There are few pop culture tropes more reliable than the makeover. Whether it’s turning a Cockney flower girl into a fair lady, a Hollywood Boulevard hooker into a polo enthusiast or a thick-browed nerd into a princess, there’s something intriguing about the idea that love and a certain panache can create an uptick in image and style referred to as a glow-up.

In the movies, these transformations can sometimes skew sexist and paternalistic — just you wait, Henry Higgins — but a recent TikTok trend provides real-life evidence of glow-ups involving a specific demographic: Black women and the non-Black guys they marry or date. The so-called ”Black wife effect” videos feature before-and-after shots of white, Latino or Asian guys whose appearances were drastically altered for the better by their partners.

You could make the argument that men, in general, might pay more attention to grooming when they’re in relationships with any sort of woman. They have a reason to pay attention, as well as someone who looks at them and says, “I love you, but you’re not going out with me looking like that.” But the videos are striking because of the specifics of the changes, with formerly floppy-haired or scruffy lads suddenly sporting tapered cuts, beards and outfits typically seen on Black men.

I’m dating myself, but they remind me of the guys in Color Me Badd — the bro-to-Babyface pipeline.

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It’s not just the TikTokers. Travis Kelce’s style seems to have been affected by the five years he spent with Black influencer Kayla Nicole, and Prince Harry is looking a lot more sculpted and trim since marrying Meghan Markle.

On the surface, the trend seemed a harmless ode to the way stylish Black women can, as Beyoncé sang, “Upgrade U.” But on second look, I admit I felt a little uncomfortable. I and others have written at length about the emotional and physical weight put on Black people — especially women — to save everyone at the expense of themselves. I know it wasn’t intended to come across that way, but once white women starting showing up in comments asking Black women to come fix their husbands, it was giving “Black Girl Eye for the White Guy.”

A short video clip can only speak to the very surface of any situation, and the truth of the matter is that when you’re in a relationship, the transformation is more than skin deep. When Sherida Santiago, an entrepreneur and business professor at Coppin State University, started dating her husband, Marco, his look was “scruffy.” Marco, who is Afro Latino of Dominican and Puerto Rican heritage, did change his style due to “dress and Black Girl Magic,” she said. But it’s more than that.

“I think our glow-up didn’t just include the eradication of outer appearance. It was also internal, about spiritual development and him learning and understanding who he was,” said Santiago. Since getting together, she said, her husband has gone back to school and gotten his CDL trucking license, with the two planning to buy their own tractor trailer. “I didn’t place staunch or rigid demands on him. As a human being, I saw another human being who had a desire to do something.”

Marcos Santiago as a young man and more recently with wife Sherida Morrison Santiago. (Sherida Morrison Santiago)

When my best friend Nikki Turner Lewis started dating her now-husband Sam, years after they met in the 1980s as students at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, “he used to be able to sit on his hair, it was so long.” In the approximately 15 years since, she said, “he does keep his beard more trimmed down. He doesn’t do the mutton chop sideburns like he might like because I thought he looked like a Civil War general.”

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“I’m definitely not trying to mold him into looking like a Black guy,” Lewis said. “Being more groomed and keeping the beard tight is definitely my influence, but I don’t think it’s because I’m Black, but because I prefer he not look like Grizzly Adams or Hagrid.” A valid choice. Then again, she said that the time Sam went to a Black barber shop, “they hooked him up. That looked really good on him.”

“Your edges do look different when a Black barber does them,” confirmed Sam, who is the producer of my podcast “Fine Beats And Cheeses.” “That’s just a fact.”

While I’m still dubious about the societal expectation of Black women to fairy godmother everyone in appearance and even saving democracy, I have a personal nostalgic interest in the subject. In the late aughts, I started dating my late husband Scott, who was white. He mostly wore Ravens jerseys, “Night At The Roxbury” clubwear and those god-awful Ed Hardy tees. By the time he died, Ed Hardy had given way to gorgeous suits. He still had a lot of jerseys, but he also had two tuxedos.

I don’t think me being Black had as much to do with it as much as me having lots of work events where a rhinestone tiger T-shirt was not gonna work. And you rub off on each other. I added cute Ravens jerseys to my own wardrobe during my marriage. But it wasn’t just clothes. In our too-short time together, he also got serious about his career, started an online sports radio show and basically became a solid husband and father. And in his absence, I now voluntarily watch Ravens games!

Santiago said that Marco has encouraged some relaxation in her style, too. “I don’t have to always come with the glam,” she said. “He says, ‘Do we have to dress up every single place we go?’”

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Everybody I interviewed, as well as a lot of Internet commenters, acknowledge that a lot of things can affect a glow-up besides the race of one’s partner. The passage of time and changes in fashion, as well as just becoming more similar as you grow as a couple, all play a part.

“He enjoys that glow-up,” Santiago said of Marco, mentioning a time she sent him out to buy a specific color shirt for an event they were attending and he came back with several outfits and shoes. “I can’t make my husband be who I want him to be. At the center of our relationship is our faith, led by the Lord, and that makes a difference in the way I show up for him, or how he shows up for me as well. We show up in more excellent ways.”