You know what they say: the Devil works hard but, Kris Jenner works harder.
The matriarch of the Kardashian-Jenner clan has practically invented (and even tried to trademark) the term “momager” successfully managing the careers of all six of her children and creating a multi-billion-dollar empire in the process. That empire, which now includes clothing lines, beauty products, and a lifestyle and wellness brand, started way back in 2007 with Keeping Up With The Kardashians. The E! reality show (one of the networks most popular) ran for 14 years.
In the past, Jenner credited the undeniable success of KUWTK to her kids and “their work ethic.” More recently, in her new MasterClass on personal branding, she gave the following piece of advice: “Be real and true to yourself.” (Yeah, because “real” is what we think of when we think of the Kardashians.)
But we can probably all agree that the real secret to their wildly successful, not to mention lucrative, empire is good PR. And for the Kardashian clan, their motto seems to be all PR is good PR. Just look at all the scandals they’ve had over the years! Kim’s sex tape, Kylie’s lip fillers, Kim’s short-lived marriage to Kris Humphries, Khloé’s entire relationship with Tristan Thompson, Kendall’s insensitive Pepsi commercial, Kim’s insensitive comment about how “nobody wants to work these days,” etc. etc.
Whether you love them or hate them, you’re paying attention to them. They know that. They thrive on that. They use that to drive more views—first on KUWTK and now on their new Hulu series, The Kardashians—and thus more money. It’s no secret that they use their real-life drama to create better storylines. And it’s been speculated by plenty that some of their storylines are outright PR stunts.
So, in October of 2021, when Kim was pictured holding hands with Pete Davidson after hosting Saturday Night Live (and sharing an on-screen kiss with him!), it seemed like one of two things: two friends (platonically) holding hands on a roller coaster or a PR stunt. Then, there was a rumored dinner date in Staten Island, followed by Pete’s birthday celebration with Kim, Kris, and (of all people) Flavor Flav. The fact that they wore matching SKIMS pajamas seemed to confirm that, yes, it was a PR stunt.
After that, we got a whole flurry of romance rumors and paparazzi photos of the pair—holding hands in Palm Springs, holding hands in Santa Monica, and vacationing together in The Bahamas. Neither Kim nor Pete spoke publicly about their new relationship, but then again, they didn’t need to. The paparazzi pictures and anonymous sources did it all for them until, finally, in February of 2022, Pete appeared to call Kim his girlfriend.
The following month, Kim showed off her own masterful PR skills. First, she shared photos of the two of them on Instagram. Then, she talked about him during an appearance on Ellen. And finally, she brought him to the premiere of The Kardashians in LA. Now, for the more conspicuous part: all of this happened between March 11, 2022 and April 7, 2022. And when did The Kardashians air on Hulu? April 14. Coincidence?
But, as obvious as some of the timing seems to be, the fact is the two are still going strong over nine months later. I know what you’re thinking: That doesn’t mean it’s not a PR stunt! And you’re right. While Pete is never seen on screen in season 1 of The Kardashians, he is mentioned several times and can even be heard off-camera in the season finale. Plus, earlier this month, a preview for season 2 shows the SNL alum making his debut on the show as Kim asks him if he wants to hop in the shower with her “really quick.” (Spoiler alert: he does.)
Between that and their PDA-filled snaps on Instagram, their relationship is continuously generating publicity for Kim. And yet…take a look at their latest Instagram post. Aside from the weird feet pics, what do you notice? Pete’s got a brand-new tattoo! This one reads, “Jasmine ∞ Aladdin,” a reference to the pair’s first kiss on SNL. Not only that, but it marks the fourth (yes, fourth!) tattoo Pete has gotten in honor of Kim, including a branding of her name on his chest, the letters “KNSCP” (her and her kids’ initials), and one that reads “my girl is a lawyer.”
That level of commitment would make me believe that perhaps these two really are in love. Either that, or Pete really needs to stop getting tattoos for the women he dates. After all, Kris Humphries believed their relationship was real, but after their marriage only lasted 72 days, he sought an annulment on the basis of fraud.
Image: Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
Can you imagine someone seriously asking which private jet they should take today? It sounds like something one of the Roy siblings would say. (Probably Kendall.) And yet, Kylie Jenner posed this very question on her Insta. No, the people are not happy. Maybe to avoid controversy, the Kardashians should start “keeping up” with the general public. (I volunteer as tribute to have my life broadcast on TV.)
