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Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
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Monday
Aug142006

Girls and Grills



"my teeth are mind blowin givin' everybody chillz
call me George Foreman cuz' im sellin everybody grillz"

-Nelly



There is a strange new phenomenon attaching itself to the cosmetically lightened and enhanced teeth of suburban white girls everywhere. In much the same way that many of my unfortunate male contemporaries tripped all over themselves (and eventually their pants) in the race to don baggy jeans, the girls have done gone and lost their minds.

I'm talking about the grill. What the fuck? If your name ain't Flava Flav, put the grill down and back away slowly. The shit looked silly on Flava.. but then again Flav ain't really dealin' from a full deck now, is he? Five minutes of watching VH1's The Flavor of Love should inherently prove Flav's Flavor is decidedly sour. So Flav's decision to cover his teeth with a gold plate shouldn't really surprise anyone.

For those delicate souls not In The Know: grills slide over existing teeth and consist of metals and/or precious stones such as platinum and diamonds. Depending on the stone, metal and number of teeth to be fronted, prices can range anywhere from $50 to several thousand. Predecessors to the grill weren't easily removable and involved reshaping the tooth to accommodate a new crown, often in gold, silver or platinum. Now a custom grill requires a dental mold upon which the metal and stones are mounted

Recently, after catching an episode of Flavor Of Love then finding myself too lazy to search the cracks in the couch cushions for the remote, I accidentally caught an episode of The Hogans. In this "reality" show The Hulk's 17 year old daughter is making (surprise!) her debut pop music video. The vid features the (surprise!) tanned, bleached Brooke up in da club, mugging for the camera with (surprise! *note* this surprise is NOT sarcastic) a diamond studded grill?
"What the fuck?" says I. But then I shrugged my shoulders. Surely Brooke will be ridiculed. But then The Girls Next Door came on. You know, the reality show starring Hugh Hef's three girlfriends? I'll be damned if this episode didn't feature his youngest gal gettin' fitted for her grill!
"It's a conspiracy!" I shouted to Max. "VH1 must have stock in a grill shop." He yawned and rolled over. But I was onto something.. Sure enough, just this morning Kelis (her milkshake is better than yours) was thrashing around singing about her grill. And she was wearing one. I wonder if she drinks milkshakes while wearing her grill? I grilled up a burger (all this talk of grills! And milkshakes!) and mused.. It ain't just bleachy haired white chicks. Black, white, pink, whatever. Everybody's grillin' out and I'm not talking about burgers at the beach!

On general principle, I simply can't jump on board. I'm as down with bling as a white girl who doesn't care about jewelry can be. I can even dig nice rims. But a grill? I'll never understand. Ain't nothin' but a glorified retainer, right? Or braces. I spent two years praying to God the next dental visit would be the one Doc Swenson would say we could take those metal bastards outta my mouth The day of removal was a day of great rejoicing. But after a few clicks through Myspace and other sites where the cool kids hang out I discovered the Mary-Kate and Ashley generation is indeed infatuated with the grill. In fact, I found several horrifying pictures of The Kids sporting tin foil on their teeth to replicate grills.. WHAT THE FUCK??!!


I couldn't look away. Actually, like spotting someone picking their nose and eating it, I looked away quickly then took another peek to ascertain if I saw what I thought I did. Turns out, I did.. The gals were still grinning in all their grill glory, smiling joyfully into the camera, tin foil wrapped around their teeth, tiny tween fingers carefully twisted into gangsta celebration! So I grilled up some chicken - all this grill thinking made me hungry again - then got to searching The Internets for the history of the grill. The Flava Flav kind. Not the George Forman kind.

Check it... I discovered two theories describing how the grill came about. In the spirit of good debate and equality for all grills everywhere, I'll share them both.
#1) During slavery, slaves were of course denied quality dental and vision health care plans. However, on rare occasions, slave owners permitted rudimentary dental surgery to be conducted on their chattel. This, of course, was reserved only for the most valuable male slaves, those that an owner could not bear to lose to death caused by infection related to tooth decay. The slaves that received the dental work often had copper, tin, or sometimes bronze fillings for cavities and replacements. The metal in their mouth became a status symbol denoting their value to the master, and their superiority to the average slave, i.e. the more metal, the more importance. Showing one’s shiny “grill” became a way of notifying others (slaves, masters, etc) that you were important, and ultimately not to be messed with.

