The Office Hours Interview: Bri Malandro
I’m of the opinion that OG Tumblr was a Petri dish for creative expression and analysis for marginalized voices the same way that OG Twitter (pre-2014) and Vine was. A lot of those voices migrated to Twitter over the past few years once Tumblr lost popularity, bringing with them years of concepts and themes that then filter into larger consciousness due to Twitter’s high % of users who work in media and entertainment being introduced to them and then sharing them with their (way bigger) networks You see it all the time: A video or meme or theme or clothing style or slang term gets hot due to shares/RTs/scalper accounts (accounts that are created for the sole purposing of stealing popular/viral memes and using that popularity (and your emotional response to said memes) to sell you something. This is a scalper account. Long story short: The culture gets stolen because it’s really easy to do.
OK! With that context…over the last four months, I’ve been seeing a lot of cowboys and cowgirls on my feed.
Be clear though, when I say cowboys and cowgirls, think less John Wayne and more of this:
At first, I ignored it. The closest experience I’ve had to western style or cowboy culture to-date was via my Mexican homies and their families (and via shopping for Dickies at western clothing/workwear stores like Alcala’s here in Chicago) so that culture didn’t resonate with me at first and I just chalked the whole thing to a. by-product of other cultural events going on around the time: the ascendance of country artist Kacey Musgraves into the mainstream pop world, that weird yodeling kid getting 15 mins of fame and the “what in tarnation” meme. I was wrong. After doing some research, I landed at the account of Bri Malandro, a writer, analyst and Youtuber that reps Texas to the fullest. Since last year, she’s been proudly sharing cultural analysis around the last 20+ years of western-inspired looks worn by the likes of Nelly, Mary J. Blige, the Knowles sisters and buzzing rappers like Megan Thee Stallion (Please do yourselves a favor and go listen to Tina Snow after reading this!!!!!!!!!!) and coined the phrase “yeehaw agenda”.
Y’all saddle up and enjoy.
When I reached out to you, I mentioned that I really wanted to talk to you about this trend now vs waiting until someone else stumbles on the concept and tries to take credit for it. Before we get started, do you have any thoughts about how the marginalized or people of color can get compensated as the “creators” of trends like this one? It’s so hard to take credit for a concept or trend getting hot.
I’m still figuring that part out myself but I think the most important thing is to not give too much away too early. If you have plans to build a brand or content you want to release, keep it to yourself until you have all your ducks in a row because you never know who’s watching and what they’ll take from you without acknowledgment. When I started using this phrase though I had no idea people would run with it the way they did. I was just having a good time with my mutuals.
Do you feel like the traditions of western gear and the culture around it connect well with people of color? If not, why can these traditions teach us?
Of course. If you’re talking about things like going to the Rodeo and farming, there’s tons of people of color who make their living in those areas currently. Honestly, when I was growing up in the early 2000’s for whatever reason, western gear was everywhere. This is where the main influence is for me because if you look back at the trends of the time, you’ll see everyone from NSYNC to Mary J. Blige rocking some kind of frayed jean or studded belt. A lot of pop acts would wear a cowboy hat with their tank tops and top the look off with some rimless sunglasses or a fringe belt. It was just a really interesting time for fashion and I never saw it as something that wasn’t for me because all of my favorite black entertainers were the ones pulling those looks off.
…So it feels like the mission (or agenda, I guess) isn’t just about cataloging looks or documenting a trend that’s happened over the years, but also to educate people on our history, right? What are we missing about our history that you feel the yeehaw agenda can tell us?
Texas plays a big part in that for me. My father played football for the Dallas Cowboys when I was younger so I’m always going to feel connected to that aesthetic. Also, my grandmother — who lived in Mississippi by the way — was obsessed with “Walker Texas Ranger and never hesitated to let me know they filmed in Dallas, TX. On that show, Walker had a best friend named James who was black but they never made it the focus of the show, like they never pointed out their friendship or what they wore…like it was abstract. For everyone else, I’m hoping it will shed light on the fact that there were (and still are) black cowboys and cowgirls and (the culture) is not uncommon or anything you have to feel like you can’t participate in.
Got anything to promote?
For now you can follow The Yee Haw Agenda on IG (@theyeehawagenda). It’s basically just a hub of black people — famous and non-famous — in their best Western looks. I’m having a lot of fun with that page right now and submissions are always welcome!
Every Office Hours interview requires you to shout out one person you think the world should pay more attention to.
I always do this but I’d have to shout out Rashida Renee. She’s one of the most uncredited influential people online and she deserves every bit of the attention you could bring.
Where can readers find you online?
@Brimalandro on pretty much every platform. I also have a few Youtube videos you can check out by searching the name. Thank you so much for the opportunity!
YOUR HOMEWORK FOR THE WEEK:
(I didn’t want to excerpt any of it here because I want her to get some much-deserved clicks!)