On July 15, Jenner posted a pic on Instagram of her and Travis Scott, hugging. Cute, right? Forgot to mention that the couple is standing in between two private jets, with Jenner captioning the pic, “You wanna take mine or yours?” Unclear if they own both of these private jets, but they at least appear to have had access to them. Regardless of which private plane they ended up taking, the flight in question was apparently from Camarillo, CA to Van Nuys, CA, which would take approximately 3 minutes, or a drive that Google Maps puts at about 43 minutes. I know time is money, but… really?
This all comes after Jenner bought her private jet, which she called Kylie Air, in 2020 for about $70 million. Jenner had posted pics and videos of her private plane on Insta, showing off the interior details. Don’t worry, the plane had nothing extravagant. Just the necessities: neon lights, a full bar, and Hermès blankets on each seat (I wish I was kidding). It’s one thing to flaunt all their wealth and bougie lifestyles, that’s kind of the Kardashian M.O. Showing off two private jets though, during a very dire global climate crisis? When private jets tend to produce more CO2 emissions per passenger than commercial flights? It’s problematic, and the people have some thoughts.
“Kylie Jenner flying private has zero impact on the world but me using a plastic straw is where people draw the line…” writes one Twitter user. Anotheragrees, tweeting, “kylie jenner out here picking which colour private jet she wanna take today meanwhile I gotta chug my iced coffee before my straw becomes paper mache???? explain.”
On Jenner’s Insta post in question, one user commented, “maybe take neither’s and reduce your carbon footprint,” while another questioned, “Why do I have to limit my meat consumption and use paper straws while the 1% gets to pump tons of carbon into the atmosphere for a day trip to Palm Springs?” Re-f*cking-Tweet.
Not everyone jumped on the dogpile, though. One user took to Twitter to defend Jenner, writing, “The real reason why y’all mad at Kylie Jenner is cause y’all are broke,” adding, “leave the environment out of it.” Another wrote, “100,000 planes take off EVERY SINGLE DAY, and you’re worried about Kylie Jenner & her boyfriend having 2 private jets?”
At least sister Kim Kardashian is being a good role model and isn’t emitting tons of harmful emissions via a private plane…psych! On the latest season of The Kardashians, Kim showed off her new plane, Air Kim. (Inventive.) She walked through the details, saying “usually planes are, like, dark with lighter leather. Mine, I had custom all-light wood. I had a bathroom put in the front and a bathroom put in the back. Every seat has its own phone charger. The best, most exciting part of the plane—cashmere ceilings, cashmere pillows, headrests.”
Sorry, what was that? I can’t hear you all the way back here in economy basic.
Images: Mindy Small/FilmMagic
The Kardashians have been getting praised for doing the bare minimum for years, what with the rampant appropriation and the dry, overpriced lip kits that net them billion-dollar companies and the reality show that hasn’t been interesting in years and the… no you’re right I’ll stop, otherwise we’ll be here for hours. And now you can add body positivity to that list, as they *might* finally be not quite jumping on it, but carefully hovering one toe over the bandwagon, with Kourtney Kardashian posting an un-retouched butt selfie.
I know, alert the media.
Well, somebody (and I think we all know who) did alert the media —or, at least, PEOPLE magazine — which published an article entitled, “Fans Praise Kourtney Kardashian for Sharing an ‘Unedited’ Thong Bikini Photo: ‘Way to Empower”. It states, “Since is no stranger to posting butt-baring bikini pics, her eagle-eyed followers soon noticed that the photo appeared to show her backside exactly as it is, with no airbrushing involved.”
I’m not sure it takes an eagle eye to notice when someone’s skin hasn’t been blurred into oblivion, although I will say the “imperfections” here are quite subtle, so I’ll give it to them. The article then included a smattering of positive comments, such as, “Way to empower the natural women body!! Love this 🙌❤️,” and “I love that the little dimples were kept! It’s so natural and so beautiful 😍.”
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Sorry, my eyes rolled back in my head so hard they got stuck and I couldn’t type coherently for a minute there.
