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Yes, Black People Love Paramore, Here’s Why

Music
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for CBS Radio Inc.

And specifically Hayley Williams

“Y’all aren’t coming in here, are you?” a Barclays Center employee asked my roommate and me as we walked inside the Brooklyn venue, heading swiftly toward the Paramore concert. “Actually, we are,” we replied.

Maybe his confusion came from the fact that neither of us has brightly colored hair or visible tattoos or an aesthetic similar to that of any members of Paramore or the band's legions of fans. Shoot, we weren’t even wearing Vans. But while that question might have been posed because of our dissonant style choices, more than likely it was asked because we are black. And since when do black people like Paramore?

If you ask anyone on Twitter—specifically black Twitter—the answer will be always. Black people have always liked Paramore, but it's only now that we're becoming more and more comfortable talking about it. This conversation has been going on since March when one user sent out a simple one-line tweet: “Black people love paramore.” It went viral, racking up over 8,000 retweets, almost 24,000 likes, and a reply from Hayley Williams, who tweeted: “Just made my pale ass’s day!”

In June, Eve, or @localblackgirl on Twitter, tweeted the same thing with an additional note: “If you find a black person who doesn’t love paramore they dark white.” That's been retweeted over 4,000 times and liked almost triple that amount. And just like that, the #ParamoreHive became bigger, and a whole lot blacker.

Eve tells us that she became a Paramore fan around the same time most people did: with the release of “Misery Business” in 2007. However, as much as she loves the band, she didn’t expect her tweet to do the numbers it did because, well, she didn’t realize so many other black people listened to Paramore, too. “I really thought I was alone!” she says.

In some ways, Eve says, it’s a natural evolution for black people to feel a kinship to rock-adjacent music—especially considering black people are the originators of the genre. “I won’t lie, I didn’t think it was common for black people to listen to rock, let alone Paramore,” she says. “And then when I found out that black people actually created the genre, it made me feel like, Wow, so not only are there black fans of rock music, but we actually started this. I think that’s one of the reasons why we connect with the genre more than people assume.”

Musical artist Princess Nokia made a similar connection when she was interviewed by Dazed about her new emo mixtape A Girl Cried Red. When asked why emo music speaks to brown kids, she responded:

There's a vulnerability in associating with pain and sadness that has always lived in that narration. For example, the blues. Black people have always loved the blues—they basically created the blues. Black people created rock music, it's a fact. Black people created bluegrass and rock and roll way before Elvis Presley and The Beatles. Black people created punk—the band Death was way before The Ramones. Same with Bad Brains. If you think about it, the wool has been pulled over our eyes. This is our shit. Very naturally, that's why we return to it. It's ours, it will always be ours.

And this is why it's been so satisfying recently, as black fans have been vocal about their love for Paramore and black artists have been reclaiming their musical legacy. Along with Princess Nokia’s latest project, others like Lil Uzi Vert (who happened to record himself recently singing Paramore’s “Ain’t It Fun”) and Rico Nasty have been ushering in this new post-emo, rap-rock era featuring tons of angst and feelings. 

And then there's just the fact that many people are drawn to Paramore because of Williams. Avril Lavigne may have been the first pop-punk princess I can recall, but Williams is the one that sticks out most in my memory. From her guttural screams on “All I Wanted” to her soft lullaby vocals on “The Only Exception,” she’s always had the range. “I think that African-Americans love a good versatile singer with great vocals,” Sasha Jackson, a devoted Paramore fan since middle school says. “They have something we don’t usually hear in a rock band… and I’m not gonna lie, the band has some soul. The lyrics in her songs are engaging and complex.” I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that the song that seems to be the most popular from the band amongst black people—“Ain’t It Fun”—happens to feature what sounds like a black choir during the bridge.

Jackson also had a viral Paramore tweet—only this one came with a video showing a buff black guy, shirt off, towering over Williams, ready to go lyric for lyric against the singer on “Misery Business.” Once the beat drops though, Williams fades into the background as he takes center stage, jumping up and down and addressing the crowd like he’s the one they’ve all come to see. If you ever meet someone with any lingering doubt of black people’s love for Paramore, just show them that video.

Just last week, two months following my experience at Paramore's Barclays concert, I got a cosmic Facebook reminder about my own love for the band. Ten years to the day, I used a problematic “Misery Business” lyric as my status (you know, the one Williams has since apologized for). This brought me back to a tweet I saw in response to Jackson’s viral moment: “Y’all did not have this same energy when my emo ass was listening to Paramore back in 9th grade.” And that's probably true! But we're here now, ready to make up for lost time.

The original headline of this article was changed after we were alerted to the fact that it had already been used for a different piece by Clarissa Brooks on Medium. Speaking of which, if you want to read more about why black people love Paramore, check out Brooks' essay here.

Nail polish is for novices

Fashion label The Blonds is known for its high-intensity looks that you'd only wear if you wanted to stand out (and who doesn't?). For its runway shows, wild press-on nails are the beauty step that can't be missed. So, since the brand has partnered with CND since it was founded, we thought it best to get prepped for the show with Jan Arnold, CND's co-founder.

See why you should take your nail look from a zero to a 10, in the video above.

