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Can we really have it all? White-washing and Gentrification of the Twenty-Something.

Updated: May 5, 2021

How can we expect the twenty-something to have it all when we’re not all treated equally?

Society has convinced us that our 20’s are our defining decade. In years before, this included bar work and sharing a shoe-box flat above a corner shop. Then relationship hopping and making major mistakes with fleeting regret. But now, the inundated expectations have reached fever pitch.

Now, we want a two-bed-furnished apartment with an onsite gym and 24-hour concierge, in the city. Paired with being self-employed and finding your husband at 23-years old. Thanks again, Love Island. If you travel quarterly, skydive on your lunch break, and have 5k followers, then you’re winning. Ridiculous, right? There’s no wonder why so many of us think that we’re running out time. When I was fighting to fit someone’s idea of success, I suffered from overwhelming anxiety, too.

The game has changed and with that, so has the goal post. It’s hard to notice at first, but gentrification has snatched our twenties away from us. Gentrification is altering a subject to conform to the middle-class taste. Working-class and BiPOC neighbourhoods are often subject to this. Modified to be palatable for the middle-class, thus serving white people’s values.

It’s difficult to see yourself as successful when your age-mates are landing 500k brand deals. Or the local socialite has become CEO of a social media start-up. These careers have altered how young people view their success. And if you want to start a career in these fields, then it feels as if you should’ve started yesterday. These lifestyle choices have aided in creating disparity and anxiety among young people. Example – some people are fresh out of university whilst others have started families. These are on different ends of the spectrum but one might disapprove of the other’s choices or lack thereof.

The “influencer” is a gentrified career because the top earners are more than often white. Their content is then promoted as they are palatable to the white audience and good enough for the rest. Youtubers Nella Rose and Annie Drea are well accustomed to this procedure. They revealed that their white counterparts received better brand deals and more money, even if they had fewer followers and lower engagement. This white-washes our view of the twenty-something. We then compare ourselves to the white influencer image that Instagram’s algorithm pushes.

Unfortunately, this isn’t new. Anyone who is an avid film and TV consumer will recognise this stereotype from a mile off. Legally Blonde, Devil Wears Prada, Eat Pray Love and Sex and the City. These had a cultural impact and related to the white audience. Because of this, it loses credibility for representing a universal twenty-something.

Albeit, I adore these films, but I’ve grown tired of the idea that I need to travel to Asia to find myself.

The representation of the twenty-something through different racial lenses is paramount. Black women now have many tv shows with black-female leads in their twenties, such as Chewing Gum. Shows like She’s Gotta Have It, have helped show a variety of twenty-something black women. Furthermore, they have achieved this with grace, honesty and without stereotypes. Sadly, there has been any progression with Asian tv shows let alone Asian-female lead ones.

Where are the characters that are still living at home with their religious family? The social media activist fighting climate change and institutional racism? What about those who still work at the local over-priced coffee shop and go home to a bedroom with a sink in it? Those navigating tinder from their childhood single-bed that doubles as the home office? The twenty-something comes in all shapes, races and bank balances. They can be just as successful as those influencers – under their terms.

It may seem as if everyone knows what they’re doing, but that is not the case. As twenty-somethings, if there’s one thing we all have in common, it’s that we have no clue on what to do next. So, what happens if my life isn’t like the one, I see on Instagram?

My advice is to change the game you’re playing and move the goal post to where you want it. You’ll be successful when you stop trying to be like everyone else.



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