I’m not sure when it happened. When normal grooming habits that women (and some men) have done for years became “fancy,” but apparently getting your “hair done, nails done, everything did” is the new boughetto anthem.

Thank you, Drake. Thanks for making yet another song that sisters will reference and shout out to show they got it going on and are better than the average chick. I’ve already seen the Facebook statuses and tweets declaring, “I’m fancy!” as if that’s some sort of badge of honor. Because even though they might not have finished school, or are working the job they want, or can pay their bills, they are “fancy” because they look flawless, and that’s good enough for them.

Let me dial back my sarcasm and reassure you that I have nothing against sisters who love to pamper themselves. As a matter of fact, all people should take time each day to make sure they’re practicing some sort of self-love. Be it a yoga class, a trip to the spa for a mani and pedi, or a walk around your neighborhood, we should all be getting “fancy” in our own way.

My beef, however, isn’t really with the song; it’s with the message it continues to propagate. While “Fancy” shouts out women who got their own, it also continues to promote competition amongst women for “successful” men. It’s not telling us all to shine because we’re all valuable, it says, “girls let me see your hands/Wave em at the b-tches hating on you with their friends/Girl you got it/Let ‘em know everything big/Nails done hairs done, everything big.” The need to show off, to rub your success (or appearance of success) in other people’s faces isn’t fancy, it’s just kinda sad. These messages, seemingly harmless and packaged in a catchy beat, continue the class wars and lead to more folks fronting, instead of being themselves.

Case in point, Phaedra from the “Real Housewives of Atlanta.” Throughout the show, Phaedra Parks, a famed entertainment attorney, has continued to describe herself as a “southern belle” who comes from money. She has even boasted about being an equestrian and a lover of the arts. Although she is very successful (which should be enough), she’s exhibited some not-so-upper-class tendencies, like rocking rhinestone-studded eye-liner, taking suggestive pregnancy photos with huge dill pickles, and continuously talking up her lineage. Note to Phaedra: truly cultured people don’t have to constantly brag about their pedigree, it’s apparent.

In an attempt to show off just how “fancy,” refined, and upper class she is, Phaedra organized one of the most unique baby showers I’ve ever seen. It was a train wreck. Her over-the-top baby shower called for ladies to sport gigantic Kentucky Derby-esque hats, and had a ballet troupe perform a dance tribute. Kandi, cast mate and former member of the group Xscape, aptly labeled Phaedra and her shower as “boughetto.”

What’s “boughetto,” you ask? Boughetto is the collision of bougie, or upperclass (or rather, fronting like you’re upper class) and ghetto (lower class or hood). Boughetto encompasses two things that seem to be at the opposite ends of the spectrum, but have instead joined together to form an interesting and complex state of mind.

At first thought, boughetto seems like a throwaway term used to describe those who think they have more class mobility than they actually do. It has been used as a pejorative for those who think they are all that, but don’t actually have the education, paycheck, or social status they purport to possess. However, I’d argue that boughetto can be used to sum up a number of Black folks who straddle both ends of the class spectrum everyday.

Black people are forced to negotiate different class levels, social structures, and race issues daily. Today’s world demands that we are able to move seamlessly through these circles just to make it. Think about it. Our jobs, our friendships, and our academic interactions all require a different set of ways in which we relate to others. Gone are the days when we were surrounded exclusively by those who look and act like us, these days we have to go back and forth between worlds.

Sometimes, the dance between social structures can be tricky. As a people, our “Blackness” seems to come into question whenever we are living our lives outside of The Black Box. Moreover, Black folks who aren’t living up to the conventional notion of Blackness, run the risk of being categorized as acting White. Those who self-identify as, or are deemed, boughetto are sometimes just trying to maintain their ties to conventional views of Blackness, while pursuing their class aspirations.

While I don’t knock those who try to fit into different social circles, I am suspicious of the people who try to fit in while looking down on those who don’t. My issue with Drake’s “Fancy” is the same issue I have with Phaedra’s rants on “Housewives.” They are both judgmental and divisive. Although Phaedra’s judgmental ideas about class are more apparent, both the song and the show set up women to aspire to be something they are not (and sometimes, cannot afford to be). The downside of fronting, or being “Fancy” and boughetto, is that it sets many of us up for failure. And failure just ain’t cute.

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  • Dee

    Good grooming has nothing to do with getting your nails done every week. For the most part, nail establishments are nothing but chemical zones. I am surprised that people don’t realize all that stuff is unhealthly. Yet people go to those poorly ventilated, sweat shops in the name of grooming. They even go when they are pregnant and bring their children. Not a good thing. Most people spend more money going to those places and giving away their money to others and won’t even spend money to get a bag of groceries to give a food bank. Now that’s not fancy.

  • I never took the song, “Fancy”, as negative connotation for black women. In fact, I too, took it as a celebration of women who are all about handling their business. Drake does not limit the song to simply physical appearances. He shouts out the educated, the homeowners, the independent woman, etc. I think some of us are reading way to deeply into the lyrics. It’s nice to be recognized in a positive light for a change. I’m sure most of us felt we were fancy and classy before this song hit the airwaves, so what the heck is the problem?

    As for Phaedra, I haven’t watched RHOA this season. I did see the pictures and thought they were rather tasteless, but hey, I really can’t comment or have an opinion about her.

    As for the term “boughetto”, I don’t think that is solely referencing low-class meets middle/high class. Again, I don’t watch the show so I can’t really comment. I think we all possess a little “boughetto-ness”. For example, I’m your classic professional at work. I speak well, I can carry an intellectual conversation, and I can connect well with my professional peers. At the same time, I can turn it off and check somebody in a hot minute, if necessary. I’m a teacher, so I know all to well what it means to turn it off and turn it on. My kids who know me well can attest that there are two sides to Ms. B. The “love and logic” side and the “don’tcrossmeori’llhavetocheckyou” side. That’s my personal definition “boughetto”.

  • What a wonderful post. Would it be possible for you to elaborate, it’s given a couple of interesting ideas!