#2) Hip-Hop artists started grills. There is much speculation as to who was the first rapper to rock a grill. The grillz trend actually began taking shape much earlier- during the early 1980s. Most people credit New York’s Eddie Plein (owner of Eddie’s Gold Teeth) for kicking things off. Plein reportedly outfitted Flava Flav with a set of gold caps, who was eventually followed by a slew of other top New York rappers. Plein then moved to Atlanta and began designing more elaborate (and more expensive) grillz for artists including OutKast, Goodie Mob, Ludacris and Lil Jon. When the south exploded into the forefront of hip hop in the early 2000s, so did the grill phenomenon.

Interesting stuff. So from slaves, to the Mary-Kate and Ashley generation... If that ain't full circle I don't know what is. Point is, I don't care who's wearin' 'em.

Brooke Hogan:


Or Flava Flav:


Wal-Mart is certain to jump on the bandwagon.. Mark my words, there will be a grill display on aisle 4 next time you're paying the store a visit. Like leg warmers, grills are one trend I'll be watching from the sidelines. And there will be mocking. Oh yes, there will be mocking.

Reader Comments (29)

Ms Monica,

Hate to be a hip-hop quotable schoolmarm, but the lyric you cite at the top is actually spit by one Paul Wall, aka "The People's Champ". Mr. Wall actually has his own grill website. Truly a monument to the most absurd way to spend money that I can conceive of. You are correct that the song lists Nelly as the primary artist, but he has several guests on the track. Just figured you'd want to have your grill history as accurate as possible since you appear to be on your way to becoming a scholar in the field.
August 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterereiberg
Well, Monica, I gotta tell ya'. I've been reading your blog for quite some time now and haven't felt the need to comment (because really, what can I say to you that's any different from what anyone else says?) until now. First let me just say, that I think you're hilarious, and this post just re-enforces that fact.
I am APPALLED by this new phenomenon. I think it's a pathetic attempt at revealing status, not to mention a really tacky one. I will join you on the sidelines of this trend and enjoy laughing at the others who fall into stupidity.
To share a quote from some show or another on VH1 (who can keep track?)
"The people donning the grill make the gold tooth look classy"

My thoughts exactly.
August 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterfancythis
Hell in a handbasket...that's all I'm gonna say...
August 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNCTRNL
Girl you are way behind! That Hogan Knows Best episode is old! Now the latest grill is the one that Hugh Hefner's youngest gansta thug 20 year old girlfriend just got! You also realize they only cover like the front 4 teeth. Now Flava's might cover more, but that is b/c he is WEIRD and close to the originator of the grill!
I remember when it was cool for black people to have one gold tooth! LOL
August 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJen
Another sign of the apocolypse.

Perhaps someday, the Camel Light yellowness that afflicts my chompers will be in vogue?

Great post! I'm getting too old for this.
During the finale of last season�s Flavor of Love, Flav presented Hoops with a velvet jewelry box. Inside was a grill, not a ring� a grill. During the reunion show, he could not understand why she had no time for him. That was a great trainwreck of a show.
August 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterStarsky
Oh my. Laughing so hard! My friends and I were just talking about Brooke Hogan's grill. Now we know we're old. When we talk about 'those youngsters and their silly trends'.
August 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAimee
As far as theory #1 goes...

A few years ago we were in Colonial Williamsburg. It was Christmas time, and we were on this semi-boring tour of "Christmas Past" where we "visited" different centuries in the past of Williamsburg. Well, the 1700's one made the whole thing worth it. The house slaves all got a ration of booze at Christmas, and they told a story about pouring some spirits on the ground in memory of their departed ancestors, it was an African tradition. Nick and I looked at each other, thrilled, and practically yelled "pouring a 40 for my hommies!"
August 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEDW
That look is lame, not to mention what a pain the ass to clean! Yuck
August 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkittenwtw
First, excellent post. Second, the slave origins of grills sounds right to me. There are a lot of African American traditions that got started through slavery. Another one I can think of off the top of my head is jumping the broom. I can't wait to see what kind of grill Britney is going to debut her next album with.
August 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJib
That is ridiculous! I was unaware of the burgeoning popularity of the grill among white chicks. I always thought rappers put them in because they had teeth knocked out. It looks just like braces.
August 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGemma
Here's a link to the Nelly song called Grillz that you quoted. Maybe it will help explain the phenomenon?

