Coined by Gaby Rasson, 23, in 2013, while she was attending Beverly Hills High School, and popularized by Hallie Cain, 24, in a viral TikTok posted March 30, the term has faced backlash, including from millennials who feel skewered by the Gen Z barb. "The Word Cheugy Is Already Cheugy," read a recent headline.
Gripes aside, cheugy (pronounced "chew-gee") may be here to stay—and has already been associated with some popular Austin activities.
1. Mural photos
The Times explainer included a grid of examples, culled from the @CheugLife Instagram account, that included The Office-themed apparel, Pinterest and slogan mugs. Austin's "I Love You So Much" mural, located at Jo's Coffee on South Congress, was also featured.
Mural photos, according to cheugy experts, are out.
2. Certain Instagram captions
Even Instagram captions can be cheugy. (Randall Chancellor/Flickr Creative Commons)
Planning a visit to Mount Bonnell or the 360 Bridge? Taking a photo of such vistas and captioning it "views" is cheugy.
3. The millennial girlboss aesthetic
The term girlboss emerged around 2014; seven years later, it's cheugy, according to Refinery29. What was once branded as the future of female empowerment has since been associated with failures of corporate feminism.
Austin has a number of celebrated women entrepreneurs, including Kendra Scott and Whitney Wolfe Herd, who transcend the girlboss era. Scott founded her company in 2002, long before the term entered the vernacular. Wolfe Herd left Tinder in 2014 after experiencing sexual harassment and later founded Bumble, which successfully went public earlier this year and has ambitious, post-pandemic plans.
4. Subscribing to Joe Rogan's podcast
The Austinite and extremely successful podcast host is also implicated, according to a recent Vice article explaining the various tiers of cheuginess.
The term has received pushback from some, who argue that it is misogynistic, attacking things women enjoy. But plenty of stereotypically guy things—including wall flags, tank tops and promposals—have also received the label. As Rolling Stone put it: "Misogyny is insidious and takes many forms in our culture, but making fun of someone for posting Minion memes is not one of them."
5. Golden Goose sneakers, Gucci belts and New Yorker tote bags
Although not comprehensive, this list touches on some of the once-trendy, now-cheugy accessories one might see around town, from $500 sneakers at West Austin lunch spots, flashy designer logos on Rainey Street and the ubiquitous literary status symbol at East Austin coffee shops.
Tell us: what does cheugy mean to you?
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Justin Mares has seen the power of some extra cash. His brother, Nick, was in high school when COVID-19 hit, and he could tell he was bored.
“So I saw him kind of struggling with his classes, struggling to feel intellectually engaged or care about what he was doing,” Mares explained. “And I said, ‘Hey, you can have my laptop and you should teach yourself a skill or take some (coding) classes and figure out what are the things that light you up and that that you feel like you're interested in.”
His brother then got into coding and design and launched his own app called question breaker. Through that process, he felt drawn to helping others. So last year, he and a couple of friends released what’s known as an Inflection Grant.
It’s $2,000 for anyone 25 or younger who wants to improve themselves and thinks that amount or less could make a difference in their lives.
“The ideal would be someone that really comes from a background that doesn't have access to a bunch of super-strong opportunities to wants to carve a different path,” Mares said. “Whether it's becoming an entrepreneur and artist, whatever it is, and who could use a little bit of funding to kind of help them take a shot on themselves, learn something, start something, do something, work with someone, whatever it is."
Last year had 17 recipients and the launch for this year’s applications, which are open to anyone in the U.S. or Canada, starts Thursday.
\u201c"If you\u2019re under 25 and $2,000 or less can meaningfully change your life, I want to hear from you."\n\nhttps://t.co/CIO3IstFKP\n\nLOVE that you\u2019re doing this, @jwmares.\u201d— Ryan Hoover (@Ryan Hoover) 1654532124
Mares understands chasing after goals as the founder of Kettle & Fire, a bone broth brand available at H-E-B, Whole Foods and other major grocers or by delivery. He first became interested in entrepreneurship in college and after that, he moved to San Francisco and later Austin in 2018.
One of the winners last year was an 18-year-old living with her parents and without access to tools, including a computer, Mares said. So the grant covered a laptop that had performance specs for her to run AI models. Working on those models helped her get a spot as a remote intern for an AI company in San Francisco.
Eventually, the company asked her to work there in a more full-time capacity as a full-fledged intern or junior person. So the grant then also covered her plane ticket to San Francisco and a month's rent.
“Now she's living in San Francisco in the Bay Area and working for this AI company that I don't think she would have been able to work with, reach out to or engage with at all were it not for our grant, which is kind of cool,” Mares said.
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