Yas Queen! Slang Meaning, Origins & History

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lady gaga, rupaul, and ilana glazer
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Self

If you’ve been around for some time, you’ve probably heard the phrase “yas queen!”

It has been used in articles, television (perhaps most famously by Ilana Glazer in Broad City), podcasts, social media, memes, and in day-to-day speech, because who doesn’t want to embrace their inner queen?

What you may not know about where "yas queen" comes from is the back story involving drag queens, Lady Gaga, and a little something known as cultural appropriation.

What does "Yas queen!" mean?

In short, yas queen is an emphatic term of endearment, encouragement, celebration, love and/or show of support.

The Urban Dictionary definition of yas queen, pronounced YAAA-SSS-SSS kwEEn, is “a phrase used to express enthusiastic support, excitement, or congratulations for someone you love.”

But it's not just a slang internet term. Even the Oxford Dictionary has recognized the phrase's pervasiveness. In 2017, the dictionary added "yas" to its collection of definitions, defining it as an exclamation "Expressing great pleasure or excitement." Further, yas queen is described as a phrase used to denote “anything applause-worthy [and/or] fierce,” and earned the distinction of being called the “phrase to use when ‘you go girl’ seems insufficient.”

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Yas queen, also sometimes spelled "yas kween," can be used in a variety of ways. The most common variation is to add a series of AAAs and/or SSSs to the end of the first word, ;i.e., yaaaaaaaas queen, yasssssss queen, or, if you are really feeling the phrase, yaaaaaaaaaassssss queen. The prolonged sounds add intensity and drive the point home.

As happens with many slang terms, a quickly abbreviated version — YQY (yas queen, yas) — will also do the trick. There is no right or wrong spelling of the phrase. The word yas is fluid and can be denoted however you like.

Where did "Yas Queen" come from?

While fierce females might use the term to empower other women and make us feel as though we are truly getting down with our baddest selves, women have nothing — zero, nada, and zilch — to do with the origin of the phrase.

In truth, we have the queer community to thank for the origins of this catchy phrase.

According to an episode of the podcast Reply All, the term — and more specifically, the word "yas" — has been in use since as early as the 1980s, when it was used by those involved in Ball Culture (modern-day drag culture's predecessor), and more particularly, by people of color.

The first public record of the word "yas" being used is in a 1990 documentary called Paris Is Burning, which documents New York City's drag culture from the mid- to late-80s.

“Yas is there in the opening scene," the host of Reply All explains. "This beautiful, golden drag queen struts out in front of an adoring crowd and they’re all yelling it.”

Drag balls were massive events where drag queens would gather and literally strut their stuff.If you were working the runway in your look, you could rest assured that you would hear the words "yas queen" bellowed by more than one person out there. (I mean, if you were doing it right, that is.)

Boom. The first known use of yas.

The phrase has since exploded in pop culture.

You can trace the moment this phrase first went viral to the summer of 2013, when a man named Johnny Versayce, obsessed with Lady Gaga had the opportunity to see his own personal queen appear in person right in front of his own two eyes and lost.his.mind, yelling "YASSSSSSSS, Gaga!" in a moment that soon made Internet history.

The phrase has also remained true to its roots with heavy inclusion in the many variations of RuPaul's Drag Race.

And Ilana Glazer's rendition as Abbi babysitting a fabulous boy named Oliver in Season 2, Episode 8 of Broad City sent the phrase right over the viral top.

That's when the rest of hetero America decided to start using the phrase on the regular, often without understanding its origins, which, ICYMI, is walking the very thin tightrope of what is known as cultural appropriation.

But now you are aware and conscious of the true history of this fun saying!

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How, then, is "Yas queen" used — and should you use it?

Yas queen's mainstream popularity has led to some important conversations about cultural appropriation, with many people debating who has the right to use the phrase, noting it most likely was used by Black women even before gaining popularity within drag culture.

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“As a Black person, when I hear white people say things like that it makes me feel wildly uncomfortable, and honestly it makes them look so stupid,” Vancouver musician Tonye Aganaba tells The Toronto Star. "People don’t realize that they are appropriating culture.”

So while the phrase has permeated mainstream culture, it's important to understand the history of the term before incorporating it into your own daily vocabulary.

"Make sure you’re know you’re using it right, and know where it came from,” Twysted Miyake-Mugler, who organizes balls in Canada, tells The Toronto Star.

Incorporating the expression into your own vocabulary is easy. Here are a few examples:

"Oh my gosh, your new outfit is fab. Yas queen, yas!"

"I can’t believe you got the job. Yas queen!"

"You're slaying so hard right now I can’t even. Yas queen. Keep it up!"

"Did you see Beyoncé's performance last night? I was like, “Yas queen,” because — let’s be honest — she killed it."

And, perhaps the best (and most common usage) of the phrase is all on its own: "Yaaaaaaaasss queen, yas!​​"

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Nicole Lane is a wife, mother, writer, and regular contributor for YourTango who is a staunch defender of women's rights, believes firmly in equality and parity, and is an advocate for women's health.