http://www.lyricsmania.com/lyrics/nelly_lyrics_239/sweatsuit_lyrics_17427/grillz_lyrics_201621.html
August 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJersey
Oh my sweet lord, this is AWFUL. I havent heard of this. I found myself continuously running my tounge over my front teeth as I was reading this. shudder*
August 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJasika
Ahh kids these days...

But this is why I like watching reality shows! Somehow, you always end up learning something new.
August 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHen
Why would ANYONE follow in the fashion footsteps of Flavar Flav? For the last twenty years he has been going around with a gigantic clock hanging around his neck?

I can only think of one reason for someone to get grills. They hate their face so much they actually prefer bystanders be blinded by their tacky ass grills, then notice a single feature of their face.
August 15, 2006 | Registered CommenterErinS
"Why would ANYONE follow in the fashion footsteps of Flavar Flav? For the last twenty years he has been going around with a gigantic clock hanging around his neck?"

Back in tha day, PE was the most rockin' rap band around. They were the fuckin' American Clash; Hard beats, contemporary indignation, danger, etc.

Somehow, I'd never expect Chuck D to roll this way.

Flav's just Mick Jagger, to Chuck's Keith Richards.

Long live tha Kane!

Great teeth hehe
August 16, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterisulong seoph
Dear Monica,
Thank you for performing a valuable public service by alerting me to this trend. I live in a small Midwestern town. I've never seen MTV. I have a "grill" in my backyard. I was unaware that tacky bling had extended into the dental realm. I am pulling for someone to start wearing bejewelled headgear.
August 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPurr Meow
yes! the world is getting crazy...I hope this "grill" trend won't come here ;) (Poland)...let it be star's trend, ament! I miss 90' everything was sooo normal I guess, anyway here this "grill" (dental treat) was popular here till 70' when it was hard and expencive to get anything and now older peopel (in my grandparents age) can brag their smile...funny!!
August 17, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterana
Oh dear lord. Pets with grills.
August 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGemma
it just looks like they have sparkly shit on their teeth! I agree... WHAT THE SPARKLY FUCK!?
August 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTangentism
I've seen kids in my neighborhood wearing these, and assumed they were wearing braces. Do a Google image search and you'll see what I mean.

Now I know. Lucky me.
October 2, 2006 | Unregistered Commentercranky
I will make you the best grillz in da world!!
Ask Paul Wall about us. www.shatrev.com

Send your mold to Toronto or California and we will make your dream GRILLZ
October 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdj kilowhyte
I have some of Trevors grillz. They are the best grillz a girl could ever have!!!!

With big azz Pink Diamonds (real NOT fake )

LOVE EM!!!!!! http://www.shatrev.com
November 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMonica

grillz are awesome and im not afraid too hide my face i just like grillz if people want them people get them people who hate them keep ur opinions 2 ur self got it ..good ...peace

March 22, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterduckie

"my teeth are mind blowin givin' everybody chillz
call me George Foreman cuz' im sellin everybody grillz"

-Nelly

your quote is wrong it wasn't nelly who sang that verse. It was paul wall. Nelly is a rapper and does not sell grillz.

June 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJason

oh monica, just get over it. it's a fun thing to do and people are doing it. you can't stop the fun, no matter how much you stand on the sidelines and mock. do you think anyone will care that you are laughing?

i think all grillz are hilarious and i just bought one for $30. It's pretty awesome and i didn't need a dental mold. it comes off easily and cleans up well (also-you don't eat with your grill! come on now!)

just saying that sometimes, you gotta go with the hilarity and live a little. I mean, $30 for repeated good times and great laughs seems really worth it to me. Besides, i look like a numba one stunna!

October 15, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterholly shock

www.Trevor-D.com is at 211 yonge street suite 306. Trevor is THE man to get Bling from!!!
He will make you gold teeth, rings, pendants and anything you need to Show it*

May 5, 2008 | Unregistered Commentershabba

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