March 30, 2013 -- "What's going on with Amanda Bynes?" is a question I've been asked a few times in the past few weeks. (Rhetorically, I'm hoping, because Amanda is no longer answering my texts.)
It's true that the actress has been making some surprising moves as of late, (allegedly) driving illegally and (allegedly) smoking certain types of plant life (in a car TMZ has authoritatively deemed "a mess"), dealing with stories claiming she's getting evicted from her NY apartment, changing her style rather dramatically, and tweeting 'bout some grown-up things.
Now, let's be quite real: Lots of ladies get piercings and tweet about genitalia, and plenty of people change up their style as they grow older. I do hope that the 26-year-old retired multi-millionaire isn't hurting others or herself, and I hope she isn't doing anything that would chip away from the funny, talented, successful young performer she has always been. And boy-oh-boy do I hope she doesn't really believe this. But, I'll be honest:
I love her new look.
So let's talk about it.
One thing I adore about her new direction is that, whether intentionally or by accident, it takes cues from a group that's been long overdue for some positive recognition when it comes to fashion and personal style: Chongas. Similar but definitely distinct from their West Coast counterparts, cholas, chongas are a group of women -- originally of Cuban descent (and oh hell yes "chonga" has a thorough Wikipedia entry explaining the term's origin) -- who have a very distinct (and phenomenal) style of dress and self-expression.
And, as with fashion associated with a particular cultural group, problems can arise when someone who isn't of that group borrows from, adapts, or appropriates this look. But this is what happens when a trend or subculture radiates outward and into the general public. So, yes, let's see how she's working it:
I'm of the mind that, the longer the wings on your eyeliner, the closer to God. Amanda's winged eyeliner *could* be stronger, but it's still fairly excellent. Extra points for white highlight.
Could have gone stronger with the liner and paler with the lipstick, but, you know. Style is all in how you adapt trends and cues to suit your own taste.
Those scrunched-up waves are the business.
Are you kidding me with these? I love them.
Also, not that this is necessarily a chonga look, but... Is Amanda wearing a guayabera here? Because that would be a most excellent fashion choice on her part, particularly since it's an article of clothing most commonly associated with men. Make it yours, AB.
And for those curious about why chongas are entitled to credit and accolades, look no further than this academic paper by women and gender studies scholar Jillian Hernandez. In her essay, Hernandez posits that "the sexual-aesthetic excess of chonga bodies complicates dichotomies of 'good' versus 'bad' girls and signifies non-normative politics that trouble the disciplining of behavior and dress for girls of color." Basically: Chongas are disruptors, and fashion plays a part in their disrupting.
So, Amanda Bynes: I hope you're doing great. And I love what you're wearing.