Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What "Reading Someone", "Throwing Shade", & "No Tea No Shade" Mean

Edited by Azizi Powell

Latest revision: September 23, 2019

This post provides information & comments about the vernacular terms "reading someone", "throwing shade", and the vernacular saying "no tea no shade". One video blog on this subject with a partial transcription is included in this post.

The content of this post is provided for cultural and educational purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publishers of this video on YouTube.

WARNING: Most YouTube videos & viewer comment threads about reading and throwing shade contain profanity and other content that may be considered objectionable.

I consider the examples of profanity in this post, including in the featured video, to be mild profanity, i.e. the words "bitch" and "ass". Another somewhat mild "curse word" is given with partial spelling. (Remember I'm a grandmother. So give me some slack, okay? Thanks.)

As a bonus, this post also includes a video of Reading Is Fundamental from RuPaul's Drag Race Season 4 along with a few comments from that video's viewer comment thread.

Click for another pancocojams post on throwing shade.

"Reading, Reading to filth — To really let someone have it; to insult or criticize.

Ex: Well, if I see her out tonight, I will read her to filth. I will tear her sh&& up like newspaper.

To tell someone about themself, mostly used by gay black men.

"That was a read honey!"
"Don't do it honet,* I will read your ass"

by Darren December 03, 2004
"honet" is probably a typo for "honey" or "hunty" . Click for information about theword "hunty".

"n. a taunt or mockery. A phrase or word used to mock someone in a humorous way.

When she said that you should have taken the receipt with your haircut, that was a read."

by Xing Shuay June 06, 2009

"verb: to insult someone ruthlessly without breaking a sweat; see: Mariah Carey every time she refers to Nicki Minaj.

“Oh, miss thing. You don’t want it. I will read you six feet under and then twerk on your grave.”

[Addition April 8, 2014]
Example of the use of "reading for filth"
"I am so tired of Courtney reading Joslyn for filth. I was rooting for her at the beginning, but her attitude is starting to turn me off. She just seems really pretentious and honestly I'm surprised the judges aren't reading her for her consistent middle-of-the-road performances. Ugh. /rant" "RuPaul Drag Race's discussion- season 6,episodes 7 & 8"
Another commenter said that Laganja knew the difference between those two words, but she was just being clever.

[Addition: September 23, 2019]
From The 12 Best Burns In History, Because 'Reading For Filth' Is Nothing New
By JR THORPE, May 12, 2015
"If you don't know the beautiful term "to read for filth," it's time you learned. Popularized by the cult film Paris Is Burning back in 1990, "reading" probably originated in the LGBT community in New York in the 1980s — and it's the art of the ultimate witty comeback, the burn that packs a witty punch with a serious sting in the tail. Reading for filth? That's taking it to its furthest extent, with insults so brutally eloquent that they make you with* you'd said them instead."
“with”- probably a typo for “wish”

WHAT "THROWING SHADE" MEANS [updated July 10, 2015]
My definition of "throwing shade" - to obliquely (indirectly) insult someone.

"The term "throwing shade" comes from black and Latino gay communities.

The term's first significant step into straight culture was in the 1990 documentary about young, black, and Latino drag queens in New York City, "Paris is Burning."

The central characters explain their culture and guide you through the underground world of parties and drag balls.

In one scene, a queen named Dorian Corey explains what "shade" is.

"Shade is, I don't have to tell you you're ugly, because you know you're ugly," she says.

When someone insults you directly, that's called a "read." For example, if I were to tell you that your glasses are ugly. Point blank. That's a read. Reads can be long or short.

"Shade" comes from reading, as Corey explains.

If I were to say in a terribly condescending voice, "Oh honey, I'm so glad you saved up to buy those glasses," that's blatant shade. I didn't insult the glasses, or you, directly. It's implied by my voice and the context of what I said. You know they're ugly.

Sometimes people don't get that they're being "shaded" — this is always sad."

To "throw shade" simply means you've said something shady to someone...
That article includes the clip of Dorian Corey giving those remarks from the "Paris Is Burning" film.

Rich Juzwiak "Go Ahead and Throw All the Shade You Want, Straight People (1/30/13)

"When I want to explain exactly what shade (as in "throwing shade") is, I refer back to the expert words of Dorian Corey in Jennie Livingston's Paris Is Burning: "Shade is, ‘I don't tell you you're ugly, but I don't have to tell you because you know you're ugly.' And that's shade."...

The subtle shade that Corey speaks of is a rarity. ....Subtlety is a dying art, which you understand if you've ever been misunderstood on the Internet. Shade is a form of expression, and expression must shift to accommodate modern media. The form and understanding of it was bound to water down...

We remember the queens of Paris Is Burning; we remember how they lived and most of us do so in admiration. The proliferation of "throwing shade" is a small victory for them, a happy ending of sorts for people who thought a lot about the mark they were leaving, a realization of what was once all a dream. When we use it, we are saying "hooray for them," and we are serious, no tea no shade.

