If you’re on social media, you’ve probably seen #BlackGirlMagic at least once in a tweet, Instagram caption, Tumblr tag, or Facebook status. It was started by CaShawn Thompson in 2013 as #BlackGirlsAreMagic — if you’re a well-versed Twitter user, you know exactly why it had to be shortened to its current variation. Thompson liked the imagery of magic in reference to Black girls for a particular reason. In 2015, she told the L.A. Times, “Sometimes our accomplishments might seem to come out of thin air, because a lot of times, the only people supporting us are other Black women.” And she’s right. But if you’re looking for an exact list of what qualifies as “magic,” you might find yourself disappointed. The beauty of #BlackGirlMagic is its authentic and unquantifiable diversity.
#BlackGirlMagic exists as a catchall hashtag for celebrating Black girls online. It sits a little to the left of #BlackExcellence, which mainly celebrates the professional and educational accomplishments of Black people. College acceptances, scholarships, job promotions, Serena Williams breaking a tennis record, and Black ballerinas are all examples of #BlackExcellence. It’s all about refined culture and respectability, and not always in a problematic way.
But #BlackGirlMagic is a bit more grounded than #CarefreeBlackGirl — which is all about edginess. Think Rihanna goes to Coachella or Willow Smith’s entire Instagram feed. Purple hair, flower crowns, uncovered nipples, and sex-positive feminism are all instant access passes for "carefreeness." It’s all about being unbothered and unique. The girls who still have to wear business casual for work, a uniform to school, or simply have too much boob to go comfortably braless (hi) can feel invisible under that moniker.
Like these cousin-hashtags, #BlackGirlMagic is above all else, a self-identifier. It is Black girls themselves who label their looks, their behaviors, and their lives as magic. A Black sex worker makes enough money to pay her rent? She can post a picture of the cash on Snapchat with #BlackGirlMagic overlaid onto it and it makes sense. The successful completion of a panel with Black transwomen? The moderator could very well #BlackGirlMagic in their caption and we would all double tap. When I tell stories about my teenage years, I often remember those moments as magical. For everything that involves a Black woman smiling or shining, #BlackGirlMagic just works.
That Thompson’s phrase has grown to such ubiquitous proportions is itself a bit of magic, especially when Black women are always told that our work and presences are too loud and obnoxious. How is that for irony? Ultimately, your goal shouldn’t be to figure out what Black Girl Magic is. The only thing you should be worried about is how to get some.