Who hasn’t fallen victim to a trend? Open Instagram to see a few of the trends making the rounds in the Asian American community: Streetwear. Full-face Instagram makeup. “Influencing.” Eventually, Asian Baby Girl/Aznbbygurl emerged, a combination of all the above.
An ABG is an Asian female, age typically ranging anywhere from teens to early 30s, with a taste for partying and false eyelashes. Her confidence? Unwavering. Her outfit? The latest Supreme launch. Her eyeshadow? Blended to perfection. Bubble tea pumps through her veins, and you can find her raving to EDM on any given Saturday night.
While it’s difficult to pinpoint when exactly the term “ABG” was coined, it appears to stem from the Azn Pride movement that spanned the 1990s-2000s. Azn Pride adopted aspects of hip-hop music and culture in forging a pan-Asian American identity, eventually evolving from Rice Rockets and import models into an infatuation with streetwear and hypebeast culture, all of which have heavily influenced ABG fashion.
The ABG look seems to have evolved from the surge of YouTubers and influencers who largely owe their success to the likes of Michelle Phan, Lindy Tsang (Bubzbeauty), and Jen Chae (frmheadtotoe)—Asian women who were key players in the advent of YouTube celebritydom circa 2008. In those early golden days of YouTube, Asian American women suddenly had access to the cosmetic education denied to them by prominent beauty publications catering mainly to white women, and the effects have been long lasting.
The ABG look, most often donned by East Asians, usually involves a full-coverage foundation, gleaming highlighter, well-defined brows, colorful eyeshadow, false lashes, and full, matte lips to complete the look. It’s a stark contrast from traditional Asian beauty standards, which are notoriously conservative in their expectations of women in both manner and appearance. The physical differences between members of the East Asian diaspora and their Asian counterparts have, for the most part, always been distinct: Asians living in Asia tend to have paler skin and wear makeup that veers more toward a cute and youthful look, while Asians living abroad are usually more tan and have adopted makeup styles more popular in Western culture, such as smoky eyes and more defined contouring. ABG culture heightens this contrast by directly defying those traditional Asian standards in its unabashed glamor.
There are countless memes circulating the internet around ABGs’ obsession with false eyelashes and their bubble tea. All jokes aside, there’s something to celebrate in the easy confidence ABGs exude. Unfortunately, there is still an outdated expectation in American society that Asian women are quiet, meek and subservient, and the ABG is a direct foil to these assumptions.
ABG culture is just one of the many aspects of being an Asian American female in 2019. To be honest, we’re in a bit of a strange place. There is more Asian American pride than ever, thanks to the increased representation of Asians in media. Being Asian in America is finally “cool,” and we’re all adjusting. Monolids are being embraced, Asian food is consumed with pride, and our mother tongues are no longer a source of shame, but an audible reminder of our rich histories. We still have a long way to go, however, in coming to terms with our collective Asian American identity and addressing uncomfortable truths, and the ABG feels like a midway point in that journey, a sort of confidently rebellious adolescence in the Asian American experience. The road to inclusion and equality is long, but our lashes are longer.