From The Fresh Prince of Bel Air to Insecure via Migos, how the trope is ultimately coming of age

When Donald Glover kicked off a great year for television at the Golden Globes this January, the soundtrack to his success was obvious:” I really want to thank the Migos ,” he said as he accepted Atlanta‘s accolade for best Tv series- musical or comedy.” Not for being on the depict, but for making Bad and Boujee. Like, that’s the best song ever .” The next day, as if to demonstrate the deeply felt honesty of these comments, footage of Glover get down to the trail at an afterparty turned up on Instagram.

For US audiences, Migos likely required no introduction. The Atlanta-based trio had been in the charts with Bad and Boujee( featuring Lil Uzi Vert) since the track’s freeing in October 2016( eventually reaching No 1 following that plug from Glover) and the lyric” rainfall fell, plummet top” had spawned numerous Twitter memes. The video, featuring beautiful wives draped in pearls while journeying dirt bikes, and eating fast food from Chanel logo-emblazoned takeout boxes , now has more than 500 million YouTube views. In the UK, where the trail only reached No 30 in February, audiences may be less very well known Migos, but they’ll still understand the reference; the black, bougie princess has been a mainstay on Tv for decades.

The word ” bougie”, arising from the French word bourgeoisie, will likewise be familiar to English-speaking TV viewers the world over. Nonetheless, as the Migos song suggests, the word’s spelling variants are beginning to take on subtly different meanings. There’s ” bougie”, signifying a all the members of a wealthy social class and the manners that go with it; “bougee”, which more often carries the pejorative sense of acting above one’s true social status. Then there’s Migos’s ” boujee”, a word that is still mapping out a new, more positive definition.

Styling it out … watch the video for Migos’ Bad and Boujee.

The mother of all TV’s bougie princesses is Dynasty’s Dominique Deveraux, a character initially dreamed up by the actor who played her, Diahann Carroll. After Carroll was cast in the nighttime soap in 1984, she spelled out her purposes for the specific characteristics in an interview with People magazine: “[ Tv has] done everything. They’ve done incest, homosexuality, assassination. I think they’re gradually inching their lane toward interracial. I want to be wealthy and ruthless … I want to be the first black bitch on tv .”

As the years progressed, so did the Tv trope. There was A Different World’s southern belle Whitley Gilbert( played by Jasmine Guy from 1987 to 1993 ), finickity fashion plate Lisa Turtle on Saved By the Bell( 1989 to 1993 ), self-centred valley girl Hilary Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air from 1990 to 1996 and Dionne Davenport in Clueless, both the original 1995 movie and the 1996 -9 9 spin-off TV series. Stacey Dash, the actor who played Dionne, afterwards had a return to the limelight when she became a Republican party-supporting Fox News pundit, which, given this context at least, isn’t an wholly surprising job move.

For both white and black audiences, these early Tv representations of wealthy, educated black womanhood were also something of a novelty.” For most of film and television services and facilities history, the images of black ladies have been belittling ,” says Mia Mask, prof of cinema at New York’s Vassar College and author of Divas on Screen: Black Women in American Film.” It was not until the 1980 s that the bougie parody emerged and reappeared with regularity .” Yes, it was still a parody, but unlike the mammy or the jezebel it was a glamorous one. Mask credits the late-6 0s sitcom Julia with putting the very first black middle-class girl on US TV, played by Diahann Carroll again,” but “shes not” what we’d call a bougie princess. She was a single mother who worked as a nurse but had middle-class values .”

Don’t get your back up … Dynasty superstar Diahann Carroll as Dominique Deveraux < em >( right ), posing with Joan Collins’s Alexis Carrington. Photo: Everett Collection/ Rex

Today, the bougie princess lives on , not just as the heroines of the Migos video but as multi-dimensional, modern females such as Scandal’s Olivia Pope, Insecure‘s Molly and Dear White People‘s Colandrea “Coco” Conners. The characters on this continuum vary in some important lanes but they’re united by their enjoy of expensive clothes, snobby social attitudes and high standards in intrigue. They’ve also tended to have one other thing in common, as Mask details:” Men can be’ bougie ‘, so it’s not necessarily specific to women. But’ bougie’ is typically an accusation throw at women, a gendered put-down. It’s a way of saying ladies are putting on airs .”

