Where Did "Yas Queen" Come From? And Why Is It Taking Over Pop Culture?

LAS VEGAS - JANUARY 07: Singer Lady Gaga during an announcement of Lady Gaga's long term partnership with Polaroid as the brand's creative director on a speciality line of imaging products at the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center January 7, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. CES, the world's largest annual consumer technology tradeshow, runs through January 10 and is expected to feature 2,500 exhibitors showing off their latest products and services to about 110,000 attendees. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
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So I don't know if you've noticed, but the world and the internet as a whole has been shouting something seemingly new lately at people who do something good. Or maybe you haven't noticed, because you haven't done anything applause-worthy lately, but for those who have, I bet you're wondering what does "yas queen" mean, and where does it come from? I'm so glad you asked. Good for you, girl.

Maybe your best friend has shouted it at you when you came out of the dressing room with something especially fierce on; maybe you've seen it in your group text with your friends from home (just me?); or maybe you've even caught yourself saying it under your breath during an episode of Broad City (but no, Ilana & Abbi did not coin the phrase). No matter how you've experienced it, it almost always screams positivity and support and that I can get behind. 

But where did the term actually come from? Like many things, this phrase has evolved a bit to get to its current iteration, but it started out as a term of encouragement in 1980s Ball Culture, a precursor to current drag queen culture. The podcast Reply All breaks down the history of the term rather well in one 2016 episode. Ball Culture, which is captured in the classic film Paris Is Burning, began in queer communities of color, and those involved were the first to coin the term "yas" among other terms of encouragement. 

The term made its way into internet culture as "YAAASSSS" thanks to a viral Instagram video of a Lady Gaga fan meeting his idol and and being so blown away by her beauty that he screamed"YAAAASSSSSS" in excitement. Exhibit (Y)A(AS):

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Since then, it's become a word that folks on the internet throw on top of just about any GIF or image they love. It's been slapped on t-shirts and swag. It's also become synonymous with series like Broad City and 2 Dope Queens, whose hosts shortened the term to YQY (short for "yas queen yas"). 

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There's great debate about whether or not using the term is actually cultural appropriation, especially since so many women do not know the true origins of the term. So before you shout it at a pal, just remember where it came from, OK?

Editor's Note: This article has been updated to correct a previous version, which incorrectly stated the origins of "Yas Queen." We regret this error. 

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