By Lauren Olabode
The term “it girl” is defined by Urban Dictionary as “ The girls you want to know more about, the girls you want to look like, the girls you say you hate but… you secretly love them.” with the “modern” examples of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan, and Nicole Richie following.
However, the term and examples of it have changed since its origin. The term "it girl" was first coined in British high society around the turn of the 20th century and was used to describe “A young rich woman who has obtained a celebrity like status because of her socialite lifestyle.”
An example of the everyday British use is cited in a 1904 short story written by English author Rudyard Kipling which contained the line “Tisn't beauty, so to speak, nor good talk necessarily. It's just It. Some women'll stay in a man's memory if they once walk down a street.”
This was the established definition of an It Girl for a while, however with the release of the 1927 movie ‘It’ American audiences grew attached to Clara Bow (an actress in the movie) and gave the term fame in the U.S. , they changed the definition and its posh influences but kept ‘it’ as a quality.
Image via Wikipedia
Throughout the decades as "it girls" have changed and gone from athletes and influential women to people in entertainment, so has the definition.
The most modern technical definition according to Wikipedia is “A wealthy, normally unemployed, young woman who is pictured in tabloids going to many parties often in the company of other celebrities, receiving media coverage in spite of no real personal achievements or TV hosting / presenting.”
A secondary definition from writer William Donaldson is also provided it states, an it girl is often applied to “A young woman of noticeable ‘sex appeal’ who occupied herself by shoe- shopping and party going.”
Both definitions are correct in citing who the modern "it girls" are; however, they each recognize things the other does not.
The first cities that "it girls" are wealthy, this is typically true, most "it girls" are wealthy or become wealthy due to their interests or careers which can range from being a model to being first lady.
The second cites that "it girls" have sex appeal. This not only rings true because to be an "it girl" you have to be attractive (hence most it girls being models, musicians, & actresses ) but also because a lot of "it girls" were also known as sex symbols (examples being Clara Bow and Marilyn Monroe).
However, Both definitions fail to mention something very important.
It girlhood is temporary.
Disappearance and Downfalls
“Heavy is the head that wears the ‘it girl’ tiara” Writer Linda Rodriguez Mcrobbie states in her 2009 article on the downfall of "it girls".
And unfortunately she is right.
There are two main problems with It girlhood which cause people to leave it behind. The first is how it focuses on obsession and idealization.
The "it girl" persona is extremely managed. She has to be cool yet effortless. Confident and sexy yet reserved and cute. She is a fantasy and idealized , her personality is changed around to fit what the people want depending on the times. It’s often not the real personality of the woman holding the moniker.
This has been commented on by many it girls and the people who knew them. In a recent Rolling Stone Article Jennie Kim ( a member of the girl group Blackpink) was asked about who the public persona of Jennie Kim is. Her response detailed how she is unlike her media persona and "it girl" Jennie Kim is more of a character that she plays.
This phenomenon was also seen with Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn was portrayed as the ever-bubbly ditzy blond who put on a smile in every interview but Norma Jeane (Monroe’s real name) was restless, insecure, and anxious throughout the duration of her career. Marilyn was clueless yet shallow while Norma was smart and determined. This frustrating paradox of not being able to express herself eventually led to Norma stepping more out of the spotlight and taking a backseat.
The person is not the persona. This is something that goes unnoticed by people and the media.
Which breeds the second problem with being an "it girl", the scandals, rumors, and jealousy and the toll that it takes.
Once you have ‘it’ it’s almost as if everyone hates and loves you for it ( and no one feels this way more than the media outlets who bring praise and hatred in alternating waves). Often "it girls" have been stereotyped in the news as entitled, lazy, promiscuous, and unhinged. Their relationships and reactions are over dramatized and taken very seriously despite them being very young. It girls have their privacy invaded and personal lives speculated about with awful rumors spread about them almost daily.
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Image via Kanye Daily News
And once they age out of “girlhood” and their “prime” and are no longer new and shiny, they are dropped and often spiral into mental health crises and turn to drugs, eating disorders, and/or self destructive relationships.
Image via The New Zealand Herald
Image via People magazine
All of which the media are readily available to document and push out into the mainstream pop culture consciousness.
This often leads to "it girls" disappearing, this can be through means of moving, staying out of the entertainment industry, and overall maintaining a low profile.
The notion of the "it girl" is a fantasy, a cruel one, one that can bring you all the way up to the top then take you crashing down.
So where are It girls going?
The answer is away. Away from the media and prying eyes and away from it. As if to make themselves simply a girl again. Someone not yet scared by the media and public expectations yet.
Written by writer Lauren Olabode