Social Media

What Does It Mean To Be “That Girl”?

The viral trend is an exercise in manifesting wellness.

by Sahar Arshad
Screenshots of "that girl" videos on TikTok viral trend.
Screenshots via TikTok

That girl wakes up and meditates on a yoga mat facing the sun. That girl makes her bed, blends a kale and matcha smoothie to drink with her avocado toast, and follows it up with a well-curated journaling session. That girl is the queen of romanticizing her life — the girl who naturally has all her sh*t together.

“That girl,” of course, isn’t any girl in particular, but a vaguely wellness-y archetype that’s risen in popularity on TikTok since April 2021. Videos with the hashtag #thatgirl have nearly 800 million views; many of these encourage the viewer to “become that girl” alongside the original poster or are part of multi-day journeys of achieving a state of “that girl.” Over the summer, the trend has also caught on in YouTube’s lifestyle community, with different creators testing the trend or uploading how-to guides. Other creators are posting criticisms of the trend, telling viewers they “don’t need to become ‘that girl’” in order to “actually improve your life,” as YouTuber zoeunlimited titled one video. People say the “that girl” trend resonates on all corners of the internet because it’s an easy way to level up your life — a snapshot of what it’d look like if you committed to a morning routine, ate healthy, and had a skin care routine. You know, because that’s so easy to do.

“That girl” videos follow a similar formula: a wake-up time (preferably early), a breakfast-making montage (preferably something plant-based), and a workout or journaling session planned for the day (preferably with the sunset shining in). That’s really all it takes to become “that girl” — provided you document the whole thing for TikTok or YouTube.

Hollie, an 18-year-old lifestyle YouTuber based in the United Kingdom, feels like the trend is about “finding joy within the small moments, whilst also establishing daily habits and routines that allow you to be healthy mentally, physically, and spiritually,” she tells Bustle. At the end of May, she made a “that girl” video to break out of a rut she was in after exam season. “I think if you focus on the feelings you get from following this trend, and how engaging in these habits can improve your overall well-being, then it can actually be really helpful and motivating,” she adds.

London-based video creator Chira also became “that girl” in May. She calls the trend more of a “highlight reel” than anything else — as with anything on social media, the viewer never see the behind the scenes of a “that girl” video. “Even if ‘that girl’ talks about ... how they have their days where they stay in bed all day, it’s hard to believe because we only ever see the good side,” Chira adds. Still, the 19-year-old adds that the videos do inspire her. “Going that little extra step (like wearing cute workout clothes instead of working out in my pajamas) helps me to romanticize my life and enjoy it just a bit more,” she tells Bustle.

Another faction of TikTok and YouTube has called out the trend for perpetuating a narrow vision of what wellness can look like in practice. “Whenever you search up ‘that girl’ videos on TikTok, you’ll find a certain pattern,” says Blanche, a Toronto-based lifestyle YouTuber. For example, she notes, the “healthy eating” aspect of being “that girl” is exemplified by avocado toasts or lattes made with nondairy milk — foods that are synonymous with privilege to the Philippines-born, Canada-raised 25-year-old.

Still, Blanche says the trend isn’t automatically exclusive. “We don’t always have to put a label on what we’re doing” when it comes to wellness, she says. “If we’re moving our bodies, fueling [them] properly, nurturing our minds and souls, it’s exactly that.” The journey of personal growth and knowledge that you’re looking after yourself are what make you “that girl” — not any specific aesthetic.