The internet’s favourite celebrity “Mothers”, explained

Mothering the masses


By Marissa Chin

The internet’s favourite celebrity “Mothers”, explained

If you’re chronically online like the rest of us, you’ve most likely come across phrases such as “she’s so mother”, “mother is mothering” and “that’s mother for you” many times. Your reactions are probably one of the two: frowning in confusion at the grammatically wrong sentence (you also thought you got caught up with all the internet slangs…) or snapping your fingers in agreement. 


What does “mother” mean?

Think about it this way: calling someone “mother” is a heightened form of “she ate” or “screaming, crying, throwing up” because those phrases just simply aren’t enough to encapsulate the sheer impact and influence said Mother has. 

Many women in pop culture are considered iconic, but only some are knighted to the “mother” status. To be labelled as such by the internet would mean that the celebrity has a truly special place in their hearts, whether that be through their craft, skills or personality. 

Beyoncé ‘mothering’ to extreme levels at her Renaissance World Tour / Getty Images

Celebrities who are called “mother” typically exude a confident, strong and powerful aura. Mothers walk the Earth like they were made to conquer it. Mothers are outspoken and have great influence, garnering a strong online following for their magnetic energy. Mothers are the embodiment of elegance, grace and love, gladly taking all those who implore to be ‘adopted’ by them under their shiny wings. Mothers also typically exhibit a wide queer appeal (more on this below).


Where did the term “mother” come from?

While it’s easy to call “mother” a Gen Z internet slang (certainly there has been a notable rise in its usage from 2020 onward), the term actually has origins dating back to the 1960s. Specifically, the Black and Latinx ballroom scene in New York for the LGBT community. 

In that queer subculture, members are organised into groups or houses which were often directed by a “mother”. She was literally and figuratively the head of the house and in a position of ultimate power. Beyoncé’s lyrics where she calls herself “mother of my house” on The Queens’ Remix of Break My Soul, pay tribute to this origin.

RuPaul’s Drag Race popularised the term “mother” on the internet / Getty Images

Due to the lack of LGBT rights during this time, a Mother’s house was seen as a place of refuge for marginalised queer people of colour. And so, the Mother also took on this adoptive role as these spaces became a surrogate family unit for displaced individuals. 

As the term saw a resurgence thanks to the popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race, people outside the community began using the title and it took off online just like other African American Vernacular English (AAVE) terms. Nowadays, the internet’s use of the maternal term typically refers to popular female figures whilst the queer community’s more fluid take on the word bestows it upon people in the LGBT community. 

READ: ‘Daddy’ decoded: Explaining the ‘daddy’, ‘zaddy’ and everything in between

Now that you know the origin of “mother”, it’s time to dive into the types of Mothers. Remember when we mentioned how Mothers refer to the head of a house or group? Well, what would different factions of Mothers look like in 2024? In light of Mother’s Day, find out which celebrities are mothering a new generation and why.


The Campy Mother 

You can’t take the camp out of Lady Gaga / Getty Images

In this house, Mothers wear pink and every other possible colour under the spectrum. The campy Mother lives for the drama and actually is the drama because they are that one theatre kid who loves being at the centre of attention. They are constantly putting on a show and you know that they’re going to perform like their lives depend on it anytime they’re on stage. The gays adore them and treat them with the utmost reverence.

The campy Mother loves to push boundaries and goes against the grain. You will not catch them shopping or wearing the same schtick as everyone else because they are trendsetters and visionaries (don’t try to think like them, they’re five steps ahead). Known for being proud outliers and non-conformists, campy Mothers are a beacon of inspiration for people to live outside the box.

Beyoncé paying homage to the LGBT community in ‘Renaissance’ / Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Parkwood

Campy Mothers include the one and only Mother Monster herself, Lady Gaga, who has been a bastion for the LGBT community since her debut; Beyoncé, for cementing herself as a queer ally with Renaissance; Billy Porter for his impeccable gender-bending style; Sarah Michelle Gellar for her iconic role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer; and singer Cher because she is the Queen of camp.


The lesbian icon

Sarah Paulson, who is in a public sapphic relationship, has been hailed as a lesbian icon / Getty Images

While the Campy Mother has a firm stiletto in the exuberant gay community, the lesbians’ Mother’s appeal is quite different. Think early 2000s Tumblr aesthetic with deep quotes and light leaks filter galore. They are cool creatives with an artsy flair that attract both feminine and masculine individuals in the lesbian community. They may not be as loud but trust, they will have you hanging on every word. 

Lana Del Rey is regarded as a Mother to her legion of LGBT listeners / Getty Images

However, don’t be fooled as they have a duality to them that’s both intimidating and mesmerising. This Mother can go from calm and collected to pure, unfiltered female rage, making her the perfect muse. As a lesbian icon, she also looks divine in a suit, rocks a bob cut and exudes an androgynous ‘dom fem’ energy that has you feeling she’s hiding a whip somewhere (cough, *slaps self to snap out of it*).

Mothers who are typically regarded as lesbian icons are Sarah Paulson and Cate Blanchett for their dedication to playing queer on-screen roles; Lana Del Rey for her siren-like Old Hollywood aesthetic lesbians can’t get enough of;  Hayley Kiyoko for championing sapphic relationships; and K-pop girl group Mamamoo for being one of the most LGBT-friendly groups in the industry.


The powerful madame 

Known for her role as the charismatic role as Queen of Wakanda, Angela Bassett is a Mother not to be messed with / Getty Images

Toeing the line between gentle and intimidating, you have the powerful madame. Think Dr. Vera Gorski in Sucker Punch or Anjelica Huston as The Director in John Wick, complete with a glorious cape and walking cane. They are the type to have clear boundaries and let you down gently while keeping it classy. No loud reactions or the occasional expletives, just a well-practised smile to let you know exactly how they feel. Mariah Carey’s iconic jab at Jennifer Lopez by stating “I don’t know her” while grinning immediately springs to mind. 

Rihanna looking like an unbothered Mother performing for the Super Bowl Halftime Show while heavily pregnant / Getty Images

Nothing fazes them and even if it does, they don’t show it on their beautifully sculpted faces. They know how to handle a situation or a crowd with ease. These Mothers include Anne Hathaway for her undisputed elegance and how she managed a hoard of screaming fans (we’re so proud of you, Queen of Genovia); Rihanna for having the best side eye in Hollywood; Angelina Jolie’s face card; and Angela Bassett because have you seen those guns?


The Mothers for Mothers 

Everyone’s favourite inspirational and overachieving Mother / Getty Images

The equivalent of a girl’s girl, this category belongs to Mothers who look out for other Mothers. This house of Mothers is just plain sunshine—they are made up of wholesome, positive vibes. When you look at them, you think they could be best friends with your own mum. Because of this, many people view these Mothers as a safe space, a comforting presence amidst the chaos of the world.

Like the cool auntie you never had or a friendly neighbour, you can count on them to look after you and advise you with their pearls of wisdom. In fact, they’re so cool that they hit it off with the older and younger crowds, proving that they are lovable with anyone they meet. 

Princess Diana effortlessly stole everyone’s hearts, making her the perfect Mother’s Mother / Getty Images

Popular motherly icons include Martha Stewart, who hilariously has Snopp Dogg as her BFF; Sandra Bullock, because we know mums just adore her; Princess Diana for literally being the People’s Princess; Hollywood’s eternal leading lady Meryl Streep; and Michelle Obama because she’ll hype you up for constantly raising the bar and doing it flawlessly.


For more reads about mothers, head here.

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