Illustration by Marta Parszeniew
Would you like to have sex with your friend’s dad? Have you ever married for money, and fantasised about ways of disposing of your spouse’s lifeless corpse? Do you own a Juul?If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may already be part of Cherry Emoji Twitter. The online subculture has been slinking in the shadows of the site in various incarnations for around five years now. To outsiders, fulfilling the Cherry Emoji criteria in 2019 seems simple: you just need to be beautiful, rich, morally depraved, and horny.
That’s not all, though. Cherry Emoji Twitter (CET) is defined – perhaps above all else – by its aesthetic. This is the femme fatale archetype for the modern age, warped by late capitalist materialism and the pressures of social media. But rather than drawing inspiration from 40s film noir, it looks to the kitsch McBling of the early 00s: think murder plots and Juicy Couture; coital choking and Lancôme lip gloss; daddy issues and Bratz dolls. It is Megan Fox in Jennifer’s Body wearing low rise jeans and eating the flesh of men; Natalie Portman stripping in Closer in an electric pink wig; Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions snorting cocaine in a Catholic schoolgirl uniform. Essentially, it is about being very bad, but looking very good while you do it.“A typical member of Cherry Emoji Twitter listens to Lana Del Rey and female rap,” summarises Kacper, 15, a Twitter user found on @mermaidsflor who follows the CET aesthetic. “They often wear a lot of crop tops and skirts that are pink, purple, black or white. On social media their profile pic is usually a Bratz doll or Megan Fox. They often have daddy issues and glamourise smoking, drinking, and self-destructive behaviour.”
But this wasn’t how it always was. If you scratch away at the glittery veneer, you’ll realise there’s a lot more to Cherry Emoji Twitter than lusty teenagers and 00s nostalgia. In fact, the community – which is now populated by white girls and defined by white celebrities – was originally founded by a group of young black women.
“Before it was called Cherry Emoji Twitter, it was called Hoe Twitter,” explains Samiyah, 22. “It was a community of individuals (mostly black womxn) who tweeted about their lives, fashion, celebrity gossip, and dick appointments. A lot of us had a very good way of turning our lives into funny memes that a lot could relate to, as if we were speaking our minds for other people.”Samiyah, otherwise known as Anal Girl, tweets at @94GRACES (she used to be @benadryl and @SAM1YAH before both accounts were shut down). She considers herself one of the original members of Hoe Twitter, alongside fellow users @JE55ICAFANT, @YUNGSADISTIC and the late Nicole Milfie. When they first began posting back in 2014, their tweets were mainly about sexual empowerment and acceptance. They would still share McBling visuals and shots of 00s celebrities, but the true purpose was about much more than aesthetics. “My Twitter is like…. the hoe haven,” Milfie once tweeted. “Hoes can come to my Twitter and be safe. And interact.”“While people were judging and shaming us, we were together supporting and uplifting one another,” says Samiyah. “ What made it more treasurable was that most of us were black or a person of colour, and we related to each other differently than other people. We had a community for ourselves where we were heard and understood.”Sacred, 22, is another one of Hoe Twitter’s original members, tweeting at @YOUNGGHOTEBONY. “The community was so important because it gave me a space to feel comfortable, accepted and normal,” she remembers. “I learned a lot of things about my sexuality, relationships, dating, and just living and navigating through life as a black woman.”
It was after Milfie tragically passed away in 2016 that Hoe Twitter made the transition to Cherry Emoji Twitter. Milfie – real name Taylor Crenshaw – was widely considered to be the co-founder of Hoe Twitter, and often used the cherry emoji as a personal stamp. She put it in her display name, slipped it into captions, and would even post selfies with actual IRL cherries. After her death, the emoji began flooding Hoe Twitter in tribute, redefining its aesthetic and marking the start of a new era for the community. As a result, Hoe Twitter soon became known as Cherry Emoji Twitter.The original members of Hoe Twitter were devastated by Milfie’s death and began to drift away from the community. Outsiders joined and began regurgitating old posts. “There was no longer exclusivity, and no originality,” says Samiyah. “What was a community turned into a fad that fizzled out.” Now, she says, Cherry Emoji Twitter has become a parody of itself – a whitewashed movement that is totally detached from its roots, and void of any substance.In 2019, these origins have been buried under a slew of sultry selfies and ironic tweets about murder – but there are still people fighting for Milfie’s legacy. In a piece written for Hello Giggles earlier this year, Brooklyn White criticised the blatant whitewashing of Cherry Emoji Twitter, saying that it exemplified “the nature of the internet”. It was a recurring problem: the wit and creativity of black content creators being appropriated and sold off by people – mostly white – with larger platforms.
“This is the culture we exist in,” White wrote. “There are black folks who spend their time creating, archiving, and sharing pertinent information, and there are others who capitalise off of this labour without ever stopping to acknowledge (or pay) the creators.”“Everything that black women create and do is copied, whitewashed, stolen, and re-advertised as a white-owned brand or fad,” says Sacred. “Why? Because black women are just fucking fire.”“99.9 percent of Cherry Emoji Twitter don't even know the origin and history of the community they claim so hard. They don't know who their elders are or where their personalities came from. They just invest themselves into what they think the aesthetic is, slap a young and hot affluent white socialite avi on their profile and call it a day.”For most of the original Hoe Twitter members, the best that can be hoped for is that Nicole Milfie is not forgotten. The general belief is that Cherry Emoji Twitter will never succeed as a movement because it doesn’t have the art, originality or stories – which Milfie had in abundance – to fuel it. After all, jokes about butchering your sugar daddy quickly get old, so the best hope is that it will peter out altogether.“Now Cherry Emoji Twitter is mostly white girls talking about plastic surgery they can’t afford and sugar daddies they don’t have,” adds Samiyah dismissively. “They always post screencaps from The Simple Life, or gifs of models from the 90s and early 2000s with captions like ‘ugh, mood’. It is full of vapid and artificial bots – the polar opposite of everything Hoe Twitter came to be.”@dominiquesisley