May 8, 2009
Who is an “it-girl”?
An It-girl is a charming, sexy young woman who receives intense media coverage unrelated or disproportional to personal achievements. The reign of an “It girl” is usually temporary; some of the rising It girls will either become fully-fledged celebrities or their popularity will fade.
The term was coined by English romance novelist and screenwriter Elinor Glyn to describe actress Clara Bow as she appeared in the 1927 Hollywood silent film It. Glyn described the term thus:
“IT” is that quality possessed by some which draws all others with its magnetic force. With “IT” you win all men if you are a woman—all women if you are a man. “IT” can be a quality of the mind as well as a physical attraction.
Self-confidence and indifference whether you are pleasing or not—and something in you that gives the impression that you are not at all cold. That’s “IT”.
However, the movie also plays with the notion that “it” is a quality which eschews definitions and categories; consequently the girl portrayed by Bow is an amalgam of an ingenue and a femme fatale, with a touch of “material girl”. By contrast, her rival is equally young and comely, and even rich, blonde and well-bred to boot, but she simply hasn’t got “it”.
Since 1927 the term has been extended beyond the world of film, referring to whomever in society, fashion or the performing arts was in vogue at the time, and eventually extending beyond young female performing artists to mere “media celebrities”.