You know when you say a word, then repeat it, and then continue repeating it over and over again until it empties itself of all meaning and sounds limp and awkward, as though it were no longer a word or thing at all?
Something like this has happened with “hot girl summer,” a phrase that, even if you haven’t the faintest idea what it means, or where it came from, you’ve probably heard of it anyway, but it’s just a series of empty, random words to you.
They aren’t meaningless. Actually, you could be having a hot girl summer and not even know it yet.
It all started with Megan Thee Stallion, the 24-year-old Houston rapper whose debut album, “Fever,” marked the official start of what she’s been calling “hot girl summer.” She first tweeted the phrase in April of 2018, but it was not alchemized into a viral catchphrase until this year, when she, herself, blossomed into fame.
“Fever” is a humid, lush party-track album that, in a very hot-girl way, commands a territory still occupied by mostly male rappers: it’s about sex, about confidence, about power. About money. Its album artwork looks like a 70s-era Blaxploitation film, with phrases fitting the cinematic narration of a Don LaFontaine: “REAL HOT GIRL SHIT,” it reads. “She’s thee HOT GIRL and she’s bringing THEE HEAT.”
Fans of Megan Thee Stallion, aptly called “hotties,” quickly turned “hot girl summer” into a kind of viral chorus on social media. (A search of #hotgirlsummer on Twitter or Instagram produces hundreds of thousands of results.)
Confused yet? Stick with me. Seeing how many people were using the term, Megan Thee Stallion (whom I’ll refer to as “Meg”) decided to define it more carefully in an interview with The Root: “It’s about women and men being unapologetically them, just having a good-ass time, hyping up their friends, doing you,” she said. “You definitely have to be a person who can be the life of the party and just [be] a bad bitch.”
“Hot girl summer” is both a motto and a missive, an aphorism that demands — in the updated fashion of a self-help quote — for you to believe in yourself, to be confident as you can be, to live out your best and most authentic life and, most of all, to have a good time. It’s genderless. It’s ageless.
Plainly said, it’s about self-love. “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken,” Oscar Wilde apparently said. He could have easily and just as eloquently said, “Have a hot girl summer.”
If it seems broad, that’s kind of the point. The universal appeal of “hot girl summer” is how it can be broadly applied. Meg has afforded it enough space for it to be used to epitomize, in a distinctly youthful way, several social movements: body positivity, feminism, sex positivity. (It even lends itself to considering climate change — Meg once organized a beach cleanup at the Santa Monica Pier.)
But it’s only political insofar as loving yourself is political (which can be debated, just not here). “Hot girl summer” is intentionally and consciously inclusive, though it did start with a Black woman — a fact that lends itself to awkward conversations about cultural appropriation.
The dominant view, though, seems to be that hot girl summer is relatively indiscriminate. It focuses primarily on Black women, with some room for others to join in, too, so long as they stay in their lane and don’t act out. In fact, there’s even an official playlist for it. Megan, for the record, is releasing the official “hot girl summer” anthem on Aug. 9, which appears to sample the City Girls’ hit song, “Act Up.”
Naturally, men have tried to remix the term and make it their own — hence “city boy summer” and “hot boy summer,” (which, if I do say so myself, fails to achieve the same ring) — a mostly redundant and pointless act, since they’re already included in hot girl summer and have nothing to try to reclaim (Megan seems mostly indifferent to the hangups anyway; she frequently retweets “hot boy summer” posts, too).
So, what are the main takeaways then?
Hot girl summer is about being you, whoever you might be, wherever you’re from.
It’s not about your appearance so much as it’s about loving it.
It has nothing to do with vying for popularity, or trying to be “hot” in the way we’ve come to narrowly understand beauty.
It’s about self-affirmation, about owning your sexuality, your freedom, your body. It’s about feeling powerful, demanding respect.
Anyone can be a hot girl, as long as they’re having a good time and living their best life. You can be a man or woman. You can be old or young. You can love debauchery or prefer to be more conservative. You can be attracted to women, or men, or both, or neither.
It doesn’t matter.
And yes, in case you were wondering, you don’t have to be single to have a hot girl summer. Its inclusivity stretches out toward those who have partners, refuses the illusion that being partnered means you’re in some way restricted. You can definitely be “cuffed” and have a hot girl summer, says the prophet.
“But you still gotta be on your bullshit.”