TikTok alt–girls define themselves as the opposite of the mainstream. From finely curated alt–rock playlists to grungy thrifted outfits, the alt–girl aesthetic is seemingly ubiquitous. But what exactly does she look like? Well, that’s where the problem begins.
Today’s TikTok alt–girl is an amalgamation of several 2000s trends with a modern flair. The aesthetic's roots can be traced back to the emo, indie, and scene subcultures. Each aesthetic was considered subversive at the time, with members of these subcultures often ostracized or made fun of. Decades later, TikTok is changing the public's perception of these subversive subcultures. While those who subscribe to the alt—girl aesthetic may still be made fun of for their outfits, lifestyle, or music taste, they can also rack up millions of views on TikTok by embracing the alternative aesthetic. Serving as a rebuttal to "Straight TikTok," the alt–girl aesthetic seems to embody what punk, indie, and scene subcultures did in the past—opposing the mainstream. In fact, #AltTikTok has over 14.7 billion views as of April 2022, and it’s likely to keep growing.
There are also many variations to the alternative aesthetic. For instance, some may fall into the soft–alt aesthetic, which is characterized by softer colors like pastel pink, while others may elect to adhere to the fairy–grunge aesthetic, which combines the mystical and overt femininity of fairycore with a darker, edgier grunge look.
With all the varying ways to fit into the alternative aesthetic, it may be odd to discover that the aesthetic is dominated by white influencers and creators. While TikTok helps to make the aesthetic more mainstream, it must be noted that the TikToks that blow up usually feature white people.
The clear lack of people of color in these communities can’t be ignored. This issue can be traced back to the cultural tendency to see whiteness as the default race, causing society to define alternative culture as distinctly white.
Conversely, women of color are often forced into preconceived stereotypes and expected to fit the aesthetics associated with their race, limiting the prevalence and visibility of non white alternative creators. For instance, Black girls are often stereotyped as "Jezebels" or sexually promiscuous. Thus, they’re often boxed into a hypersexualized aesthetic, shown by the expectation for Black women to have big butts and curvaceous bodies. Others interested in the alternative aesthetic can also be excluded due to their cultural heritage, as dressing modestly while subscribing to the aesthetic is underrepresented.
Constant stereotyping takes an immense mental toll on those unfairly boxed in a category due to their race or ethnicity. Anyone should be allowed to explore their identity through music, fashion, makeup, and other avenues of expression. To force a person into one box is to deny them of their right to self–discovery.
Despite the alternative aesthetic's erasure of women of color, alternative WOC refuse to be cast aside. Alt—WOC creators are consistently making content. For example, TikTok content related to alt–Asian girls has amassed 7.4 billion views and alt—Black girl content has over 3.6 billion views, highlighting the importance of creators of color in promoting inclusivity in the alt community. This growing inclusivity rests on the tireless efforts of content creators who actively embrace both their race and their aesthetic, regardless of critical comments.
For instance, alt TikTok creator angelphroot is an Indian dancer who is disabled. She has amassed 185,800 followers on TikTok as of April 2022 and actively embraces her alternative fashion and her heritage, regardless of what people on the internet say. In one TikTok, she's decked out in rave clothing, and in another, she's wearing traditional Indian clothing while heavy metal music blasts in the background.
Another TikToker breaking down barriers is the Asian TikToker gothmulan. She’s gained 331,800 followers as of April 2022 while simultaneously refusing to be confined to a single aesthetic. Whether she’s cooking a hearty bowl of ramen, making relatable funny content, or showing fans how to create a unique makeup look, gothmulan is unapologetically living her life, exploring her interests, and showing off the things she loves.
Creators like angelphroot and gothmulan consistently break down barriers to show other POC that they are allowed to be themselves. Regardless of what stereotypes trolls and commenters may insist on, anyone can explore and encapsulate the alternative aesthetic. Simply, the alternative aesthetic isn't meant for just white people. One’s participation in the aesthetic isn't a matter of skin color. Instead, it’s about one's interests and beliefs, and how they choose to portray themselves to the world.