Where does skinny legend come from?
The sense of skinny in skinny legend is much more closely linked to the use in skinny love than anything else. Where skinny love is a sickly, unfulfilled love between two people, a skinny legend is a celebrity whose talents are seen as unsung or under-sung.
Skinny legend appeared on Twitter in March, 2009. Around the same time, there was also a Ghanaian rapper going by the name Skinny Legend. Much of the term’s early use on social media was about him.
In early 2011, use of skinny legend started to shift more toward describing celebrities who were low-key iconic or not as highly regarded as their fans feel they should be. Legend, here, draws on British English slang for an "exceptional person."
Now, for the next phase of skinny legend to make sense, you need to know what a stan is. Connected to a 2000 Eminem song, "Stan," about an obsessed fan, a stan is a super-fan of someone or something. Around the summer of 2015, a subculture of stans for late 1990s/early 2000s pop divas started to use skinny legend to praise their favorites.
now this is a skinny legend pic.twitter.com/FAOHVmeLIG
— ming xi (@minxiepop) August 17, 2015
— Mauri® (@mauriandme) May 10, 2016
Skinny legend spread in summer 2016, largely in reference to Mariah Carey. Around this time, stans also started punning on skinny, taking its "not getting enough love" sense literally for "extremely thin" by photoshopping images of singers to look unrealistically, ridiculously small-waisted.
a skinny legend pic.twitter.com/c4EASAPEc5
— sono morta (@agentofchaosxx) July 10, 2016
The meme is a visual joke, as if to say: “I stan this person. You don’t believe they’re a skinny legend? Look at this picture. Have you ever seen anyone skinnier? I think not.”
In April, 2018, actress and singer Raini Rodriguez became a meme herself after a 2013 interview clip of her singing was remixed on YouTube. Both ironic and non-ironic stans began calling her a skinny legend, even going so far as inventing a fictional rivalry between Rodriguez and Beyonce.
Know Your Meme
This drew a lot of attention, leading to huge spikes in both search interest and media buzz for the term during that month.
Who uses skinny legend?
Skinny legend is mainly an expression of love and admiration for performers seen as underappreciated, often including Mariah Carey but also Trixie Mattel, Lady Gaga, Janet Jackson, and Christina Aguilera, to name a few.
Goodnight to our woke skinny legend pic.twitter.com/gBCTmDF0MI
— nina (@tweetyohara) March 29, 2018
Use of skinny legend usually comes in two flavors: earnest fan appreciation or ironic parodies of the meme and larger fandoms.
Beyoncé is still a skinny legend so we’re cooling over here pic.twitter.com/dUCIfozAKp
— Rap God Beyoncè (@rapgawdjennie) June 22, 2018
slenderman is a skinny legend
— melody (@gt7code) June 22, 2018
People sometimes use skinny legend to celerate on themselves or their friends for being exceptional ...
HAPPY BIRTHDAY SKINNY LEGEND. MARIAH CAREY IS SHAKING. i hope you have an incredible day filled with love and good people. @coltoneusterman xoxo 💕
— Oni 🐝 (@onifinau) June 22, 2018
...and, inevitably, for being thin-bodied, as some have used skinny legend for their weight-loss and body-image goals.
I finally started to lose some weight though. I just want to be a skinny Legend dammit. 😭😭😭
— 🌸 Darcella 🌸 (@Reba_Gates) June 22, 2018
Skinny legend meme has come under criticism for promoting unhealthy beauty standards, eating disorders, and for equating success and perfection with physical skinniness. The slang is yet more problematic when users shorten skinny legend to just a skinny. Fans of the meme have countered, though, that skinny is really more a state of mind than a physical state, but it can be tough to figure out where that line is.
I stan a living iconic skinny legend
@lotzofgay, June, 2016
when will the skinny legend/using skinny as a compliment equating to perfect END already
@mandahorror, March, 2018
A skinny legend can be any weight, any size, any gender. The phrase is used as a term of endearment by stans who worship particular celebrities.
Taylor Lorenz, The Daily Beast, April, 2018