A Brief Timeline Of Fleek's Popularity & Meaning Throughout 2015
Few viral phrases have been as mocked and simultaneously embraced in 2015 as on fleek. While some circles loved the term and used it fervently to describe anything from brows to boots, others like myself spent much of 2015 wondering about the origin and meaning of the word fleek. It seemingly sprang up out of nowhere, spreading from Vine to Instagram; and falling from the lips of one celebrity to another. The trendy phrase was already well on its way to peak popularity by the time Jan. 2015 rolled in, so it certainly begs the question: Just how did fleek fare throughout the rest of the year?
For those of you wondering, "Why so much fuss over a made-up word?" well, fleek may not be Oxford official yet (at least, not according to the June 2015 or September 2015 updates), but one has to consider whether or not the full phrase or the standalone will be strong enough contenders to make the much-anticipated (nerd alert) December 2015 list. Or, if by chance Merriam-Webster will take a clue from the criticism it received last year and give fleek a nod toward Word Of The Year this time around.
Whether or not fleek is a fixture in your personal lexicon, let's take a brief look at the timeline of its popularity and meaning this year.
On fleek took the winter of 2014 and early 2015 by storm. It rode into the season on top of the world, celebrities and the media alike spouting the phrase left and right. Top 10 lists of fleekness flooded the Internet, and fleek somehow managed to become a staple in the everyday vernacular of people across the United States.
From humble beginnings that are somewhat mired in uncertainty, with a maiden entry on Urban Dictionary dating back to 2003, and then next to nothing until Kayla Newman's (aka Peaches Monroee) iconic Vine brought fleek back into the limelight in June of 2014, on fleek became 2015's answer to everything fine, flawless, and admirable. Looking back, everyone from social media gurus to Taco Bell used the phrase in late 2014 and early 2015 to bolster a following and adapt to society's freshest viral craze.
On fleek briefly tasted the bitterness of controversy, and was caught between Nicki Minaj and Christina Milian in a short-lived branding battle, during which Minaj claimed ownership of the phrase, and Milian paid vague tribute to Peaches Monroee. The bad blood between the two didn't last long, but it was enough to boost fleek to even greater heights, along with the catchphrase "Pretty On Fleek," a lyric that Minaj does utilize in her song "Feeling Myself," featuring Beyoncé.
Additionally, Alkaline released the video for his song "Fleek" in the spring of 2015.
While plenty of musicians, media icons, celebs, and social media heavy hitters continued to use fleek as a casual descriptor for brows, fashion, ambition, pizza, and just about anything worth feeling some pride over, by the time summer 2015 rolled around, fleek's popularity had begun to shift. Going the way of many viral trends, the ratio of genuine fleek usage versus sarcastic fleek usage began felt like it was teetering ever so slightly toward sarcasm.
Could it be that fleek encountered a resurgence? Did you just hear someone say their hair game was on fleek in the kitchen as you walked by? Oh, god no. That was your mom, and your aunt. That's it. The excitement is gone; fleek has gone past viral and entered the territory of commonplace.
OK, so it wasn't that bad. And actually, quite a few people still weren't familiar with the phrase in early fall of 2015, so the novelty lived on. But after Ellen dropped some knowledge on America? Fleek was no longer reserved for the cutting edge, the Internet savvy, or those select few among us who always seem to know what's on point before it's overused. As such, fleek slowly marched towards its inevitable decline in the later half of 2015.
Here we are, nearing the end of this rather star-studded year for odd phrases and trendy colloquialisms. Peppered about in various fashion articles and uttered occasionally by both celebrities and people who truly do have strong brow game, fleek still remains a pretty prevalent part of our collective vernacular. However, at this point it seems that pending any further invigoration, we may be ready to allow fleek to plateau and fade into our lexicon of niche novelty terms.
It may seem a bit harsh to refer to fleek as novelty or nonsensical; but let's not forget, the term is still very much precisely that — even if it has undergone a rich history of fame over the past 18 to 24 months. Of course, that could all change with this month's Oxford update. Looks like we'll have to wait just a little bit longer to see if fleek really is on fleek enough to live up to all of its own hype.