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Latinas are taking back the 'Hot Cheeto Girl' archetype, Refinery29 columnist says

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Maybe you've seen them - big nails, big eyelashes, even bigger personalities - talking about Hot Cheeto Girls. There are lots of people poking fun at the look on social media and some comments that are just downright racist. But Nicole Froio says Latinas are taking the meme back. She's a culture columnist for Refinery29. We spoke on the eve of a White House screening of Eva Longoria's film "Flamin' Hot," which is based on a memoir about the creation of Flamin' Hot Cheetos. And I began by asking her to explain what we'd be witnessing if we were hanging out with a Hot Cheeto Girl.

NICOLE FROIO: You can smell her before you can see her because she will take out perfume from her bag and she'll spritz it all over herself. She'll reapply gloss. She'll maybe brush her hair. She'll maybe redo parts of her makeup. And then, you know, because of her nails, like, it's always, like, a little noisy.

MARTÍNEZ: They are definitely soothing sounds to say the least. Now, so how did Cheeto, the actual snack, get roped into this whole look?

FROIO: I think that it's because one of their kind of self-care items, you know, from the stereotype is Hot Cheetos. So they'll always pull out, like, a bag of Hot Cheetos and they'll eat them, and they'll always offer you some as well, of course.

MARTÍNEZ: So there is a bit of a reinforcement of a negative stereotype, it seems like, with Black and Latina women. When you look online - and you kind of write about this in your article - that it's kind of being hijacked in a way.

FROIO: Yeah. So the first kind of instance that came on to TikTok was Rosa. Rosa was played by a Latino man who - he portrayed her as kind of, like, this kind but loud person. From then on, a lot of people started hijacking the concept of the Hot Cheeto Girl. And I think that they started kind of, like, infusing it with some racialized elements. And it's true, like, the Hot Cheeto Girls are always Black and Latina, but the original kind of depiction didn't, like, use that as a punchline, if that makes sense.

MARTÍNEZ: And also that loudness is kind of mixed in with, like, this aggression that isn't quite necessarily the truth.

FROIO: Exactly. We're loud, but we're really kind and there is no aggression there. It's just that you're reading it through, like, a racialized, like, prism of the scary Latina girl. And so I think that the Hot Cheeto Girl kind of phenomenon is a good example of how marginalized people can take a stereotype and really turn it onto its head and be like, actually, we're good.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah.

FROIO: You're just being a little racist.

MARTÍNEZ: How are we seeing that now being redirected in a way where it's more of a positive?

FROIO: One of my favorite creators trying to reclaim the Hot Cheeto Girl stereotype is Mialani Aurora on TikTok. She actually redirects the aggression towards bullies as opposed to the idea that she's just aggressive all around and would pick a fight with anyone, which is what people think about these girls. Instead of that, Mialani does videos where it's like the Hot Cheeto Girl stands up for the gay kid who's being bullied.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIALANI AURORA: OK, you see, Samantha, that's what we're not going to do today, OK? Let me just stop you while you're ahead. Why are you talking about him? What did he do to you? Nothing.

FROIO: So, like, things like that where she's actually using that aggression and, like, that disruption for good rather than building it as, like, just aggression or just violence or whatever. It's more like she uses her powers, her loud Latina powers, for good.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTÍNEZ: Nicole Froio is a freelance journalist, a culture columnist for Refinery29. Nicole, thanks a lot.

FROIO: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF BAD BUNNY AND RAUW ALEJANDRO SONG, "PARTY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.