She just wanted to get a free item from Victoria’s Secret and now she’s pressing charges.
Ijeoma Ukenta, a Nigerian-American Muslim, was shopping at the Short Hill Mall in New Jersey when she encountered Abigail Elphick, a high school teaching aide who has now been dubbed “The Victoria’s Secret Karen” by many circles of the internet. While the events leading up to their altercation are unclear, Ukenta’s 7-video saga on her YouTube channel, MAMA AFRICA MUSLIMA, catches Elphick’s breakdown in its entirety.
The first video starts abruptly as Ukenta mumbles an, “Excuse you,” and Elphick raises her hand to strike her. Ukenta dodges and Elphick backs away, looking between the cashier and Ms. Ukenta before dramatically throwing her top onto the counter and sobs. As Ukenta exclaims that Elphick tried to hit her, Elphick launches into denial, saying over and over again,
“I didn’t try to hit you, please stop recording me.” As Ukenta tries to ask for help from store attendants the woman wails louder, drowning her out.
As the video series continues, Elphick’s actions become more drastic. She “faints” on the floor in front of the cash register, screams at Ukenta, and chases Ukenta around the store, yelling “GET AWAY” while running towards her. None of the on-looking customers try to help Ms.Ukenta. In fact, two of them scold Ukenta, telling her to stop recording and leave Elphick alone. Ukenta maintains a distance from Elhpick the entire time, keeping one furniture fixture between them and staying out of reach. She maintains that she’s recording to protect herself in case law enforcement doesn’t believe her side of the story, but the recording makes Elphick more enraged.
Elphick calls the police, saying, “She’s recording me and threatening me. My heart’s racing.” She even bucks at Ukenta with her fists clenched before telling police “Please come now. I’m feeling threatened!” Eventually, two police officers arrive and attempt to console her.
Ukenta filed a report against the mall security guards and the police officers for neglecting to assist her properly. She also disclosed that in the police report, Elphick had claimed that she was having a panic attack because of Ukenta’s recording, but refused any medical assistance the cops offered her. According to Ukenta, Elphick continuously told the police she was panicking because she didn’t want Ukenta’s video to interfere with her job or her apartment lease.
The Victoria’s Secret Karen was dragged by the internet for her actions, with commenters under Ukenta’s videos finding the situation absurdly comical or blatantly offensive.
“This is not a panic attack. Anyone who’s had an actual panic attack knows that.”
“I can’t believe this is real. I had to laugh at the end you just continued doing your shopping after her fainting act.”
“These types of people are dangerous. Calling the police on a black woman saying she’s threatening her. This woman had to record her, goodness knows how it would’ve ended.”
“My god When she ‘passed out’ and everyone just went about their business killed me!”
The only thing the internet reached a consensus about was that Abagail Elphick was indeed, a Victoria’s Secret Karen. The moniker is a derivative of “Miss Ann”, a nickname developed by Black people in the Antebellum period to throw shade in secret. Essentially, “Miss Ann” is a white woman who is complicit with racism, using the racial hierarchy and the patriarchy to her advantage. Karen is very similar to Miss Ann, with the main difference being that Karen is not always racist. She is emboldened by a sense of superiority and tries to enforce or impose her rules onto society by calling managers, security teams, and the police. Like Ms. Ann, Karen’s methods are contingent upon victimhood, calling on a savior to rescue her from “aggressors” (who are usually BIPOC).
Since catching Karens on camera has become an internet phenomenon, situations like what Ijeoma Ukenta experienced are usually turned into memes. While watching grown women throw fits over minute issues may be absurdly entertaining through a screen, dealing with Karens in real life is no laughing matter. Even Ukenta stifled a laugh when Elphick pretended to pass out on the floor, but in later videos, she realized that their encounter was actually quite traumatizing. She explained her seventh video,
“I didn’t realize the severity of what happened until I watched the videos. You know when you’re in action and your adrenaline’s pumping, you don’t really realize what’s happening to you… People hear me laughing in the videos but I have a mechanism. I laugh before I cry.”
Ukenta decided to press charges against the parties involved in her situation, and started a GoFundMe, to raise money for legal fees. She raised over $100,000, and has currently disabled new donations, thanking her community for their support.
To view Ijeoma’s YouTube channel, click here.
To view another report of these events from Houston Defender, click here.