‘Lightskin stare’ meaning explained as meme floods TikTok with Rizz, Dog add-ons

Bruno Cooke November 29, 2022
‘Lightskin stare’ meaning explained as meme floods TikTok with Rizz, Dog add-ons

Featured

The popularity of the “lightskin stare” meme is such that compilations have started appearing on YouTube, so it’s worth hashing out the meaning and origins of the phrase. 

Its association with the notion of having “rizz,” or even “unspoken rizz,” means that sometimes, social media users are having to decode multiple memes simultaneously.

There’s also Lightskin Dog to contend with – the dog with the most rizz…

Here’s a primer on where the meme(s) came from, what it means and how, like many cultural ideas (even those that have to do with the Internet), it’s likely older than you think.

What is a ‘lightskin stare’? Meaning explained

The so-called “lightskin stare,” also written “light skin stare,” is a slang term people use to refer to a cliché that members on TikTok have come to use.

At its root is the clichéd notion that light-skinned Black men have a particularly seductive stare. But in its current form, someone doesn’t have to be Black, a man or even a human to have, or be able to perform, a “lightskin stare.”

Its common characteristics, according to Know Your Meme, are “being handsome [and] having piercing eyes, furrowed eyebrows and pursed lips.”

Content and meme creators on TikTok (and elsewhere) have been busy labelling movie characters, TV characters and video game characters as having the stare. Find a compilation video of examples via YouTube here.

Examples come from a wide range of materials, including Disney and Pixar movies, anime series, Minecraft and real life – cats are certainly among those deemed capable of giving a “lightskin stare.”

Photo by DENIS CHARLET/AFP via Getty Images

Origins of the ‘lightskin stare’ explored

If you’re a TikTok user coming across jokes people make on the platform, you might be tempted to assume they’re original. 

But much of what comes up on the social media website is actually recycled material. Memes specifically involving men with light skin started on Vine in 2013, meaning the “lightskin stare” craze has roots that long predate TikTok. ByteDance first released the global version of its Douyin app in August 2018.

Twitter users took it up in 2014. It wasn’t until mid-2020 that TikTok users started using a slowed remix of the song Sin City by Chrishan and looking seductively into the camera. 

And it wasn’t until November 2022 that TikTok’s remix of the memes that first appeared on Vine in 2013 gained popularity.

What does ‘unspoken rizz’ mean and what is its connection to the ‘lightskin stare’ meme?

Know Your Meme adds that “lightskin stares” and “unspoken rizz” often go hand in hand. Sometimes, the concept of being “zesty” is in there too.

Having “rizz,” or “unspoken rizz,” means being able to talk to women (as a man) with comfortable ease. 

Twitch streamers Kai Cenat, Silky and Duke Dennis popularised the meme in 2021. But according to its entry on Know Your Meme, it originated in New York City slang much earlier. 

Kai Cenat and Silky started streaming e-dates on Twitch in May 2021. They watched each other talk to their dates and reacted in real-time. Over time, they started using the word “rizz” to describe the other’s performance. As a slang term, it’s similar to having “game.”

In simple terms, if you’re a smooth talker, you’ve got “rizz” (or “unspoken rizz”), and it’s easy enough to see how people might come to apply the meaning of this to memes involving “lightskin stares.”

Meet Lightskin Dog, the Internet dog with the most ‘rizz’

No meme’s journey is complete without someone applying it to an Internet pet. 

Enter, Lightskin Dog. Lightskin Dog is a dog with relatively light skin, piercing eyes and, you might say, a “lightskin stare,” meaning it’s firmly part of the meme tradition. 

It has an Instagram account, photos from which have appeared on TikTok for many months. 

Videos with the hashtag “#lightskindog” have been viewed 8.3 million times on the platform. Is this the final iteration of the “lightskin stare” meme, or is it just the beginning? We’ll have to wait and see.

Have something to tell us about this article?
Let us know
Bruno Cooke has been a freelance journalist since 2019, primarily with GRV Media. He was an early contributor to The Focus, and has written for HITC, Groundviews and the Sheffield University newspaper – he earned his MA in Global Journalism there in 2021. He’s the Spoken Word Poetry Editor for The Friday Poem, and self-published his debut novel Reveries in 2019, which his mum called both a “fine read” and “excellent Christmas present”. Bruno has lived in China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines and likes, among other things: bicycle touring, black and white Japanese films, pub quizzes, fermentation and baklava. In 2023, Bruno will set off with his partner on a round-the-world cycle.