Bear with us.
Sexy baby (noun): someone who derives their power from being both sexy and babyish, but, crucially, is not a baby.
In our foolish universe, "hot" is largely still associated with powerful, and "cute" with weak. Sexy Babies, then, are disarming because they occupy both ends of the spectrum at once, meaning they are simultaneously perceived as formidable and non-threatening. This also lends them a sinister edge, like they could murder you at any moment and get away with it.
Sexy Baby is essentially the inverse of Big Dick Energy in that it achieves the same end goal through different means. Although both qualities are in the eye of the beholder, generally speaking BDE comes from within. Someone with BDE may well be objectively hot, and they may well have a dick, but the primary source of BDE is personality. It's the preserve of those who back themselves 100 percent while also having nothing to prove, and the rest of us gravitate towards them with a mixture of awe, envy and respect, like pieces of flint to a magnet.
Sexy Baby, on the other hand, is more performative. It's putting on your best whiny voice while asking someone to fetch something for you that's already within arm's reach. It's pouting and doing puppy eyes while holding a large knife. It's acting like butter wouldn't melt, when in fact the butter is liquid at this point, pooling yellow grease all over the kitchen floor, and – overwhelmed, confused – the rest of us have no choice but to mop it up like the subs we are.
Let us illustrate by way of comparison, using the film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical Chicago. Renée Zellweger as Roxie? Sexy Baby. Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma? BDE.
If that doesn’t quite clear things up, here are some more examples of Sexy Babies throughout history.
If there were, in fact, to be a dictionary definition of "Sexy Baby", it would feature a picture of Ariana Grande in an oversized hoodie and thigh-high boots telling someone off. Like a puppy filter on a thirst trap, Grande is able to cultivate an air of total innocence while singing about getting dicked down so hard you can't walk straight. She's someone you could feasibly describe as "adorable", but also has the capacity to fully stand on you.
Let us consider the evidence: she giggled while licking a donut in a shop before proclaiming "I hate America!" and got in loads of trouble, but ultimately no one cared after she released a black-and-white apology video titled "sorry babes". In her slightly husky, granulated sugar voice, she slapped Power 106 DJs Justin Credible and Eric D-Lux with a mini-lesson in gender equality in defence of the unicorn emoji. And, most recently, she was captured walking out of a hotel gazing all the way up at Pete Davidson while sucking a lollipop in the same manner as the goth on the cover of Crazy Town's The Gift of Game, who is also a Sexy Baby.
Megan from 'Love Island'
In my mind, the moment when the Sexy Baby stopped being an abstract idea and began its life as a sentient pair of fluffy high heels happened during – what else? – Love Island. When Megan Barton-Hanson began her successful attempt at usurping Laura Anderson as the love interest of Wes Nelson, she said the immortal words: "Gimme a kiss."
Except: she didn't say them. Megan uttered these words – simpering in tone, as befits only the Sexiest of Babies – without moving her lips, so that those lips might remain in a perfect pout as the sounds left her mouth. In doing so, she feigned sweetness and innocence, gazing at Wes from underneath her eyelashes like the girl rabbit Bugs Bunny fancies, but she got what she wanted in the end.
In that moment, the Sexy Baby was made flesh.
Ever since the artwork for Take Care – which saw him staring dejectedly into a goblet like a kid who's just been told they can't have an ice cream – Drake's appeal has been to make everyone feel some degree of "I wanna run to u". It's quite difficult to look at him without feeling a pang of sympathy, because he permanently looks like a dog being scalded, but he's also an arrogant little shit who will lower his chin to his chest (to make it look like he’s talking up to you even when he isn’t) and coo about how you should definitely leave your boyfriend to spend the weekend listening to him freestyle over unreleased beats.
In the same way that Ariana Grande is what you see when you look up Sexy Baby in the dictionary, Syd is what you hear when you search for it on Spotify. Tell me her sweet, delicate tone couldn't get you to do whatever she wanted. "Don't let nobody know" – absolutely. "Just keep it on the low" - for you, Syd, anything. "Go to the shop and get me a Diet Coke" – I'm already out the door and round the corner, to be honest.