Posted by Grant Barrett on January 4, 2006
"throw shade v. phr. to take a superior attitude; to criticize, demean, or insult; to diss or derogate. Editorial Note: This term has is most often associated with Black English, but it is also said to be used among gay and cross-dressing performers and club-goers. Etymological Note: Probably related to shade, v., which means “to defeat, to outdo” and dates to at least as early as 1925 and also to the far more common put in/throw in the shade with the same meaning. A mild form of the term was popularized during the late 1980s and early 1990s when the much-hyped dance and peformance style of “voguing” came to widespread attention. (source: Double-Tongued Dictionary)"
I believe that the drag verb "throwing shade" and the drag noun "shade" have their source or at least were influenced by the common African American Vernacular English term "being shady". A person who is "shady" or who is "acting shady" (a person who is shady") is "no good", amd can't be trusted.

ADDED May 10, 2015 - An example of "Shade":
From "Will they ever have reunions of past seasons?" (all comments from May 9, 2015)
"I was thinking today, wouldn't be interesting if they had reunions with girls from past seasons?"
"I don't think Logo could make room in their busy schedule.
Preposey's comment is shade because it's considered to be a well known fact that most of the programming on the Logo television network is repeats of a few old sitcoms. Therefore, Logo doesn't have "a busy schedule".

cookiemonsta11111 recognized (gave recognition to) preposey's oblique (indirect, cleverly crafted) shady (snarky) comment by writing the word "Shade".

ADDED April 28, 2016- Explanation of Non-Verbal Shade
"Two other Google Books matches focus on the gay African American subculture from which "throw shade" in its modern sense seems to have arisen. Both articles are well worth reading at fuller length if you're interested in the subject. From Tricia Rose, "An Interview with Willi Ninja," in Microphone Fiends: Youth Music an Youth Culture (1994):
Tricia Rose, "An Interview with Willi Ninja," in Microphone Fiends: Youth Music an Youth Culture (1994):

R: Before we go, define “throw shade" for me.

N: [Laughter] Shade is basically a nonverbal response to verbal or nonverbal abuse. Shade is about using certain mannerisms in battle. If you said something nasty to me, I would just turn to you, and give you a look like: "Bitch please, you're not even worth my time, go on." All with a facial expression and body posture, that's throwing shade. If I want to be a little extra nasty I might throw in a little cough, but not so loud, just a little bit like: "You're making me choke."...

And from E. Patrick Johnson, "SNAP! Culture: a Different Way of Reading" in Text and Performance Quarterly 15(2) (1995), reprinted in Performance: Media and Technology (2003):

The nonverbal counterpart to reading is called "throwing shade." To throw shade is to ignore a person altogether, even if the person is in immediate proximity. If a shade thrower wishes to acknowledge the presence of the third party, he or she might roll his or her eyes and neck while poking out his or her lips. People throw shade if they do not like a particular person or if that person has dissed them in the past. The effect of throwing shade in this manner is also a type of dissing, because it is considered disrespectful not to acknowledge someone's presence. In the playful mode, however, a person may throw shade at a person with whom he or she is a best friend."
If I correctly understand that article, it is saying that originally Black and Latino drag queens used "throwing shade" to mean giving non-verbal put downs. However, their use of the term "shade" (and other folks' use of that term) changed over time to what Dorian Corey said was making a "more artfully executed, more dependent on constructing a veiled (or not-so-veiled) insult rather than relying on obvious crudities and innuendo. Throwing shade requires wielding your words like a rapier rather than a cudgel." [quote from ‘Paris Is Burning’ (R), By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer, August 09, 1991]


"No T, No Shade — No disrespect. According to RuPaul herself via Twitter: “No T No Shade = I’m not trying to come for you or offend you, but this is what its really like.”

"No Tea No Shade
A phrase meaning:
I'm not trying to come for you or offend you, but this is what its really like.

A phrase you add at the beginning or the end of a sentence that can be seen as negative to somebody, but its not supposed to be, and just stating the obvious.

Ex. 1 - Girl! No Tea No Shade, but you need to fix your hair.

Ex. 2 - Girl please! I can't get with some one I'm not attracted to, No Tea No Shade!

by <3qaadir September 12, 2009


What does no tea no shade mean from RuPaul show?

Neil answered 2011
"As you wrote, it is 'no tea no shade'.

It is used at the beginning of a sentence and means, "I'm not trying to offend you..." and then they go right ahead and offend you."

SHOWCASE VIDEO : Welcome To Reading and Shade 101

Will Howard, Published on Jan 6, 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am here today to give you lessons in reading and throwing shade, along with history and tips. This is Reading and Shade 101! Class is in session!

Credits: Music "Throwing Shade" - Shaun Bentley
Movie Clips: "Paris Is Burning"

For more references on reading and throwing shade, check these YouTube Videos and Accounts out:
Got To Be Real Parody (LaBelleOfTheBall2)
Hater's Mansion (Phabian Mitchell)
The Legends Panel (ithl123)

Take Care everyone!!!
Excerpts from that video:
"Reading (v) to insult
(looking for a flaw and then making it bigger)"...