Like her forebear Dominique Deveraux, Whitley Gilbert in A Different World was partly created to fulfil the dramatic part of the foe.” A new psyche writer was brought in who said,’ We necessity a bitch. What’s a black bitch ?'” remembers Susan Fales-Hill, lead writer and producer on the prove for its entire running.” Whitley has her spoiled, over-accessorised counterparts in every culture, but her history is thoroughly rooted in the tortured history of American race relations. It was always important to prove Whitley was not aspiring to be white. She was ferociously proud of her heritage. She wanted to be excellent. And yes, even though awkwardly, she knew how to code switch .” Fales-Hill, herself the daughter of a Haitian-American and a Wasp whose line goes back to the Mayflower, has written about her family in memoir Always Wear Joy, and an upcoming history of her ancestors, both enslaved and slave-owning.” One of the greatest triumphs of racism has been to convince America and black people including with regard to that being wealthy, trained or’ posh’ involves forfeiting your blackness ,” she says.

The existence of a US “afrostocracy” stretching back to emancipation has also been chronicled by other writers , notably Gail Lumet Buckley in The Black Calhouns and Lawrence Otis Graham, whose Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class will soon to be was transformed into a Tv series by Empire co-executive producer Wendy Calhoun. These characters are fascinating to Tv novelists, because they exist at a dramatic intersection of class, gender and race, but, as Fales-Hill points out, they’re likewise real:” Whitley’s ethos of’ blackness oblige ‘, that sense of having to be impeccable and represent, ie be an ambassador in every situation, came from me .”

Blame it on the bougie … Antoinette Robertson as Dear White People’s Colandrea’ Coco’ Conners. Photo: Adam Rose/ Netflix

In the 80 s and 90 s, it often seemed that African-American household sitcoms were themselves operates on a sense of “blackness oblige”. The Cosby Show had to compensate for centuries of disparaging and racist stereotypes by showcasing an impeccable family whose moral code was unimpeachable .( The fact that Bill Cosbylater turned out to be anything but is an irony too pain to require accentuating .) Now that efforts to increase behind-the-scenes diversity are birthing fruit on screen, in shows such as Atlanta, Insecure, Master of None, Dear White People, The Mindy Project, Empire, Fresh Off the Boat, Black-ish, Transparent and more, that load of representation has been eased. Writers can tell the tales that concern them, and there are many to tell.

Today’s incarnation of” bad and boujee” might be bad intending good or bad meaning bad. She might be boujee, bougie or out-and-out bourgeois. She might be a shrewd political operators with messed-up personal life such as Olivia Pope, a high-society corporate rogue like Anika” Boo Boo Kitty” Lyon on Empire, or a ride-or-die bestie with admirable job focus, such as Molly on Insecure. Tv has come a long way in a few decades and don’t the creators know it- both Insecure and Dear White People feature fond irony of less sophisticated tropes in their shows-within-shows.

The real watershed, however- the moment when TV’s bad and boujee moved from stereotype to celebration- arrived in episode four of Netflix’s Dear White People. That’s when Coco Conners( Antoinette Robertson) bursts into the radio studio of series protagonist Samantha White( Logan Browning) and, flanked by her white pals, proceeds to defend herself against the accusation that by seeking to better herself, she’s betraying her roots. She likewise calls out biracial Samantha out on her unconscious wielding of” light-skinned privilege “:” Is utilizing your radio indicate to drag other black wives part of your revolution ?… You get away with slaying because you look more like them than I do .”

Careering on … Yvonne Orji as Molly Carter in Insecure. Photo: Justina Mintz/ HBO

Emma Dabiri, the African diaspora academic, broadcaster and co-presenter of BBC4′ s Britain’s Lost Masterpieces says this showdown of colourism is crucial to understanding why it’s more than just a continuation of the ghetto fabulous aesthetic of 90 s hip-hop or the “blackness oblige” of 80s sitcoms. “[ In the lyrics of Bad and Boujee] there’s clearly an explicit reference to being nouveau riche, but it can be- and it is being- applied in ways far beyond that too ,” she says.” It resolves a tension where being perceived as too middle class was seen as acting white or’ sidity ‘, and often links with being light-skinned. As reject the one-dimensionality that was once imposed, blackness today is being understood far more for its multiplicities .”

This character type suffers partly because despite being so specifically black, female and American, her appeal and story are more widely understood. She’s a gala of being comfortable in your own skin, even as “the worlds” insists you’re an inherent identity crisis. Living well is indeed the best avenge, especially if a sense of inner peace includes : all the jewellery, flash autoes and champagne. Or, as the great Dominique Deveraux said when interrogated about her identity in her very first Dynasty appearance:” Who am I? You will find out very soon .”

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