TikTok is at it again, this time setting a wholesome trend filled with fun and fashion. TikTokers are dancing their way into a world filled with body positivity and cultural appreciation. A simple dance set to an equally simple electronic beat sets the stage. Dancers raise their arms and sway their hips while magically transitioning from the average clothes of couch potatoes to a whirlwind tour around the globe.
While the exact date marking the beginning of the trend is difficult to pinpoint, the 7.1 million videos using the audio clip put the rise of its popularity around two weeks ago, at the start of April. The 14-second audio sound comes from a song titled “Laxed [SIREN BEAT]” created by user Jawsh 685. Jawsh originally posted the song on YouTube back in July 2019 but posted a clip of the audio on TikTok sometime during the month of April. Soon after, it was picked up by millions of TikTokers including some celebrities like singer Jason Derulo. After learning the song went viral, Jawsh 685 posted on his Instagram story on April 17 that he was, “hella shocked and humbled to see anyone jam my tracks, whether you’re famous or not. I appreciate it very much!” While few users know the name or origin of the song, that does not stop them from sharing the splendor of their heritage.
People begin their videos in neutral attire before beginning the dance. Dancers then raise their right arm above their heads and sway briefly before lowering their arm. As if by magic, before raising their other hand, the clothing melts away only to be replaced by the colorful clothing of saris, hula skirts and more. In just 14 seconds, dancers typically go through three outfit changes, first starting in regular clothing, then previewing two outfits representing their cultural identity. In videos featuring couples, one transition showcases the first person’s heritage and then the last transition showcases the second’s. Subjects in the video are using the dance as a way to educate by explaining the culture they identify with, the name of the clothing and its purpose through the course of the video.
Clothing is not the only way the trend is showcasing different cultures. After changing into clothing representative of their nationality, dancers modify the steps of the dance slightly to fit their culture. One example comes from a video posted on the TikTok account @dynah.tui. In the background, a Polynesian man and woman sporting colorful, cloth hula skirts sway their hips and correspondingly move their hands in a traditional hula dance.
Despite the wholesome intention of the dance trend, minorities have not let the opportunity to speak up on cultural appropriation pass. Popular TikToker @kaylaig posted a video on Saturday, April 18, following the same trend. Instead of transitioning from her sweater into the clothing of her ethnicity, she took a moment to remind viewers that her African-American culture is, “100% stolen” followed by the comment “and that’s on appropriation.” Other TikTokers have made similar videos commenting on misappropriation of their culture for an aesthetic look. These videos received less positive support and started heated debates in the comment section. Some people criticize the dancer for being negative toward a happy trend, while others argue the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. In an attempt to control the fire, TikTokers often disable the comment feature.
Many other groups have hopped on the trend to spread positivity in uncertain times. The simple dance moves paired with the chance for people to strut their stuff has attracted teens struggling with their insecurities. Following the same steps, dancers begin in neutral, conservative clothing before transitioning into a different outfit the person has been told not to wear because they lack the appropriate body type to do so. The type of clothing deemed inappropriate varies from person to person. For some, it is a skin-tight T-shirt while for others it’s the dreaded two-piece string bikini. The rollercoaster of emotion is evident in the dancer’s face during the video. What begins as a confident smile turns to mild embarrassment. Despite the insecurity, there is overwhelming support and love in the comments. Comments such as, “YOU’RE SUCH A BADDIE GO OFF” and “GIRLLL YOU SLAY THEM ALL!!!” are just some of the examples of the hundreds of supportive comments left on one video. While comments from strangers do little to cure the problems of insecurity, there is comfort in knowing that even on TikTok there is a supportive and positive community.