From Shakespeare to Chrissy Teigan: The Art of Throwing Shade

throwing shade
There’s something magical about a good zinger. We can’t all snap our fingers and put someone in their place with a wittier-than-RuPaul one-liner, but we can sure as heck appreciate it when someone else does. Why is shade so darned captivating?

I’ve got answers. But first, a little entertainment.

Masters of Razor-Sharp Wit

The terms “shade” and “throwing shade” may be relatively new (the illustrious Merriam-Webster dates the phrase to a New York Times article from 1993), but the act itself is a time-honored tradition appreciated even by the Bard. Yes, Shakespeare. That dude threw so much shade he was practically an elm tree.

  • “For I must tell you friendly in your ear, sell when you can; you are not for all markets. – As You Like It
  • “I do desire we may be better strangers.” – As You Like It
  • “Chiron: Thou has undone our mother.
    Aaraon: Villain, I have done thy mother.” – Titus Andronicus

Yup, Shakespeare was offering up yo’ mama jokes on one page and cementing his legacy as one of the premiere playwrights of all time on the next. Or perhaps the two are interlinked. After all, it’s more than 400 years later, and we’re creating listicles dedicated to the wonder that is a Shakespeare burn.

Another champion of shade is the Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin. Aretha wouldn’t go so low as to sully herself with an obvious smattering of dirt, but she could cut through another entertainer’s soul with nothing but a few carefully chosen words and a subtle bit of side eye. Case in point: this 2014 interview with WSJ Senior Editor Christopher John Farley (skip to the 3:55-minute mark for the good stuff). Never in my life could I have imagined that someone uttering “Great gowns… beautiful gowns…” would sound so deliciously nasty.

All Hail Chrissy Teigen

Yes, cookbook author, model, and Twitter sovereign Chrissy Teigen gets her open subsection, mostly because I say so but also because she wields the sharp tip of shade with daunting (and monstrously entertaining) precision. This multi-hyphenate – she’s also a model, mother, wife, Lip Sync Battle co-host, kitchenware creator, and fashion designer – certainly has fans due to her successful career, but she didn’t get to just under 11 million Twitter followers because she once graced the pages of Sports Illustrated. No, Teigen is more popular than pretzels because somewhere along the way she lost her filter and never bothered to look for it.

Teigen’s tweets and Instagram posts are almost always hilarious, but the best offerings are the ones in which she takes down naysayers, inept commenters, and general morons regardless of age, size, or current political position. She has called out Miss Teen USA for their tiresome lack of diversity, pondered the profit-making potential social media posts sponsored by pregnancy test companies, and clapped back at mommy shamers who nearly keeled over in despair when Teigen and her husband dared to go to dinner with their new baby in tow. She’s gone after former employers, her husband, and Trump and his allies with unflinching enthusiasm.

Does Teigen have haters? More than you or I can count. But those digital hecklers only help feed her fame, serving as fodder for the next round of shade and increasing her profile even more.

Why Snark Sells

Of course, none of this matters – at least not for the purposes of this blog – if you can’t use the power of shade to earn some bucks, right? Right. It’s hard to offer up concrete evidence proving that snark generates sales or improves customer loyalty, but I can tell you that snark = humor = relatability = rapport, and that emotional connection boosts brand loyalty by 100%.

How to Shade Your Way to Celeb-level Success

  • Embrace Your Passive Aggressive Side. This isn’t the time to come right out and say, “you suck.” No, you need to make like Wendy’s and respond to a Twitter request for directions to McDonald’s with a simple image of a trash can. Just call someone out for whatever nonsense they’re spewing and make sure it stings.
  • Know Your Audience. Chrissy Tiegen can rip apart the current administration because she knows the vast majority of her followers share her values. Which brings us to…
  • Be Authentic. Customers can smell BS with remarkable speed. Dare to send out some try-too-hard missive that takes aim at a competitor and you’ll be feeling the aftershocks from a worldwide internet cringefest for years.
  • Dare to Be Different. The status quo might for the majority of businesses, but you’re not just another other business, right? No, you’re ready to stand out, to brand yourself like a rebel and risk something in hopes of gaining everything. Good for you. And I mean that without even the slightest hint of shade.

Alana L writes content that helps brands separate themselves from the sad sack pack of sameness littering the professional landscape. Want to blend in? You’ve come to the wrong lady. Want to dominate your competitors, make loads of cash, and thrill your customers from the end of their adorable noses down to their exciteable little toeses? Alana’s your gal.


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