My dad parked our caramel-colored minivan in front of my kindergarten. He peeked back at me as I shifted impatiently in the middle seat. “It’s just colors, Marje. What's your favorite one?” I rolled my eyes. Just colors. At 5 years old, I was already a budding perfectionist who was unwilling to compromise on anything. To me, picking your favorite color as a kid was like picking your political party as an adult: It spoke truths about you. Pink meant you were bratty, blue meant you were boring, and nobody with an ounce of playground popularity worth saving picked orange. Sorry, orange.
“RED!” I blurted out, and I sprinted to join my classmates before my dad could interrogate me further. It's the color of hearts, I thought. Sweet but also really gross. Perfect.
Truth is, I never really had a favorite color, meaning I was obsessed with all of them. I grew up to be one of those people who loves to debate whether the cool undertones of your sweater make it more lilac instead of lavender. My type of "window shopping" is browsing the paint aisle at home-improvement stores to pick up the latest color chips. And while I can never remember my Netflix password, I can recite at least seven of my favorite Hex codes on command (that's fancy talk for a digital translation of colors into code). "Can I get a #90e5d8?!" Yes, I’m really this cool.
So when all this chatter about Millennial Pink hit social media airwaves by storm, you can bet I was tuned in for it. Sometimes called Tumblr Pink or Scandi Pink, this color has taken over Instagram feeds, fashion lines, restaurant decor, and even neighborhoods recently. "My god. But why?" you ask. Well, I was curious too. Some say it represents blurring gender lines; others say it's simply a fad that will die as quickly as it sprung. In 2016, a light shade of pink was named one of two colors of the year by Pantone, and everyone seemed to lose their respective pink sh*t. The 5-year-old color perfectionist in me was taking over: I needed to solve the mystery behind this trend.
So I decided to spend a week searching for Millennial Pink in my city of Los Angeles and, through the journey, hopefully discover why we're so crazy about it.
But there was a big problem: I wasn't sure what shade of pink I was actually looking for. In fact, a lot of people aren't sure what shade of pink they're pointing to when they say, "Hey, look! It's Millennial Pink!" So I decided to work my way across a spectrum of pink shades, which you can visually track as you read through this article. *insert bonus incentive to read to the end* I even tossed in a poll at the bottom to see if you're convinced you know the perfect shade of Millennial Pink after all. Here's the evidence; you be the judge.
I started my journey with a peach pink, a soft shade that looks like a boring beige and a preppy watermelon hooked up and birthed an effortlessly chill color baby.
I found the peachiest hue at Olive and June, an upscale nail salon in Beverly Hills, where I successfully manipulated my coworker Tara into getting a matching Millennial Pink manicure with me. We picked different shades of what we thought that meant. When I asked a staff member why this pink was chosen for the decor, her answer was perfectly obvious: "It makes you feel refreshed."
After a quick stroll through the clothing racks at Avec Les Filles, a French-inspired clothing line and pop-up shop, I was easily convinced this soft color has a strong hold on the world of fashion. Here, you could barely find something that wasn't pink.
In trendy West Hollywood, I spotted a similar shade at Alfred Tea Room, where I also caught sight of many young adults on Instagram (yes, I found the millennials). Customers were busy snapping their pink cups in front of the pink tiled walls, like love at first snap. Indeed, one of the store's main slogans is "I love you so matcha."
Everything was going according to plan...or so I thought.
I found newly designed places all featuring the same pink tone and attracting scores of young people. Surely I was on to something. So I confidently strolled into the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel. And things got complicated. Yes, there was a wealth of peachy pink sprawled across the entire space. No, this color choice was not made recently. In fact, this exact color has been here since the late 1940s. Back then, the hotel was often called "The Pink Palace" because its iconic pink look attracted Hollywood's most famous socialites. Is Millennial Pink just a repeating color trend after a 70-year break? Should we call this Mid-Century Pink instead of Millennial Pink?
The plot thickened.
Like in all tricky scenarios I face, I had two possible solutions: carbs or sugar. "Whatever you want, Marje," I told myself. And now you know why I have no self-restraint.
I went to Bottega Louie, an Italian restaurant and patisserie in the midst of bustling Downtown Los Angeles. Macarons sprinkled pink, raspberry pastry things with fancy swirls, chocolate bars wrapped in pink-and-gold-scripted packaging — let's just agree that I could easily ignore all my problems.
While recovering from my sugar high, I scanned the range of pink shades scattered throughout this slice of European heaven. I was noticing much less of a peach pink and much more of a bubblegum pink. Was this second shade the elusive Millennial Pink? I needed to investigate further. And I definitely needed flowers...a lot of them. (Like I said, no self-restraint.)
Everyone knows the worst part about bubblegum: The flavor never lasts. But imagine if it did — and that's what this shade of bubblegum pink feels like. It's all the best parts of feeling like a kid again without the tasteless resolve of adulthood. Naturally, I found adults flocking to this color everywhere.
Or ordering it online for delivery. Skinny B*tch Pizza, for example, lets you indulge in color without killing your diet (the crust is made of cauliflower).
