In Season 2, episode 8 “Workin’ Me”, Zoey (Yara Shahidi) has pivoted her passion for fashion from design to styling.
In 2019, your brand is everything. So when Zoey decides to shift her focus, she announces the move on social media and instantly starts promoting her styling talents on Yelp as “The Zoey Johnson Styling Experience.” Her first big client? The twins. They need also are looking for a major rebrand to go from wholesome girl track prodigies to edgy, adult athletes.
Though still only a sophomore in college, the pressure to succeed at a young age is real. Zoey feels that she must not only attend classes to get her degree, but basically launch an entire career and build a robust portfolio before she can even legally drink. This kind of intense drive can lead to burn-out, especially when social media only depicts the highlights of an individual’s career, and rarely the path they took to get there, never mind their downfalls. Worthiness, fame, likes, followers, and success are all tied up in the minds of Zoey and her peers. Rather than focusing on the craft, these outside influences lead Zoey and the twins to focus on their “brand”.
The twins (Chloe Bailey and Halle Bailey) also have a decision to make regarding their brand. Their fellow female athlete Chastity uses her body and sex appeal to gain followers, then sponsorships, then big money. “Being a nationally ranked athlete isn’t enough to get paid,” Jazz tells Zoey as she urges her to take their brand in a more explicit direction, “But being IG famous will help us get those endorsements we need.” The aesthetic is literally worth more than the athletic ability.
Meanwhile instant communications technology elevates the flirting experience when Aaron (Trevor Jackson) and Ana (Francia Raisa) exchange texts in a crowded elevator. They’re keeping their attraction secret from the rest of the gang, so they text flirt whenever in public.
Zoey finally gets a win when a sexy photo of the twins posing provocatively goes viral on Twitter, but it’s controversial. The girls discuss whether using their bodies to promote their brand is empowering or exploitative, while the guys debate whether it’s acceptable to date girls featured on IG feeds that are basically soft core porn. Not to mention that these types of photos can lure the internet’s creepiest dudes into the DM’s.
The impact of internet fame hits home especially for Jazz’s boyfriend who has a big problem with dating a girl who posts those types of photos. “I don’t like dudes looking at my girl this way,” he tells her, before later getting into a fight with a guy at a bar who’s hitting on her.
All this attention becomes too much for Sky, who isn’t interested in Internet fame. The image change is taking a toll on their relationship. “Honestly, I’m tired of having to defend my choices about my body to other people,” Jazz tells Zoey. As an athlete, she’s always had people tell her how to take care of her body — when to wake up, sleep, eat, exercise. Now that she’s finally taking charge, she’s getting all this criticism. So, Jazz and Zoey put their heads together to come up with a way for Jazz to own her body without compromising her morals.
“Since everyone’s a brand, finding your own version of sexy is more important than even,” Zoey summarizes, after posting an artistic photo of Jazz breaking through a ribbon full of critical online comments in a nude body suit. While it’s not overtly sexy, it does make Jazz feel empowered, and that’s what matters.
Grown-ish continues its 13 episode second season Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC Freeform. It has been renewed for a third season.