Defining “Bougie” » VSB

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Defining “Bougie”

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Our I Love Bougie Black Girls Teespring campaign seems to be going pretty well. We’re ahead of schedule with our goal, and the idea behind the shirt seems to be pretty well-received.

(There are only eight days left, btw, so go to Teespring and cop an $11 men’s t-shirt, a $13 women’s tee, or a hoodie.)

But, there has been some confusion about what exactly “Bougie” means in this context. For many Black Americans — especially those from the South — Bougie doesn’t have the most positive connotation. So, to clear things up, here’s a bit of background and detail about my definition.

In Dec of 2011, comedians Kyle Humphrey and Graydon Sheppard joined with actress Juliette Lewis to create “Shit Girls Say”, a short YouTube webseries based off a Twitter account with the same name. The video went viral. By the next month, dozens of imitation videos had been created, including one (“Shit Bougie Black Girls Say”) written and produced by me — and starring a friend of mine — based off of a blog post with the same name.

The video was pretty well-received with over 750,000 views. Through the dozens of emails, calls, and texts I received about it, one theme was continually repeated:

“You were in my head. How did you know what to say?”

My answer was simple. To create “Shit Bougie Black Girls Say” I used my “cheat sheets” — the urban and highly educated Black women I personally knew. Despite the fact that these women hailed everywhere from D.C. to San Diego, so many of them shared enough of the same patterns, idiosyncrasies, and inclinations that they formed their own distinct subculture. It just hadn’t been given a name.

Hello, Bougie.

(Interestingly enough, the Bougie moniker was an accident. I meant to use the most common spelling of that word (“Bourgie”) when creating the video, and mistakenly left the “r” out. This mistake proved to be advantageous. While the difference in spelling is minor, the R-inclusive “Bourgie” are a completely different type of Black people than the ones I’m talking about. “Bourgie” describes a certain upper-middle to lower-upper class lifestyle more dependent on and defined by activities, ancestry, and legacy than actual income. These are the brothas and sistas whose great-grandparents were Alphas and Deltas, whose Jack and Jill cotillion was their prom, and who “summer” places where people who use “summer” as a verb “summer.” Basically, think of Whitley Gilbert.)

While women were the initial focus of this designation, I soon realized that most of the “urban and highly educated” young Black men I knew—myself included—also shared many of the same characteristics, despite a reluctance to actually own up to it. We’d endlessly chide our girlfriends, wives, and homegirls about their irrational love for Thai food, their tendency to intentionally over tip, and even their deification of Olivia Pope. But we scour Groupon for the restaurant with the best Thai chicken satay with the same intensity they would—making certain to leave a 30% tip after dining—and, although most of us won’t admit it, we’re fans of Scandal too.

To an outsider, many of these shared traits may seem superficial. And, considering the fact that most Bougie Black People (BBP) don’t exactly come from legacies of wealth, socially irresponsible. But, closer inspection reveals that they’re largely rooted in a race-conscious pragmatism that allows them to be upwardly mobile while still staying connected to “regular” Black folks.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at Or don't. Whatever.

  • Ms Butterfly

    they’re largely rooted in a race-conscious pragmatism that allows them to be upwardly mobile while still staying connected to “regular” Black folks.

    I am finding this difficult. Mostly because the more upwardly mobile I get, the less “regular” black folks wanna be associated with me. Everything I do and like is “weird”. I’m not even sure I qualify for full bougie black girldom bc while I love some Thai food and target shopping, I sincerely don’t get Scandal or being Mary Jane. I definitely love Sleepy Hollow though, which also has a black female lead. Is a subculture for the bugie black nerd?

    • Tia_Sunny

      Right, I feel like I am a one of a kind black girl not quite bougie but something else.

      • Ms Butterfly

        Haha how about “Nebulous Bougie black Nerds”? For the educated black person who didn’t pledge any sorority/frat, doesn’t worship all things Olivia Pope, and likes thai food but realizes it doesn’t make you better or more sophisticated than everyone else.

    • Productivity, LLC

      I agree and you will love

      • Ms Butterfly

        MY PEOPLE!


    I’m late but spot on! Loves.

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