What Are Vanilla Girls?


Anna Lucia Arguello, Staff Writer

If there’s one thing that unites TikTok, it’s the obsession with lifestyle content and aesthetics. We’ve seen the rise and fall of many fashion trends, including the COVID era cottage core, Harry Potter reminiscent dark academia, and the unforgettable 2019 VSCO girls. More recently, routine has become just as important as fashion, as seen with the clean girl’s flawless skincare and “no makeup” looks. That, combined with the coziness of fall fashion and a fascination with all that’s frosty and sweet, evolved a new aesthetic: the vanilla girl. Much like the clean girl, she embodies a lifestyle as much as a fashion. While minimal makeup and cream or off-white clothing is noticeable, it doesn’t paint the full picture. Vanilla girls are pictured getting up early and nonchalantly make an Instagram worthy breakfast or coffee before heading off to a pleasant and productive day of work. They’re effortlessly beautiful, calm, organized, and never seem to struggle. See the problem yet? 

This style was popularized accidentally by a creator named Alix Earle, a twenty-two-year-old college student who blew up overnight. Many hair and makeup trends within the vanilla girl community come directly from her channel and the hacks she shared with her followers. Unfortunately, these hacks aren’t as harmless as they first appear. Earle recommended using darker shades of concealer as contour, shades meant for use by Black people. On a smaller scale, this didn’t make much of a difference. When 3.9 million people started doing it, there was a problem. White people are perfectly capable of using contour and achieving the same result, but Black people can’t necessarily replace their concealer with the same ease. This trend is also responsible for the popularity of Mielle Organics, a company focused on products for Black women’s hair. Since the vanilla girls, however, there’s hardly been any left in stock for those women, and it’s been moved out of Black hair sections entirely.  

It’s also worth mentioning that these beauty standards are entirely unrealistic for a lot of people. Not everyone can slick back their natural hair or afford expensive off-white statement pieces. And that doesn’t even cover the expectation of near perfection in day-to-day functioning. Sometimes, rolling out of bed is hard enough without coordinating your pajamas and slippers. And the recent popularity of “get ready with me” style videos seems to have skipped over the Black and POC community, who have been posting videos like this for far longer. Even sponsors participate in this trend, often choosing to support newer, viral white creators over more well-established Black creators. 

None of these problems are particularly unique to this style, and they’re not recent developments either. The rise of vanilla girls has proven to be helpful in sparking discussion of long-dormant issues on the internet. With the spotlight on TikTok and creators, hopefully algorithms can be fixed and biases checked so we can have a more inclusive space for everyone.