I mean, look, is it good that Kourtney didn’t take the opportunity to Facetune her butt, as surely many people on Instagram (and her own family) do? Are there a few (barely) visible ripples in the skin of her butt cheeks? Yes and yes. But excuse me if I’m not going to take this opportunity to praise the Kardashians, a family who basically feeds off an exclusive diet of controversy and rumored butt implants, for posting a “natural” photo. They have long been accused of warped photo editing, secretive cosmetic surgery, and generally feeding into and perpetuating unrealistic and toxic beauty standards, and fans have been begging for them to get real for years. And the best you could do is not airbrushing your butt? Also, not to get too in the weeds here, but if there is one body part that the Kardashians are known for, it’s their butts. (Say butt again.) Should anyone in that family really be getting a cookie for showing off one of their best features? Progress is progress, sure, but on the road to body positivity, this is one small step made by an inchworm with a bad leg.
And why was Kourtney posting an unedited pic anyway? Notably, the photo was posted not to Kourtney Kardashian’s Instagram, but to Poosh’s Instagram, which has a fraction of her personal following. (She posted a different butt picture to her personal Instagram that is conveniently devoid of dimples.) The caption accompanying this brave photo? “Talk about an instant butt lift. We tapped Kourt’s trainer @jesseohara for her top at-home pilates moves for a rounder rear. Link in bio for her tips.”
Despite what the glowing write-ups are implying, the photo was not intended to be a celebration of Kourtney’s natural body—or anyone’s, for that matter. Rather, it’s a promotion for an “at-home Pilates moves for a rounder butt” article on Poosh. And while advertising a Pilates-induced “instant butt lift” is not on the same level as promoting appetite suppressant lollipops or flat tummy tea or a cosmetic butt lift, promoting the idea of instant results from a whopping total of seven Pilates moves smacks of the same scamminess. It still boils down to “change your body quick by doing this thing I’m promoting”.
On the one hand, every celebrity posting their cellulite can give everyday people the confidence to embrace their own, or at least to not be bothered by it. But on the other hand, context is key, and posting this with the intent of driving readers to a butt workout is really just shifting those insecurities to a slightly different focus. Like, you don’t need to have a smooth ass, but you need to have a round one. Is that really doing anyone any good?
I get that for this Photoshopped cyborg family, releasing an unedited photo might be groundbreaking, but if that’s supposed to mean something for the rest of us, then the bar really is underground. This post doesn’t help anyone other than maybe Kourtney promote body acceptance or build confidence or acceptance of their own bodies — it’s still telling you how you can “improve” a part of your body (according to standards perpetuated by this very family).
To be clear, Kourtney herself is not the one putting forth the narrative that this is a groundbreaking move — that’s all the media, who are also linking it to Khloé’s infamous leaked, unedited bikini pic gaffe with headlines such as “Kourtney Kardashian Proudly Shows Off Cellulite After Khloe Kardashian’s Deleted Photo Controversy” and “Kourtney Kardashian’s Unedited Thong Photo Is Everything Khloé’s Critics Wish She Would Post”. But is that all we want them to post? Unedited photos? Unedited pictures are the first step—a step that celebrities have already been taking. The Kardashians are so late to the game it’s not even funny. One article gushes that the picture “shows off her fitness level while still giving us an unfiltered view of what a woman’s body looks like”. This is only “unfiltered” if you are taking an extremely literal and narrow definition of the word — yeah, there may or may not be a filter on this, but that’s about as relatable as it gets. Most women don’t have access to famous personal trainers. Most women don’t look like this!! It’s correct that we get an “unfiltered” look at what “a woman’s body” looks like—a woman. This one.
Call me radical, but we can — and should — wish for more than unedited thong photos. By celebrating this as some huge win, it just reinforces that the Kardashians can continue to be applauded for failing to do anything to actually move the needle.
Images: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Dior Men; poosh / Instagram
My plans for Thursday night were set in stone and secret. My roommate was out for the night, and I had the place to myself. I was to pour some red wine, turn down the lights, wrap myself in my Pete Davidson blanket, and sob to the finale of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. No one would know. How would they know?
My phone buzzed, and to my horror, it was my editor. In my most vulnerable state, she asked, “Do you have any thoughts on the end of ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’?” I knew what I had to do. I’ve poked fun at Demi Lovato, David Dobrik, Chet Hanks, and Piers Morgan, and now my greatest challenge was ahead of me. The time has come for me to make fun of the Kardashians.
