Balancing the 'Girl Crush': Admiring Another's Beauty While Valuing Our Own

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It’s likely you’ve seen Academy Award-winning actress,  Lupita Nyong’o in photos and followed by a sea of one-word comments that sum her up existence like, “Yaaaass,” “Flawless,” Beautiful” and “Stunning.” Tapped for her beauty, intellect and all around delightfulness, she’s been praised for her classic fashion choices and perfect cocoa complexion. Mainstream critics can’t get enough of her, but for black girls especially, we seem to love seeing ourselves and the image that wasn’t always considered beautiful take center stage.

 Yes, she is a “girl crush.”

“Girl crush” has become quite the catchy phrase used in pop culture. You’ll read in it magazine headlines, hear it during red carpet commentary or even in everyday conversation among women. It’s a cute way of saying there’s something about another woman that we admire. Girl crushes are smart, beautiful, stylish, funny, accomplished and brave, and they can be anyone.

Nyong’o isn’t the first that black girls of my generation have fawned over. She’s the latest heir in a long line of girl crush royalty. There’s Janet Jackson, who even in her mid-40s can put many younger women to shame with her ability to slim down to a chiseled, but voluptuous body. Nia Long, the brazen brown bombshell, continues to defy age. Tracee Ellis Ross, who has nearly 300,000 Instagram followers, still dominates as a style queen. Men were possibly tuning in to Girlfriends for at her shapely backside, but it was women who were swooning over her big, fluffy curls, funky ensembles and body every Monday night. The list goes on.

When I heard the term, “girl crush,” for the first time, I knew I’d never use it conversation with friends simply because I associate the “word” crush with men like my first celebrity love (Ronnie DeVoe of New Edition) or the cute, quiet guy in my journalism classes in undergrad. I figured the slang would die out fast, and we’d be on to the next catch phrase by now, but no such luck.

“Girl crush” is still around, and we’ve since taken it a step further to admire women with the Woman Crush Wednesday hashtag (#WCW) on social media. Both men and women post photos of their favorites from Sanaa to Beyonce’, Oprah and Angela or your regular woman walking the streets. They’ve all got something we love, and giving a woman a genuine compliment is never a bad thing. It should be encouraged actually.

There can be a dark side to girl crushes though. In random conversations with women, along with admiration, I’ve heard the longing, and in some cases, the desperation to look like or be like some of these branded girl crushes. Women have gushed over Kelly Rowland’s legs on social media, wishing they could detach their own and replace them with hers like living dolls. It’s unfortunate that women are also jeopardizing their health, and in some cases, losing their lives from shady augmentations to breasts and backsides to mirror others. Try as you might, altering your body won’t make you that woman either.

I’d love to have a physique like Tracee Ellis Ross’s when I hit my 40s, and even today, if I could get away with wearing a mesh leotard and dancer’s tights combo like Beyonce’, I would. Then I remember my own attributes and the fact that even these women who are portrayed as perfection personified swoon over someone else, too.

Take Oprah Winfrey as an example, who cited Diana Ross as her biggest inspiration. During an interview, Winfrey fought back tears as she described the impact Ross has made on her perspective and eventually, her career after seeing her on television as a young girl. When I look at “girl crushes” through that lens, it doesn’t seem so odd anymore. Out of admiration comes respect.

Every woman, no matter how beautiful or smart, hopefully admires another woman. It could be your mother for her beauty that stares back at you in the mirror, her many accomplishments as a caretaker, businesswoman or provider. It could be a Rihanna for her against-the-grain bravado or it could be a woman you see walking down the street who exudes confidence effortlessly.

So, no, there’s nothing wrong with having a woman crush, as long as it’s a healthy propeller for us, rather than an obsession and means to devalue ourselves. Rather than try to switch our body parts, hair and intellects for theirs, we must remember that we are crush worthy, too—not only to others, but to ourselves.

Alisha Tillery is a freelance writer living and working in Memphis, Tennessee. She loves music, magazines and old Martin episodes. She writes about any and everything that hits a nerve at

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