It looks like Latinidad will never stop trending on TikTok or making waves in the community, and unfortunately it’s sometimes all for the wrong reasons. From the #CleanGirlAesthetic to the agua fresca/spa water debate to Hailey Beiber’s “brownie lips”, the Latinx community has been no stranger to cultural appropriation and outright theft on the platform for years now. The culprit this time? The “copy-paste Latina” which has accumulated more than 3 million views on TikTok. If you’re confused, you’re not the only one. After swiping through a few TikToks with the tag, I learned it’s a look reminiscent of Mexican chola culture: dark-lined lips with lipgloss, thick eyelashes, eyebrows blocked off with concealer, layers of foundation and powder, and straight black hair. Basically, the modern Latina version of a “baddie.” Unlike other scandals that have pitted the Latinx community against a common enemy (a.k.a. white people), this latest trend has rocked us all from the inside. Though it started off as a seemingly harmless and even silly trend, Latinas have been pitted against each other, inspiring difficult but necessary conversations about Eurocentrism, colorism, racism, and inclusivity in the community, both online and offline.
damn down to the big lashes , dark eyebrows and full coverage foundation 🙄 #copyandpastelatina
On the surface, it’s easy for many of us to write it off as “just a make-up look,” and in fact, many TikTok users have made this argument in the comments sections of videos criticizing the trend. On the other hand, creators like Margarita @mamacitamaggs argue that, as a style with generations-long roots in the Chicano community in Los Angeles, it’s something to be protected and celebrated, not made the butt of a joke that seemingly popped up out of nowhere. “Stop trying to belittle us latinas by saying we all look alike, latinas come in sooooooo many different shapes, sizes and colors,” she wrote in the caption of her TikTok speaking up against the trend.
I think it’s definitely worth considering this side of the discourse, the idea that reducing a community tradition to yet another TikTok trend waters it down and makes it meaningless to the masses—basically, exactly what white, non-Latinx girls have been doing to our make-up and fashion creations for years now.
But at the same time, it’s hard to scroll through videos with the “copy-paste Latina” hashtag and not notice that they mainly feature girls with white or light skin and Eurocentric features. Girls that are safe and easy to accept as the face of Latinidad, which has both historically and now held up the “European” look as the only beauty standard worth celebrating. It’s not an issue that these girls and women are beautiful and recognize themselves in the trend; but whether it’s TikTok’s algorithm or the audience, it becomes a problem when they are the only ones. When it becomes clear that the “copy-paste Latina” is talking about a certain kind of Latina, it makes Black and Indigenous Latinas feel even more like they will never be Latina enough to be acknowledged, welcomed, or accepted in their own community.
One thing we’re not about to do is call latinas “copy + paste”.
In response, many Afro-Latina and Latinas with Indigenous ancestry have made videos critiquing or trying to copy the trend in what is known as “morenita edition” or outright saying that their darker skin “ruins” their chances of being a “copy-paste Latina”—only to face waves of backlash, often from other Latinas. Whether it’s because they didn’t nail the look “quite right” or did the “wrong” thing by speaking out against the trend’s inherent exclusivity, the comments section between videos made by light and dark-skinned Latinas is literally night and day. How can we just turn away from the white/light-skinned privilege and colorism happening right in front of our eyes?
It’s especially disheartening when we remember just how many young people are on constantly on the app. Many of us older Latinxs grew up with immigrant families and were forced to assimilate and navigate American culture and beauty standards without quite knowing what they meant. Maybe it was our hairy arms or darker skin or thick eyebrows, but so many of us felt like we didn’t fit in our skin or belonged in our schools and workplaces. And we didn’t even have the Internet then!
Nowadays, the younger generation is facing beauty standards and battling self-esteem like never before. They don’t have the luxury of our years of experience learning to reject harmful ideals of beauty despite American society, and even our own Latinx families, giving us all the reasons why we shouldn’t. Even if we want to write off the “copy-paste Latina” as harmless, it’s worth asking ourselves why? Is it because we want to protect ourselves from acknowledging our own white privilege, the knowledge that we aren’t affected and would even fit right into the trend if we tried? To ignore the larger implications of colorism and racism? Because harmless or not, it’s harrowing to think about the younger Black and Indigenous Latinas failing to see themselves in the image of the “standard” Latina that TikTok is perpetuating. This becomes just another instance of othering members of our community cause they don’t fit the image of what is considered the standard of beauty in our culture.
From a personal perspective, even though I grew up in LA, the city where the chola look aka the “copy-paste Latina” was born, I never felt like I was Latina enough for it. I never even used make-up until high school but just the fact that I had different interests and didn’t engage with that side of our culture sometimes made it hard to relate to Latinas who did. But honestly, how boring would it be if we were all literally just copy-paste versions of each other? If we all looked the same make-up and clothing-wise? Maybe the real problem with the trend is the idea that all Latinas look a certain way, which couldn’t be further from the truth. It seems like we always say this but it’s worth repeating until the message comes through loud and clear: WE ARE NOT A MONOLITH.
It’s undeniable that chola culture or looks inspired by it have been stigmatized and ridiculed for decades. But that doesn’t mean we can’t discuss its larger place in Latinidad in relation to colonization, colorism, and racism. Or ask who it was created for, why it’s created such divisive reactions online, and why it refuses to be inclusive to the people who may need it the most. TikTok is proof that we can be brought together in the fight to protect our culture from white, non-Latinx influencers. I hope that in the future, the same can be said for how Latinas treat each other within the community, especially across racial and ethnic lines. No matter what the “copy-paste Latina” trend may have to say, we are all beautiful, worth celebrating, and Latina enough just as we are.