But when you do want pink to ruin your diet, you'll probably wait in long lines. I couldn't even get inside the spot where I found this shade of pink on walls; it was that popular. The Museum of Ice Cream is a multi-room experience that takes you through ice cream–themed exhibits and tastings to your heart's delight. Bribing the security guard to let us in proved unsuccessful, so I made Tara snap a shot of me in front of its bubblegum-pink facade instead. Like the good millennial that I am, I posted it on Instagram, and it became my most-liked photo. Ever. I twiddled my color-detective thumbs. This must be the shade of pink everyone is crazy about; this must be Millennial Pink!
I found this type of pink at the Sprinkles Cupcake ATM, which can automatically serve you a cupcake in a box at any time of day. There were several withdrawals under my name. In Downtown's Pershing Square, I found equal infatuation with this color, in the form of bubblegum-pink pillars with clingy Bougainvillea flowers wrapped around them. At Cake Monkey, a petite bakery in West Hollywood known for its cute mini cakes, the owner, Lisa Olin, told me she's used this pink color for her business since she started it in 2008. It wasn't until seven years later that she opened a storefront and decided to paint it pink instead of brown, the bakery's other primary color. "It stands out to people when they pass by," she explained.
Not only did I discover more and more pink, I also found that pink can get you discovered.
Nothing proves this more in Los Angeles than the iconic "pink wall" at the Paul Smith Limited Store on Melrose Avenue. As one of the first LA places to embrace an all-pink storefront in 2005, hoards (and I literally mean hoards) of people drop by in hopes of capturing a share-worthy picture in front of its perfectly pink but blank slate. You probably know of it, even if you've never been to Los Angeles. And people seemed to take note of this impressive pink influence. Pinkfluence, if you will. (Oh yes, you will.)
The rise of pink's popularity in today's most social-sharing generation means more and more people are looking for it. People like me, who have the privilege of getting paid to spend a week doing exactly that.
This brings me to my second big realization that gave the color perfectionist in me a heart attack:
I don't think Millennial Pink is a single color.
It's a feeling. A feeling that you can both stand out and still be celebrated like everyone else. It's no longer the color for bratty kids, as I once thought when I was 5 years old. Whether it's a peach pink or a bubblegum pink, it feels young yet sophisticated, trendy yet original, and soft yet strong.
Yup, I was pinkfluenced. Sorry, not sorry.
Enter the final color phase of my journey: bold pink. Approaching fuchsia, this pink shade literally couldn't give a damn if it tried. It embraces disruption like a plump pimple between your eyebrows the morning you actually need to look good for something. It's in your face, quite literally, whether you like it or not. And it's not going away quickly.
Take, for example, the dramatic dance between strong pink and dark wood at Night + Market Song. This restaurant serves a colorful take on Thai street food without losing that necessary grit.
I also found this dynamic at Pink Taco, a deceptively hardcore Mexican restaurant whose signature taco dish is topped with bold pink onions soaked in habanero peppers. I quickly learned something: This color has *clap* got *clap* some *clap* kick *clap*.
For dessert, I hit up a new spot owned by Danny Trejo, a popular actor famous for his tough-guy roles in over 70 films — mostly action flicks or thrillers. And what pairs well with all this hardcore toughness? A donut shop painted entirely bold pink, of course, complete with a line of people wrapped around the corner every morning.
Even the good ol' government loves decisive pink. I discovered that all the public chairs and tables in LA's main City Hall grounds, Grand Park, are a similar hue. At least they could agree on something.
I saw this unforgiving pink get endlessly swirled into black (yes, black!) waffle cones at Little Damage, a tiny soft-serve ice cream shop in Downtown that proudly reps naughty names for its constantly changing flavors. This one was a sassy "Just Beet It," due to the vegetable-infused flavor causing the pink hue.
I started to feel a new me sprout up amidst all this bold pink — I was feeling more confident.
So I did what any confident gal does at night: I went to a bar and dragged my girlfriends with me (aka my coworkers because we had already spent every minute of every day this week together — so, yeah, my girlfriends).
We hit up Girl at the White Horse, and it was like diving headfirst into an underground sea of deep pink. The wallpaper, the disco lights, the paint-spattered decor... I was swept away by waves of color hitting me at every turn. It was magnificent. And so was the buzz.
This glow carried us deep into the night as we made our final pink stop of the week: the ever-changing Weller Court Portal Tunnel. Designed by artist Akiko Yamashita, this LED display rotates between an array of colors in a never-ending loop. We saw that peach pink first, then bubblegum pink, and finally bold pink. We also saw countless shades of yellows, reds, greens, and blues. Needless to say, it brought me back to my fascination with color and my unwillingness to commit to a favorite. There's a journey to discover in every color, so it's up to each person to decide theirs.
Pink has always been around. There's nothing new about that.
We can argue how pink has changed in popularity throughout history, perhaps more dramatically in the past decade. But with its plethora of shades, there's also a plethora of different reasons people embrace it. No matter who you are, there's a shade of pink for anybody and everybody right now.
Perhaps that makes it millennial after all.
Photographs by Aubree Lennon / Design by Kirby Darland / © BuzzFeed 2017