With swooping scarves, matching leather bags, brown ankle boots, and terrifyingly well-coiffed curls, the two smiling women in the photo look like fall personified or a Pumpkin Spice Latte come to life.
Now, the three-year-old picture of two Southern influencers has gone viral in recent days and spawned a whole new meme called “Christian Girl Autumn” — but none of it’s due to the women in the photo.
The meme is the handiwork of a 19-year-old named Giovanni. The Long Island, New York, college student, who didn’t want to give his last name for privacy reasons, told BuzzFeed News he spends his time making jokes on “troll Twitter.”
“I know a lot of people think online trolls are bad, but I’ve been trying to be a good one with @lasagnabby.”
With the internet awash in recent months with the Megan Thee Stallion–inspired “Hot Girl Summer” meme, Giovanni said he thought, "why not pretend to be a white Christian girl and mess with that?”
He had no idea who the women in the meme were when he posted his tweet. “I literally googled ‘cute church outfits’ and ‘all scarf outfits’ and started using those pictures as reaction photos for my jokes,” he said.
“I tweeted it on August 9, and the next day I woke up to my phone blowing up,” he said.
The hugely viral tweet spurred a ton of hilarious responses, lampooning the “white lady in Fall” aesthetic and making a ton of rather negative assumptions about the two women in the photo.
Some of the jokes played on the supposed cultural ignorance of the white ladies.
Other jokes assumed the women were anti-gay.
A whole lot of people got some serious “Can I Speak to the Manager?” vibes.
Giovanni’s tweet soon sparked a whole new meme, Christian Girl Autumn, as people riffed on everything from Chick-fil-A to the new Little Women trailer.
Eventually, the picture found its way to the actual women themselves: bloggers and influencers Emily Gemma (pictured below, left) of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Caitlin Covington (right) of Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
“At first I didn’t know it was a big deal so I kind of laughed it off,” said Gemma, a 31-year-old mother of two who runs a blog called the Sweetest Thing.
The two women have been friends since 2013, when they met starting out their blogs while living in Charlotte. The Christian Girl Autumn photo was taken by Covington’s mom during a 2016 trip the two friends took to Highlands, North Carolina, to shoot their “fall content” for the season.
“It was just a big blogging trip where we changed outfits a bunch and took a lot of pictures,” said Covington, 29, who runs the blog Southern Curls and Pearls.
The two women totally understand why everyone thinks the photo is...a lot. “We were kind of matching,” Gemma told BuzzFeed News. “It was cheesy.”
“We look so basic in our blanket scarves and holding our Pumpkin Spice Lattes,” said Covington.
The pair also wanted to make it clear that their styles have since been updated. “The photo is three years old so the fashion has changed!” said Gemma. “We don’t still wear that same style of outfits!”
They’ve also had a hoot with all of the memes people have been posting about them online. “It doesn’t bother me,” said Covington. “It’s funny. It’s the world we live in now!”
While the women are indeed Christians, they both wanted to distance themselves from the meme’s negative connotations about intolerance. “That’s not me at all,” said Covington. “I’m a nice person and I love everyone and I’m accepting of everyone.”
“I’m white and Christian but none of the tweets were accurate,” said Gemma. “I laughed at all of it but...none of it’s true. We don’t ever want to speak to the manager!”
Giovanni, the teen who first tweeted the meme, got a taste himself of some of the negative comments. He said he got a ton of DMs and comments from people who believed he was one of the women in the photo.
“So many people were telling me I’m annoying, basic, that I should’ve just sat there and ate my Pumpkin Spice Latte because they thought I was being serious,” he said.
“I got an insane amount of DMs from straight men trying to smash,” he added.
But by engaging with the memes online, the two women have only endeared themselves more to their online fans — particularly those on Gay Twitter.
“If anything it’s brought everyone a little bit closer,” said Gemma. “People started realizing, ‘Oh, these girls are real. They’re not whatever we thought they were.’ They assumed we were anti-LGBT, but we’re not at all. I’ve got friends who are trans and gay!
“I think people realized that not all white girls who love fall fashion and pumpkin spice are what we’re all categorized to look like,” she added.
Both ladies were happy to share some updated style tips for fall 2019.
Gemma said leopard and snakeskin prints are in, while “skinny jeans are over” and have been replaced by “cropped flare jeans.” Covington, meanwhile, said she’s favoring the ’70s style with “neutral and muted colors, like mustard browns.”
Covington also had a message for anyone about their tremendous, sweeping curls: “I want everyone to know it’s all real!” she said. “I just have a really good curling iron and I deep condition.”