Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images

If you’ve spent enough time on social media, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the term “glo-up” appear with increasing regularity. But what does it actually mean?

Look no further than the trending Twitter hashtag “#2012vs2018.” The viral meme saw users post two images of themselves with a six-year time difference in order to illustrate changes in their physical appearance. But there’s more to it than that.

For a long time, many of us sought to hide any visual evidence of our adolescent years. Now, steady waves of viral challenges have encouraged people to dig through their personal archives and share images previously deemed embarrassing with the web.

Whether it’s because we’re obsessed with our image or desire public appraisal, the steady rise of “glo-up” posts shows no signs of slowing down. They attest to our ability to overcome personal weaknesses and celebrate our own bodies and successes.

So, what is a glo-up exactly?

A glo-up can cover a lot of things and is a new take on the phrase “grow up.” Colloquially, it stands for a timely and personal transformation and largely attests to changes in one’s physical appearance or style. Recently, the term has gone on to cover increased self-confidence and a positive change in one’s lifestyle (Gucci Mane is the obvious example, but more on that later).

In the recent #2012vs2018 challenge, users paired images taken six-years apart. The challenge aimed to depict how changes in physical appearance, friends, habits, styling choices and environments had a profound effect.

In short, a glo-up is your own personal analysis of how you’ve evolved over a period of time.

Where did it come from?

While it’s exact etymology is unclear, the term glo-up could possibly be traced back to August 2013 when rapper Chief Keef dropped “Gotta Glo Up One Day.” The trap hit detailed Keef’s desire to make serious financial gains as summarized by the chorus, “B*tch you gotta’ glo up one day.”

In addition to being a certified banger, its release prompted online discussions and shortly made rounds on Urban Dictionary and Reddit forums. As the term became more popular across the internet, explanatory videos like “What is a Glo Up?” began to appear on YouTube.

In music, releases such as Meek Mill’s “Glow Up” and the joint KAYTRANADA x Anderson .Paak track “Glowed Up” marked the start of the phrase’s entry into popular vocabulary.

In the world of social media, early signs of glo-up culture were seen on Twitter, with many users recalling Caitlin Crowley’s viral tweet in late 2017. Posting two side-by-side photos of herself on a date in freshman year and then another where she was kissing a woman in her senior year, Crowley added the caption “does this count as a glo up???”

The tweet went onto inspire other members of the LGBTQ community to share their own glo-ups, which Twitter eventually made into an official Moments page. In recent months, the premise of posting side-by-side photographs was revived via several online movements, including the increasingly popular #gloupchallenge.

Glo-ups in popular culture

Of course, the celebrity world is teeming with glo-ups.

Early examples include Outkast’s Andre 3000 and his transition from Southern player to family man after dating singer Erykah Badu, while Kim Kardashian West and Kylie Jenner’s ever-evolving image are also widely considered to be glo-ups. However, no transformation compares to that of trap pioneer Gucci Mane.

So U gon sit there & act like I ain't handsome SMH

A post shared by Gucci Mane (@laflare1017) on

Having had a pretty eventful career, including beef with Waka Flocka Flame, and a three-year prison sentence, Gucci Mane, aka La Flare, has undergone a glo-up transformation like no other.

In August 2014, Mane was sentenced to 39 months in prison for illegal possession of a firearm. A few months later, the rapper was sentenced to three more years after pleading guilty to assaulting a fan who wanted to take a picture with him.

At the time of his second sentence, Mane had already spent 11 months in custody, which meant he only had 28 months more to serve.

Picture Perfect ???

A post shared by Gucci Mane (@laflare1017) on

Upon his release in 2016, a major change ensued. Mane signed to Atlantic Records, released the aptly-titled song, “First Day Out Tha Feds,” and went on to land his first number one single as a featured artist on Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles.

During his post-prison appearances and interviews, fans noted a major difference in the rapper’s appearance and demeanor. A far cry from the bloated figure who entered prison, Guwop left sporting a lean body, jovial attitude and desire to succeed.

With a new lease on life, the rapper performed his first overseas shows, married his then-fiancee Keyshia Ka’oir and wrote the New York Times best-selling book The Autobiography of Gucci Mane. Working harder than ever before, Gucci Mane’s growing success proved it’s never too late get the shine you deserve.

Why do glo-ups matter?

If Gucci Mane is anything to go by, glo-ups allow us to see that we shouldn’t be defined by our past and nor should we be ashamed of it either. Instead, they allow us to chart our growth through each choice that we make.

Granted, it’s not always easy to take care of ourselves. Yes, we’re liable to make mistakes, but glo-cup culture reminds us that making effective changes in our lives takes time. More importantly, accepting change as a natural part of our lives leads us one step closer to living it the best way possible.

Next, read why Warren Buffet should be your favorite role model.

  • Main & Featured Image: Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images

A Berlin-based gal from Brum.

What To Read Next