I’ve watched Keeping Up since Kim had her old nose, Scott dressed like a rich Republican, and Kylie’s preteen body matched mine—absolutely unimaginable today. I’d love to dismiss the famous family and shout “eat the rich,” but it’s the dolls we have to thank for oversized salads, athleisure, and vocal fry. Since 2007, they’ve taught us how to lie about our BBLs, snack without using our lips, and create Oreo centerpieces.
We have so many beautiful memories together. Remember when Kris slipped viagra in Caitlyn’s martini, but Rob drank it? Remember when Kim leaked Kourtney’s underage nudes and called the FBI? Remember when Kourtney pulled her baby out of her own vagina? Remember ‘Kim Kardashian Hollywood’ the game?
The Kardashians redefined culture, sparking conversations around the influencer economy and inspiring semester-long collegiate courses, but in the last few years, Keeping Up has lost its steam. Family feuds and cheating scandals aside, the Kardashians have become increasingly tight-lipped and selective about what they share on the show. As a result, the last few years of content have had all of us shouting, “go on, girl, give us nothing.”
It’s hard to say precisely where the enchantment wore off. It could be when they seemingly gave Kanye creative control, and all the confessionals turned beige. It could be when Kourtney and Scott broke up for good, giving him the green light to publicly date college freshmen. It could be when Khloé became the spokesperson for a migraine medication. It could have been last week, when the family of billionaires thanked Vrbo for sponsoring their Tahoe vacation. In the wake of the series finale, I’m most thankful to Vrbo for getting the f*ck out and letting me mourn in peace.
Admittedly, not everything borne of the Kardashian influence has made us better. We can thank the famous sisters for the newest iteration of the body image warfare we face today, waist trainer-induced asthma, and the exploitation of Black women’s aesthetics. I patiently await the impending collegiate study on American speech patterns before and after the Kardashian reign.
I’ll miss my guilty pleasure, but more importantly, I’ll miss the tea. Since the start, the Kardashians have used the show to speak on subjects that they usually wouldn’t in the media. It was on the show that we saw honest conversations about the Jordyn Woods cheating scandal, Kim’s near-death robbery experience in Paris, and Scott’s recent outing at a rehab facility. Last year, when the world watched Kanye melt down during his run for president, fans shamelessly hoped to watch the drama unfold on E! Kim’s decision not to discuss in detail the breakdown of her marriage on the show coupled with Kourtney’s growing privacy concerns meant the end of an era for pop culture. Khloé Kardashian, the world’s original favorite, can’t carry the show with just her photoshop scandals and tendency to be cheated on for sport.
As E! closes the book on our Royal Family, I can admit that my relationship with the show has had legitimate effects on my perception of reality. I once pinned a photo of Kim’s engagement ring to my secret Pinterest board, as if the ring that fueled a five-person armed robbery would ever sit on my finger. (Don’t ever speak of the Pinterest board again.) I once saw the annual Christmas Eve party photos and took note of their event planner’s name as I sat in my fifth-floor walk-up apartment I shared with a mouse. (Her name is Mindy Weiss.) I’ve purchased Kylie Lip Kits, Skims underwear, and fake Yeezy sweatshirts. I’ve given the dolls fourteen years of my life, and last night I said farewell and “ABCDEFG.”
After a decade and a half, here’s where we left the sisters. (Of course, you won’t miss them too much. By the end of this article, your social algorithm will surely send a Kardashian to the top of your feed.)
Kim learned that she failed her second attempt at the baby bar—granted, she did take the hours-long exam with a case of COVID and a failing marriage. Her new goal? Finding her happiness and a partner who can stand to live in the same state as her.
Kourtney and Scott will continue their co-parenting journey, pretending to eye-roll when people suggest they hook up. Immediately following shooting, Kourtney slipped into her fishnets and tattooed “poosh” onto Travis Barker’s shaft.
Khloé is building a house in Boston, where she will live with Tristan and True when the family is not in LA. Her and True’s pharmaceutical ad aired during the commercial break, and after a long and winding road, she ended up where she started: brunette.
Keeping Up With The Kardashians ushered in a new era of reality television. The family changed the face of pop culture forever, giving many of us weekly routines, careers, and reasons to live. So, with heavy hearts and improved self-esteem, we close with scripture.
