The Power of Words – Flaming Hot Cliche

Captioned with the hashtags “#ghetto” or “#ratchet”, videos that have “POV: you’re sitting next to the Hot Cheeto Girl,” or “POV: the Hot Cheeto Girl has a question in biology,” gained popularity online. 

Starting as a joke on social media, the phrase “Hot Cheeto Girl” is spoken on campus as well which is casually used against several Latinx students at Branham. 

Since it first appeared in 2019, #hotcheetogirl has garnered 562.8 million views on TikTok and over a thousand posts on Instagram. The views mostly are depictions of girls who have long nails, fake eyelashes, Hot Cheetos, laid edges and hoop earrings while typically talking in accents.

The stereotyped traits include being loud, lazy, academically inferior and, most notably, “ghetto”. The comments and exaggerated imitations were mainly being made by people outside of the Latinx community.

Junior Melissa Banuelos believes the characteristics of the Hot Cheeto girl evolved into a stereotype. Not only are Latina women categorized for qualities like having long nails, doing their makeup and eating Hot Cheetos, but they are also being demonized for the behavior shown in these videos.

“People started talking about how ‘these girls’ cause trouble, they’re ghetto, they’re just troublemakers, and that they’re disrespectful,” Banuelos said.

Both juniors Nereyda Marin and Banuelos hear the phrase used on a frequent basis, either directed towards them or overheard in class. Marin recalls an instance where a former friend used it against her in a fight, calling her a Hot Cheeto Girl and not wanting to be friends because of it, knowing she was Mexican.

“A lot of people like to say that as a comeback and to assault you which is not cool,” Marin said. 

The stereotype affects both the outer perception of Latinx and Hispanic students and their personal sense of themselves. The “Hot Cheeto Girl” comes from a Latinx subculture, and to many people, the style is not simply a joke.  

“There are people that I don’t know calling me that,” Marin said. “I’m not friends with you, so don’t call me that. We can’t even eat chips (because of it).” 

When an Laura* told others that they are Mexican, their identity would be questioned because their style did not fit the “part” of the popular stereotype. 

“Those who are part of the Hispanic community get characterized that way. And then people visualize that as us, which is absolutely not true,” they said. “We’re all different. We wear different clothes. We speak differently, and it’s annoying to be stereotyped.”

Besides its offensive effects, Ethnic Literature Teacher Mike Espinoza claims the “Hot Cheeto” part of its name might have partially arisen from the stereotype that Latinx people like spicy food. However, for some Latinx people like Espinoza, Hot Cheetos were a staple childhood food. 

“(The popularity of spicy snacks) just had to do with what was available to us and what separated us from everyone else,” Espinoza said. “As far as Latinos, we adopted it as, ‘Oh, those are our chips.’”

The characterization of Hot Cheeto Girls lies beyond simple POVs and fake lashes.

Latina women began slicking their edges during the Chola movement which came after the historical oppression of Mexican citizens from 1929 to the end of World War II, and the upbringing of Mexican street culture. 

During this time, the Mexican Repatriation occurred, and the US military servicemen and immigration agents removed about 2 million Mexican citizens from their homes and illegally deported them. In addition, during World War II, more young Mexican residents were stripped and attacked because they deemed the l

oose fabric on their clothing as “unpatriotic” during a time when fabric was rationed. 

In the Vice article “The Folk Feminist Struggle Behind the Chola Fashion Trend,” writer and ar

tist Barbara Calderón describes her experiences growing up as a Latina teen in the ’90s. She highlights how the aesthetic’s surface-level place in celebrity fashion and media today does not acknowledge how it is ingrained in Latinx culture and systematic oppression. Calderón describes how the Chola identity was created during a time where Latinx culture dealt with gang warfare, violence, and poverty on top of conservative gender roles. 

“The clothes these women wore were more than a fashion statement—they were signifiers of their struggle and hard-won identity,” said Calderón.  

The “Hot Cheeto Girl” is an example of a subcultural insult. Subcultures are created because the dominant and most socially accepted culture, which in America, is white culture, does not fit their needs. They extend to the male counterpart of the “Hot Cheeto Girl,” known as “Edgars,” who are equally mocked for their baggy style and notable haircuts. These insults are also seen within other subcultures, such as Asian immigrants or citizens being called ‘FOBs” for maintaining their cultural habits in America. 

Illustration by Dhatri Tummala

Subcultural insults made by people outside the culture being targeted is known as “disparagement humor.” This type of humor is a paradox: they hold prejudice and hostility about a certain group of people, yet they are dismissed because they are “just jokes.” 

Possible ways to help break the Hot Cheeto girl, and other sub cultural stereotypes, includes awareness through social media to inform others about the influence these phrases have on the Latinx community, Espinoza suggested. 

However, many students believe that there is no particular solution to break the stereotypes already established besides more understanding of other cultures. 

“There’s no way to fully change it, but I think there could be more representation of other Latinos, not just Edgars or Hot Cheetos girls,” Laura said. 

*Student had requested to remain anonymous.