The entire arc across all Sex and the City's six seasons is Carrie whinging until she gets what she wants while wearing designer bodycon dresses. The demi-god of Sexy Babies.
Lana Del Rey
Since 2011, when she announced herself with "Off to the Races" ("My old man is a bad man / But I can't deny the way he holds my hand"), Lana Del Rey has done it all. She said "Daddy" in a song ("Ride", 2012) before it was a glint in Tumblr's eye. She has a song called "Fucked My Way to the Top", which sounds like how running a switchblade along a pair of freshly and impossibly glossed lips might feel. While we were writing this Sexy Baby post, Lana was living her Sexy Baby life. The woman practically invented Sexy Baby-ism. Please stand for our fearless leader.
"Why, of the six wives of King Henry VIII, does Anne Boleyn alone qualify as a Sexy Baby?" I hear you ask. Sorry, but have you ever been so fit and coquettish that you convinced a guy to CREATE AN ENTIRE BRANCH OF CHRISTIANITY just so he could marry you, Katie? Have you? And yes, fine, maybe due to her Sexy Baby ways (otherwise known as "accusations of witchcraft") Anne did get her head lobbed off in the end, but equally, centuries later she's appearing in this article about Sexy Babies of History, so to be honest who is the real winner?
It is important to point out that possessors of BDE can also be Sexy Babies (see also: Nigella Lawson; approximately half of Beyoncé's self-titled album), and nobody demonstrates this better than Lil Kim. Appearance-wise she's every inch a girly fantasy, but crucially she's also very much always in charge. An iconic, important and strong SB.
Does it not seem, I don't know, convenient, that Our Lord and Saviour is usually depicted thusly: large cherubic eyes turned upwards to the heavens, an expression of purity and pain, arms outstretched so as to expose his vulnerability and buff wiry torso? With all due respect, tasked as he was with the hefty responsibility of convincing everyone that their entire belief system was wrong, Jesus mostly sat about in robes going "well, I am, so…" while Peter fawned over him like a bitch. This is a Sexy Baby vibe so huge it came back from the dead and spawned the largest organised religion in the world, based on a book he got a bunch of other lads to write for him. Iconic.
Terry Crews in Brooklyn Nine-Nine Specifically
Terry Crews is built, as the French say, like a shithouse en briques. In addition to being "eight circles with suspenders on", his main character attributes are: a strong moral compass, an inferiority complex in regards to his even larger brother-in-law and a passion for yoghurt. Yes, he has the earthquake-inducing voice of a professional football coach and wrestler combined, but Terry mostly uses it to talk in third person about how much Terry loves his kids.
Spider-man is the wettest superhero going. Besides Batman, of course – a rich idiot who I hate. A neurotic orphan genius who acts as a conduit for every bookish introvert who had a crush on a popular girl at school, Spider-man is the hero you also want to rescue. Though clearly a fuckboi, there is a special place held in the Sexy Baby universe for this lithe, wounded outsider who could be "daddy" if only he could get his shit together, but probably won’t.
Dragon from the hit motion picture Shrek
Dragon has the capacity to literally – and this is a literal "literally", not merely an intensifying one – incinerate Donkey, and crucially, they both know it. Dragon, however, is smart: she gets shit done by being sweet to her equine spouse, and the fiery death just kind of hangs over the whole thing as a vague warning. This, essentially, is a good summation of the Sexy Baby project, and makes Dragon an important member of the canon.
On the one hand, a wispy-haired soft boy known for being so sensitive Lord Byron joked that his cause of death was being "snuff’d out by an article". On the other, kind of a shagger tbh. Accidentally killed himself with mercury poisoning while self-medicating for what some biographers have guessed to be venereal disease. He's the spirit of Russell Brand trapped inside the body of Edward VI.
The Fish from The Shape of Water
I mean, come on.
Britney is nearly 40 and could still command you to do whatever she wanted with one tug of her ponytail, so strong is the spirit of Sexy Baby within her. Britney, in many ways, is the most inspiring Sexy Baby because she has been a Sexy Baby for so long: her's is a story of perseverance and strength. A Sexy Baby for the ages.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.