“Maybe if you HAD a fucking business that you were passionate about, then you would know what it takes to run a fucking business, but you DON’T.” – KKW 15:1
Image: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
I’ve been losing track of time a lot lately, mostly due to the fact that the last year has felt like an extended sabbatical from regular life. But when I saw that Tristan Thompson was in the news for allegedly cheating on Khloé Kardashian, I really needed to take a good, hard look at a calendar. Had I taken one too many melatonin tablets and woken up in 2019? Or 2018? Nope, it’s May 2021, and we are once again discussing Tristan’s questionable choices.
Unlike Tristan’s past cheating scandals, where he’s been caught red-handed with another woman, the current situation has been sort of a slow, messy burn. The woman at the center of it all is Sydney Chase, a 23-year-old who is—prepare to be shocked—an Instagram model. In a recent interview on the No Jumper podcast, and again on her TikTok account, Chase claimed that she had an intimate relationship with Tristan after meeting him in November of 2020. According to Chase, Tristan told her he was single, and they “hung out multiple times,” including going out in public together. Chase claims that when she found out he was actually in a relationship with Khloé, she “cut it off” with him. On the podcast, she was also asked about Tristan’s ~equipment~, and she responded “he has a peek-a-boo dick, but baby, it was good.” Aaaaand we’re officially in TMI territory.
@sydneychasexoYes the Tristan rumors are true… @haydenxrichelle @phonehomebabyet♬ Passionfruit – Drake
If any of that is true, it’s not good, but the actual cheating is really just the tip of the iceberg, somehow. Last month, in an Instagram live video with her friends, Sydney Chase shared several additional things that Tristan said to her during their relationship, and it’s all bleak. On the live, she said that Tristan asked her to send nudes, reading a message that said, “Yes baby I like that. I want to see what they look like. I’m curious.” Curious is a polite word for horny, I guess.
Chase also shared that Tristan told her she looked like Jordan Craig, the mother of his first child, and that Khloé is “not his type.” According to Chase, after she learned about his relationship and broke things off with him, he called her and said, “you’re what I like,” which is a major yikes. If Khloé is, in fact, not Tristan’s “type,” why is her putting her through all of this mess? Why did he date her in the first place? Think of how much nonsense we could have avoided over the years if Tristan politely ended things with Khloé after like, three dates. Instead, it seems like Khloé is on a permanent emotional rollercoaster over a man who has never given her the level of respect that anyone deserves in a relationship.
Getting back to Sydney Chase for a minute, she’s been adamant that none of this is really her problem. On her Instagram live, she said, “I ain’t sign nothing, you did what you did, that’s on you.” She has a point—if Tristan insists on doing this type of sh*t, he should really either make people sign NDAs, or maybe just choose women who aren’t actively trying to get famous online? Chase also added, “Tristan banged me, I did not bang him.” I’m not really sure that’s like, a scientific distinction, but I guess I get the vibe of what she means. If she really believed that he was single, and he was the one actively pursuing her, you really can’t blame her for being down.
In the two weeks since Sydney Chase initially spoke about Tristan in the podcast interview, things have obviously escalated. Chase stated in her TikTok video that Tristan contacted her when he heard about the podcast, in the hopes that he could kill the story before it gained publicity. Obviously, that didn’t happen, and Khloé reportedly found out about Chase’s story along with the rest of the tabloid-reading public. Since then, Khloé has done her classic routine of posting subtweet-y quotes on her Instagram story, but she also went straight to the source of the rumors.
Over the weekend, Sydney Chase posted a screenshot showing DMs she received from Khloé Kardashian. She covered the contents of the main message, but made sure not to blur out the message where Khloé asked her to keep their conversation private. Oops! Apparently Khloé forgot that she was dealing with someone who makes a living off of whatever clout she can get, so tbh she’s lucky that Sydney even covered part of the DMs.
Sure, Sydney has been messy by putting all of this information out in the open, but when it comes down to it, she’s just living her life. Realistically, any hot woman that comes into contact with Tristan Thompson could find themselves in this position, so good for her scoring some Instagram followers, and likely #spon opportunities out of this.
