschanel or “not like other girls” or being a “cool girl.

It dismantles a lot of the hallmarks of cute/quirky/unique style like converse chuck taylors,  conversational prints, “plant lady” merch, your girl boss mug...which at the end of the day, weren’t very quirky and unique in the first place, as millions of units of this stuff were sold!

As I mentioned, Instagram is at its core very cheugy.  It feels dated and ingenuine. Influencers, extensions, diet tea, inspirational quotes...these are the staples of IG and gen Z is rejecting that stuff...as well as a lot of millennials and gen x-ers who are sick of all of the bullshit! I would almost argue---no matter how many articles I read that say that “cheugy” is gen z’s way of trolling millennials...that cheugy has less to do with age and more about a sea change we are seeing right now around consumerism, racial/class justice and capitalism.

From a Vice article called “What is Cheugy, The Word Gen Z  are Using to Troll Millennials Again?:

“For Gen Z, trolling millennials is about taking on trends they believe don’t vibe with the times, like Eminem and J.K. Rowling, rather than simply dismissing their generation in its entirety.”

And I think you can see that reflected in things that are considered cheugy. 

Let’s review a list of things that are Cheugy…
  • Golden Goose sneakers
  • Sneaker culture in general
  • Skinny girl vodka (also, flavored vodka)
  • Neutrogena’s oil-free cleansing wipes in pink grapefruit
  • Lasagna and mac and cheese
  • Sharing updates on Linkedin
  • #girlboss
  • Disney
  • French bulldogs, and calling them “frenchies”
  • Prom
  • Supreme
  • Herbal Essences
  • Denim jackets
  • “Rose all day” and “wine o clock”
  • Almost Famous
  • Friends
  • Pumpkin Spice
  • The Office
  • Uggs
  • Flat ironing your hair
  • Live Laugh Love
  • Victoria’s Secret Pink
  • Frozen yogurt
  • Succulents
  • Mason Jars
  • Stickers on your mac book
  • Gender reveal parties
  • White claw
  • Avocado toast
  • Harry Potter
  • Using words like “doggo” and “adulting” or phrases like “i did a thing”
  • Large felt hats (awkward)
  • Minion memes

What’s un-cheugy:
  • Thrifting
  • Making your own clothes
  • Being anti-capitalist
  • Levi’s jeans
  • Home decor that isn’t from Target
  • Handmade things

I guess the bigger picture here...and maybe this is wishful thinking...is that gen Z seems to rejecting a lot of the consumerism=persona patterns of the millennials.  Maybe I’m being falsely optimistic here?

I know we are low on Cheugy Memes so we made some. You are Welcome!

Cheugy memes