top of page

Who Is "That Girl"? Is She Just An Aesthetic Version Of Girlboss?

She is "That Girl," and I aspire to be just like her. Or so the algorithm claims.

"That Girl" is a popular aesthetic—parading as a lifestyle—on Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok. I was enchanted the first time I saw it.

"That Girl" is the 6 a.m. wake-up, 10,000-step-walking, green-juice-drinking incarnation of wellness that has taken over TikTok. If you haven't already met her on your "For You" Page, you will very soon. Despite the efforts of many people to emulate her, no one person is "That Girl." Instead, she is a look that includes face masks, lemon water, and journaling. When the mask of "That Girl's" perfect minimalistic and clean lifestyle is removed, her toxic positivity and homogeneous view of wellness are revealed. The sun is shining, her plants are flourishing, and even her messy bun and pile of light linen bedding maintain a minimalist elegance. She takes out a new leather-bound journal and writes her thoughts while sipping warm lemon water.

Who Is "That Girl"? Is She Just An Aesthetic Version Of Girlboss? Cher from Clueless

If you happen to be like me, discovering this trend, specifically its "live your best life" messaging, set off alarm bells in your brain. It's similar to dietitians and fitness influencers offering fulfilled potential if you follow certain habits. The only difference is that this toxicity has been repackaged as a complete lifestyle rather than just a diet. Seriously? Will we believe someone on TikTok knows what will change our lives? I thought we'd moved on from this.

"That Girl" has one thing in common: she is primarily skinny, almost always rich, and almost always white. She has a lot more time and money than the average person, allowing her to live this idealized way of life and make it appear effortless. Don't you think I'd like to drink more water, eat more vegetables, and sleep more than 5 hours every night? Don't you think I should prioritize myself and be more mindful? I certainly do. Who wouldn't want a clump-free smoothie or a cupboard full of ironed yoga sets? However, by wrapping these ideas in the unrealistic, uniform, expensive, and aesthetically pleasing bow of "That Girl," they become out of reach, and their significance is lost.

Similar concepts to "That Girl" have emerged over the years, but none have been as detailed as it is today. Unlike other feminine ideals, she is not a mystery, and there are plenty of books on how to be her. Even schedule templates are available to help you become "That Girl." I wonder how this trend became the new trojan horse for misogyny, replacing the problematic misogyny narrative.

When you look closer, you'll notice that "That Girl" content has much in common with the millennial, faux-empowerment "girlboss" canon, which values productivity only and calls it feminism. Sophia Amoruso, the founder of Nasty Gal, coined the phrase "Girlboss." Her book #Girlboss emphasized the importance of hustle culture, female affluence, and ambition. Finally, Amoruso's ostensible activism was clearly avaricious in her pursuit of power and wealth.

The most exciting crossover between the girlboss and "That Girl' is present in the woman with a corporate job - who has her day perfectly planned. However, given the Girlboss brand's success, it's no surprise that it was rebranded in the form of wellness this time. What has previously been criticized about girlboss culture — sexism, capitalist aspiration, and limited empowerment—also applies to its new-fangled replacement.

Encouraging women that bath bombs, a Bali retreat, and ten varieties of skincare would help them become happy is entirely ridiculous. It is subtle advertising to advise young girls to buy expensive planners, install some apps, and buy gadgets that will help them become more productive. The Girlboss and "That Girl" trends lift women up, encouraging us to be the most successful versions of ourselves. In reality, they deny women the right to make their own decisions.

This trend, however, is so idealized that any average person who cannot live "That Girl's" perfect life feels ashamed or disappointed. As I scroll TikTok in bed at 1 a.m., I almost feel like she's staring through the screen and screaming, "Oh, you can't be me?" So you're not your best self." Even in seemingly innocuous video trends, social media messages have a way of convincing us that we shouldn't want to be the way we are. That's the danger of becoming that girl: it can appear to be the only way to improve oneself. It's a yardstick that tells us that to be healthy, we must adhere to this formula and look this way. We must be edited to be happy. In reality, however, there is no edit menu.