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But when it comes to Khloé, this f*cking sucks. We all remember the fallout surrounding the Jordyn Woods controversy, and when Khloé finally decided to give Tristan another chance, it felt like things might actually be different. On this season of KUWTK, they’ve had mature conversations about having another child together, and it seemed like they had turned a corner, not just in their romantic relationship together, but as mature adults who wanted to build a life and family together. But that foundation doesn’t seem so stable when any 23-year-old with lip fillers and a big ass can cause Tristan to forget everything he’s supposed to be doing. Once and for all, it’s time for Khloé to choose herself, and leave Tristan behind.
Images: Jerritt Clark/Getty Images for Klutch Sports Group; sydneychasexo / TikTok; theshaderoom / Instagram
As demonstrated by the most recent skinny jeans and side parts scandal that rocked millennials everywhere, tying ourselves to shared generational labels is a pillar of meme culture — or broadly, today’s culture. Generational stereotypes have fueled the formation of countless online communities, but they’ve also caused hot-blooded arguments across age lines. After Baby Boomers criticized Millennials for not buying houses, it sparked economic discourse around responsibility and capitalism, and the “OK Boomer” meme popularized during the 2020 election signified Gen Z refusing to feign respect for racist and misogynistic elders. To say the least, there is weight and substance behind these memed stereotypes.
As digital natives in a digital world, Gen Z’s cultural influence is undeniable, but the one stereotype that overpowers the rest is that we are “diverse.” A quick Google search will show you that Gen Z is labeled as the “most diverse generation in history” and that we “demand diversity in the workplace.” However, of the top 100 creators on the social media platform most commonly associated with Gen Z, TikTok, the vast majority are white or white-passing. Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae, the golden girls of Gen Z, are thin, upper-middle-class white women. Simply put, it ain’t adding up: if we’re so diverse, why aren’t the people we idolize?
When Addison Rae appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in March to perform multiple dances originally created by Black TikTokers, it sparked a conversation about white mediocrity. D’Amelio and Rae are certainly not as talented as Keara Wilson, who created the “Savage” dance that propelled Addison Rae to superstardom, or Jalaiah Harmon, the originator of the “Renegade” dance that did the same for Charli. But comparing talent isn’t the problem: these women took Black choreography and used it for their own benefit, and were rewarded. Whether it’s subconscious or not, the fame that we’ve given them is because they fit the mold of who women are supposed to want to be.
In the same way that millennials adore celebrities like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, the supposedly diverse and inclusive Gen Z continues the cycle of rewarding attractive, rich, white women for existing. While society’s cultural icons have evolved from supermodels (1990s) to celebrities (2000s) to reality stars (2010s), the skin color and proximity to wealth of our superstars has remained consistent. Despite their wealthy, white California childhood, the Kardashians adopted Black culture to differentiate themselves from the thin blonde stars popular in the 2000s. They injected their butts and lips to recreate features found naturally on Black women, appropriated Black hairstyles, almost exclusively dated Black men, and recreated age-old Black and Latina fashion trends.
This look was, yes, a departure from parallel generational icons Paris Hilton and the Olsen Twins, but it wasn’t new. Black women, who grew up wearing wigs and had naturally big lips, certainly aren’t growing multimillion-follower fan bases or offered the cover of Vogue, but rather are discriminated against for living out their own culture while white women run through their trends faster than Fashion Nova can produce a rip-off.
The Kardashians shared everything from their petty fights to brutal divorces, parental blowups, and personal anxieties on national television. But the “relatability” or “reality” they may have shown on TV does not a billion-dollar empire make: they wouldn’t have had the lip kits, curvy shapewear, or half as much media coverage without appropriation.
TikTok was supposed to democratize the social media industry with an algorithm that let anyone get famous — or at least “TikTok famous.” Instead, we’ve repeated the same process of propping up white women who manipulate Black culture to appeal to the masses, yet remain safe from systemic racism in their peach skin. As the biggest Gen Z idols in the world, Addison Rae and Charli D’Amelio pocket millions while the Black girls who created the dances, and the music they dance to, remain nameless or endure hate at an alarmingly higher rate. Black creators’ followings remain significantly lower, and their sponsorship deals even sparser. Meanwhile, these white TikTok stars are hanging out with the Kardashians, with nary a Black woman in sight.