“If you can’t read, stay out of the library.” [Don’t attempt to give a person an insult if you don’t know how to read]...

"Shade – (n) a subtle insult in the form of a question/statement.
Basically I’m insulting you, but at the same time I’m not.

Throwing shade (v) – the act of shading.
Two ways that you can throw shade
1. Non-verbal (for instance, give a side eye, look a person up and down, flip their hair to insult someone elses’ hair)
2. Verbal:
First person -"Hey you looked good in that movie I seen last night.
Second person- Movie? What movie? I was never in no movie. What movie could you be talking about?
First person – Planet of the Apes.

1. Be creative [Throwing shade is a art form, a skill, a mindset]
2. Have the right poise [look confident and relaxed. The last thing you want to look like is intimidated]
3. Tone and Expression (Delivery is EVERYTHING)

...Don’t forget, “reading is fundamental”."
"Reading Is Fundamental" is the name of a widely known in the USA reading (books) readiness program.
Added September 23, 2019:
Comment from I. Vee, 2014
"See, I don't like your definition of reading. Reading is more than just insulting someone. It's insulting them directly, but artfully, using comparisons, metaphor, and rhetoric to support your insult. And then shade is really the art of indirect reading; it's insulting someone, minus the insult.

Here, look at this example:

Insulting someone: "You're fat, and you're ugly."
Reading someone: "Gurl, you've gained so much weight you should be shopping in Jared's old closet! And what are you doing outside with that busted face, hasn't Animal Control caught your ass yet?"
Shading someone: "You know, I saw that blouse you're wearing in the window of Lane Bryant and KNEW it would work for you, good eye! And how's that plastic surgeon of yours doing, have you been making your appointments?"

BONUS: RuPaul's Drag Race: Reading is Fundamental - Season 4 - LogoTV

Logo TV, Published on Sep 11, 2013
Explanation of Sharon Needle's read on Dida Ritz, and African American contestant:
inasexymood, 2013
"I was inspired by your knees." lmaoooooooooooooooooo!

Dadacomero, 2014
"l didn't get it ? can u explain it ,please?
(l'm italian)"

inasexymood, 2014
"+Dadacomero Sharon is saying her spooky 'gray' drag aesthetic was inspired by Dida's ashy knees (dry skin, especially around knees and elbows, tend to look grayish, 'ashy'. Everyone can have it, but on darker skin it's more obvious). Exquisite read."

Dadacomero, 2014
X'D thank u!"
Additional comments from that video's viewer comment thread:
Taose HunHan, 2013
"Phi Phi can dish it but she can't take it. She was THE WORST and how rude of her to say that Sharon was weak when all she did was call people names. Shade is about insulting without being to obvious or in your face Phi Phi."

Anthony DeVeaux, 2014
"There's a difference between reading and offending people, Phi Phi. Take notes."

Chris Horn, 2013
"Why is it that the girls who throw the most shade throughout the competition (Tati, Phi Phi, Roxxxy) are always the ones who 1) Are crap at the reading mini-challenge and 2) Always make a narky comment when their "enemy" reads them?
I mean the nerve of Phi Phi saying "That was a weak one" when all of her reads were pathetic and tryhard."

OrangeXenon54, 2013
"No offense to Latrice, who I LOVEEEEEEEEEE, but Sharon obv won that one, especially when he turned Phi Phi's joke on her during his time."

Tony Lewis Williams, 2013
"Sharon, I love how you rocked the Party City!" "That's where I got your Lady Gaga wig!" LIVE FOR SHARON! xD"

timemonkey, 2013
"You know a queen is crap at reading when the person they're trying to read reads them better with their own material."

WaterElementall, 2013
"Everyone was reading except phi phi. Reading isn't trying to embarrass the person. Everyone else was HILARIOUS and in no hostile way what so ever. I love it! "

Frederica Bimble, 2013
"I like Latrice's laugh when Dida says, 'you don't have to rock the prison yard look anymore'."

BONUS 2: March 7, 2014
Here's a comment from "RuPaul's Drag Race - Dragged to the Dark Side - LogoTV" about throwing shade and Gia, a contestant from Season 6:
Misterms Reason, 2014
..."Gia does not understand the foundation of throwing shade and just uses cliches like a parrot with zero understanding . A ladyboy mincing around a room being rude is no more throwing shade, than Susan Boyle in a bikini is being a Sports Illustrated model. Shade is a form of satire a word Gia clearly does not understand as it possess more than 2 letters. Now that is shade,"

ADDITION: May 18, 2015
"No T. No Shade., No Pink Lemonade." is a variant form of "No T. No Shade". That saying was created or popularized by Jasmine, a contestant on Season 7 of "Ru Paul's Drag Race". The "pink lemonade" portion of that saying probably has no other meaning but providing an aesthetically pleasing rhyming extention to the "No t. No shade" words.

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