Credits:
Shot by Charlotte Prager
Edited by Gretta Wilson
Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Production Assistant: Polina Buchak
Featuring Jan Arnold of CND Nails and The Blonds

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Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

It would've been nice if someone said the word "fat"

Back in November, Rebel Wilson claimed to be the first plus-sized lead in a romantic comedy when she appeared on Ellen to talk about her role in Isn't It Romantic. Wilson was not only wrong, but she was—even if inadvertently—erasing the work of Black plus-size actresses like Queen Latifah and Mo'Nique, both of whom have expansive resumes that include romantic comedies.

Wilson's comment isn't the first example of white women taking up a little too much space in the fat acceptance ethos. It's actually quite common. But there is a reason why women like Wilson—women who are blonde, pretty, successful, and white—get put front and center in calls for body positivity. In the same way that feminism—the movement from which body positivity was born—has often failed to address how gender intersects with other identities like race and class; so, too, has body positivity been championed as a cause for otherwise privileged women. And that's why it's no surprise that Isn't It Romantic, which aspires to be both a spot-on mockery of rom-coms and a celebration of body positivity, is actually a perfect example of how very white both the movie genre and the body positivity movement tend to be.

In the film, Wilson plays Natalie, an architect based in New York, who is single and plus-sized—the archetypal rom-com underdog. Very early on in the movie, she endures the double humiliation of both being hit by a runaway food cart and then accosted by its owner for not stopping it with her "cement truck"-like body. At work, Natalie is similarly disrespected: The office manager hands off troubleshooting tasks to Natalie; another colleague always tasks Natalie to throw out his trash; her assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin) won't stop watching movies (rom-coms, naturally) while in the office; and Natalie is so afraid to present her ideas for more innovative parking garage designs that she isn't even widely known in the firm as an architect, and is treated like an intern.

But is Natalie just a doormat? Or is it that she isn't asking for what she wants? And isn't very nice about not getting it? If Natalie's life is any example, the bar on suffering is set pretty low for white women. In her personal life, Natalie lives alone with her dog, and seems to be pretty well-off, financially; her best friend is actually her slacker assistant, Whitney, and she's close with another coworker, Josh (Adam Devine), who gives Natalie constant emotional support. She's decidedly anti-romantic, having been told by her mother from a young age that there's no such thing as real-life fairy tales; she's level-headed and practical. But also, she's filled with self-loathing. This leads her to be crass, sarcastic, and disconnected from people. And it was this last part that was hard for me. As a fat Black woman who grew up broke, does not have an assistant, and would get fired if I didn't do my job well, it was hard, if not impossible, to root for her.

For Natalie, though, everything changes when she bangs her head while fighting off a mugger. Her mundane life is tinted through rosy rom-com glasses. Suddenly, all the things that sucked about her life are gone, and everything is beautiful and perfect. But was her life so bad before? It didn't really seem to be.

And yet, looking around the theater at the mostly white, female audience, I accepted that my feelings didn't seem to be shared. But that almost seems to be by design; this feels like a movie for a white, female audience. There is only one person of color in the movie who even has a name: It's Isabelle (Priyanka Chopra), who shows up about halfway through the film—after everything has been rom-com filtered—as a yoga ambassador and swimsuit model. But a name is all Isabella has. A supporting character at best, she doesn't have any connection to anyone other than her white boyfriend, and is sketchily drawn. We learn nothing of her familial or ethnic background, and, even when she is shown at her wedding, there is nobody from her family celebrating with her. This huge oversight is particularly bizarre, given that Natalie has already bemoaned the lack of diversity in romantic films.

Another huge oversight? The presence of the word "fat." I don't think I heard it used a single time. Natalie only references her weight indirectly, by commenting on the appearance of straight-sized women; when talking about her own body, the word "fat" is replaced with "girl like me." But by ignoring this aspect of herself, and refusing to address it head-on, Natalie is succumbing to the same fatphobia that shapes her world, whether she identifies it as being a problem or not.

Before her life becomes a rom-com, Natalie feels invisible at work and in the world. Some of this is certainly her fault, but fatphobia is also at play. Fatphobia chips away at the humanity of fat people from different angles. It means that Natalie gets used to being dehumanized; she doesn't expect others to have empathy for her when she's physically hurt, because they don't value her body. And it's no coincidence that Natalie's fantasy world includes a magically bigger apartment with unlimited clothing options, because discrimination against fat people isn't just a matter aesthetics and preferences—it affects everything from our ability to dress ourselves to our ability to make and save money, since there's a price to pay for being fat, even if it's just having to pay more to travel. Just as much as gender and race intersect with fat bodies, so, too, do economics and class.

I knew I could count on a plus-sized white comedian to take down a genre of films that prioritized thin women. But I ventured to see if Wilson could go further than that, and challenge what it means to be white and well-off and fat in the process; it isn't just about taking down rom-coms but about doing so in a way that isn't just a mouthpiece for white feminist values. But, in the end, that isn't what happened. Isn't It Romantic is fine, but it needed to do more than target an audience of girls who are 10 to 30 pounds overweight and still too jolted by the word "fat" to ever apply it to themselves, so they go for acceptable alternatives, like curvy, plus-sized—or thicc, if they're hip. But I'm not afraid to say I'm fat, I'm just disappointed I will be waiting even longer to see a realistic reflection of that experience onscreen.

Isn't It Romantic is in theaters now.