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LA Cool Girl backlash revives the gentrification debate on TikTok

Chances are you’ve seen an LA Cool Girl. Better than that, you know an LA cool girl. Or preferably you are an LA cool girl.

She supports the community and is committed to the cultural roots of the city. If you need to know a good Thai or burger spot, she’s your girl. She doesn’t take herself too seriously, kind of knows subway bus routes and might still be living with her parents in her 20s. If nothing else, she is uncompromisingly herself.

Vanessa Acosta in front of the subway station at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

At least, that’s according to LA County locals frustrated with how the so-called LA Cool Girl was recently branded on TikTok.

The term can be traced back to a series of satirical TikToks that describe the LA Cool Girl lifestyle using different neighborhoods. Along with filtered photos, they follow the LA Cool Girl’s fashion, dating life and daily routine to create a West Coast Gossip Girl aesthetic.

An “LA Cool Girl, Eastside Edition” TikTok featuring images of classy white women in Los Feliz hit a nerve and sparked so much backlash that the original creator, who hails from LA, disabled the video’s comments (it got more than viewed 670,000 times). Though the video featured Los Feliz and Silver Lake hashtags, many of the criticisms focused on gentrification and privilege across LA, opening old wounds in an ever-evolving city.

The satirical version of the LA Cool Girl — a crystal enthusiast who sips coffee alongside celebrities and goes horseback riding in Anguilla like it’s no big deal — is elusive to many who grew up in LA, and these locals have taken to TikTok turned to take back the title.

Signs of an LA Cool Girl #1: She speaks

Raquel Santizo in Koreatown.

Upon seeing the original LA Cool Girl TikTok, Raquel Santizo quickly created her own video series designed for a more diverse audience.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

In a seven-story building in Koreatown, Raquel Santizo once shared a one-bedroom apartment with two sisters and their mother. Any lack of privacy was offset by a strong sense of community — she knew her neighbors’ names, kids watched movies on the floor, and she always felt safe walking down the street.

Now 25 and living in San Francisco, things aren’t the same as she used to be when she returns to her birthplace. While the community and love are still there, the streets don’t feel as familiar.

Raquel Santizo in Koreatown.

Raquel Santizo in Koreatown.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

As a child, she watched Echo Park’s “lightning-speed” gentrification. Now she feels it coming for Koreatown.

“It’s difficult to see something you love change,” Santizo said. “I just hope that residents who have lived there for more than three decades, like my mother, can still call home and feel safe and aren’t being evicted.”

Seeing the original LA Cool Girl TikTok, Santizo quickly created her own video series designed for a more diverse audience. While the original depicts a more affluent lifestyle, Santizo features the life of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and art exhibitions.

She’s no Metro expert, but she can find her way around, explains Santizo on TikTok. She probably loves gold jewelry, wears neutral colors (but not in a boring way), and has a favorite taco truck in a gas station parking lot. Chances are the LA Cool Girl is working class.

“A lot of LA is, if we’re being honest,” Santizo said. “A lot of us are first-generation Americans, so I think there’s a kind of pride in and essentially starting your own American history, community, identity in a city that’s so damn diverse and awesome.”

Signs of an LA Cool Girl #2: She represents

Amanda Tovar in Silver Lake.

Amanda Tovar, 26, outlines criteria for being an LA Cool Girl on TikTok, being careful not to include things that would require wealth.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

As these women revamp the LA Cool Girl, they want to make sure she’s approachable. Often, being the reimagined cool girl boils down to just being a decent human being.

“She shares resources. She doesn’t make goalkeepers. She supports others. She doesn’t try hard because she knows who she is. She respects the culture. She’s healing from generational trauma, which I think is pretty common these days,” said Amanda Tovar, who lives in Silver Lake.

Amanda Tovar in Silver Lake.

Amanda Tovar in Silver Lake.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Tovar, 26, outlines accessible criteria for being an LA Cool Girl on TikTok, being careful not to include things that would require wealth. Like many Angelenos, she has previously struggled to pay rent and cannot always invest in an expensive lifestyle. Her vision of the LA Cool Girl doesn’t require a heavy wallet.

Additionally, she doesn’t want the LA Cool Girl to wipe out the diverse community here. Tovar grew up around Britney Spears, Mandy Moore and Cinderella – all of whom were popular but also all white. Tovar is Mexican-Korean and didn’t feel like he really saw himself in a popular character until the Bratz line of dolls launched in the early 2000s. She refuses to let the same thing happen to kids when they watch the LA Cool Girl.

“I just don’t want young people growing up thinking that you have to be like that to be a cool girl when you could just be yourself,” Tovar said.

Signs of an LA Cool Girl #3: She’s worried about gentrification

Vanessa Acosta outside the J&F Ice Cream Shop in Boyle Heights.

Vanessa Acosta outside the J&F Ice Cream Shop in Boyle Heights.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Before the Eloté man was released from Highland Park and returned to Mexico, his loyal fans came to say goodbye, said Vanessa Acosta, a 32-year-old designer. They flocked to Figueroa Street to buy their last few Elotés and wish him well – and worried that one day they might have to leave too.

Acosta, which calls Highland Park, Boyle Heights and Eagle Rock home at one point or another, has seen street vendors disappear, trendy new shops replace corner shops and families of color being evicted while transplants push rents into the soar. Before the pandemic, she and her fiancé frequented a small plant shop owned by a Latina mom and her family. When Acosta returned after quarantine restrictions were eased, it was gone.

Vanessa Acosta in Boyle Heights.

Vanessa Acosta in Boyle Heights.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

“White grafts, who have a lot more money with this generational wealth, are coming in and taking away these businesses, retail spaces and even homes,” Acosta said. “It just seems kind of hopeless. People in this community and these communities have fought and tried to keep this stuff, but it’s just such an uphill battle.”

The struggle has spanned decades, but the LA Cool Girl has spurred new activism.

Kathrine Braxton, a 26-year-old LA County resident with a BA in sociology, knows there are nuances in controversy. While some homeowners might be pleased to see their property values ​​soar as people move to LA, she said, longtime renters are frustrated by rising prices.

“I would just hope that people who move here, that kind of unconscious gentrification, respect where they’re moving and think about what they’re doing,” she said.

Kathrine Braxton in Old Town Pasadena.

Kathrine Braxton knows what nuances to find in the LA Cool Girl talk on TikTok.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Last but not least, the LA Cool Girl broke up these conversations on TikTok — or at least bundled them into a hashtag. Braxton has seen the controversial aesthetic fuel important discussions on a platform that’s not always seen as in-depth.

Kathrine Braxton in Old Town Pasadena.

Kathrine Braxton in Old Town Pasadena.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

“The biggest thing I don’t think people realize is that she started a trend of people like me and other people of color reclaiming the LA cool girls for us,” Braxton said.

Signs of an LA Cool Girl #4: She contains a variety

The authentic LA Cool Girl is reborn from satire. And like Los Angeles itself, it’s multi-faceted. LA’s socioeconomic differences mean it looks different for everyone, Braxton pointed out.

The real LA Cool Girl isn’t someone to aspire to be—she’s someone Los Angeles women already are.

“When I think of an LA Cool Girl, I think of diversity,” Acosta said. “There are so many bags in LA. There’s this cool girl in East LA, there’s this cool girl in South Central, there’s this cool girl in Koreatown or in the Valley or there’s this cool girl in Glendale. They are everywhere, and they are all diverse and different and unique in their own way.”



LA Cool Girl backlash revives the gentrification debate on TikTok

Source link LA Cool Girl backlash revives the gentrification debate on TikTok

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