Would we still be idolizing these people, however, if corporations like NBC (the network that airs Jimmy Fallon’s show) and TikTok itself weren’t inching us in that direction? In March 2020, an internal memo was leaked revealing that TikTok’s algorithm doesn’t push darker, disabled, or “ugly” videos, making it significantly harder to “blow up” as a Black creator even if you have better content. Most of the companies giving out these sponsorship deals are run by majority-white Millennials or Baby Boomers who are inclined to stick with the already-advantaged white women that look like them or their children.
We won’t reach equality for these influencers until the most prominent corporations and influencers make a conscious effort to give Black creators the exposure their white counterparts get. Companies must do this through providing equally lucrative sponsorship opportunities, and the biggest celebrities must take responsibility for benefitting from the systems that allowed them to grow by offering slices of their fame to prop the culture originators up.
Gen Z definitely cares about diversity, but the systems in place created by previous generations don’t allow that to be reflected in our culture idols. If algorithms don’t allow Black creators to make it on their own, it’s up to influencers and social media users to make conscious choices to highlight and reward that talent, or we’ll be watching history repeat itself for the next generation, too.
Image: Todd Williamson / E! Entertainment
If you’ve been following pop culture for the past decade, you likely know by now that no one controls their images more closely than the Kardashians. There’s a reason the common saying exists: “The devil works hard, but Kris Jenner works harder.” The momager, by her own account—as documented in her “mem-wah”—runs a tight ship.
Before I continue: What’s most important to understand in the context of the Kardashians is that they are, first and foremost, a brand. A mega-brand, at that. And, like with any brand, image is everything, and must be upheld at all costs. Because if your brand suffers a PR fallout or an image crisis, the revenue consequences can be disastrous. (Just ask Victoria’s Secret.)
That’s why Khloé Kardashian’s recent blunder should be the family’s worst nightmare.
Not because the unedited, unfiltered photo of the third-oldest Kardashian leaked in the first place. She looks great—many Twitter users, in fact, said it was the best photo of her they’ve seen in years. (I just sincerely hope MJ is in a safe place right now.)
No, the blunder is that their reaction to the photo was so incredibly toxic and so obviously embarrassing, and deserves widespread ridicule—as well as a serious reflection on our part regarding to whom we give our attention and money.
As many people know by now, Khloé allegedly had her lawyers and even reportedly her sister Kim (!) reach out personally to Reddit and Twitter users who posted the photo—and tweets left and right were swept off the Internet faster than you can say “bible.” (Which is especially troubling when you consider the platform consistently lets off Nazis and death threat-spewing users scot-free.)
If Khloé and Ko. weren’t familiar with the Streisand Effect before—an Internet-age social phenomenon in which the act of suppressing information actually further draws attention to it—they certainly are now. The photo went viral, and Khloé released a statement decrying society’s bullying and impossible beauty standards, and how they have impacted her over the years. And that’s completely fair. I totally have empathy for her there. Getting called “the fat sister” by the media for years isn’t a fate I’d wish on anyone.
But she lost me when she acted like she’s a victim of society’s beauty standards in 2021 when she and her family are major perpetrators of the problem. It’s been more than a decade since the Kardashians came onto the scene as just a regular, albeit rich and connected, relatable family (rather than the fully formed brand they are today). Hundreds of millions of followers later, and with impossibly small, photoshopped waists and surgically enhanced behinds attributed to “hard work and exercise” (rather than the work of very talented LA-based plastic surgeons, or at the very least, personal trainers), the Kardashians have, for years, wielded a staggering amount of power over women’s self-esteem, and society’s beauty standards as a whole. Who do you think started the signature “Instagram face,”aka an oversize pout, button nose, and fox-like eyes? This, all while selling women products that capitalize on their specifically feminine insecurities—whether it’s body makeup, or contouring kits, or slimming shapewear. (Jameela Jamil was onto something when she dubbed the Kardashians “double agents for the patriarchy.”)
Like it or not, Kim, Kourtney, Khloé, Kendall, and Kylie brandish massive influence, and have, in a way, become “the standard” that women everywhere have emulated in the looks department—a standard that, to be clear, has been largely appropriated from women of color, from their signature features, to their style choices.
And if even the Kardashians—with their plastic surgery and trainers and personal chefs—are so miserable with their own appearances that they’ll sue over an unfiltered photo, what hope do the rest of us have? Why should any of us feel comfortable with our naked, unfiltered, unedited bodies if even a Kardashian can’t feel happy with hers?
What a message to send.
To me, the act of threatening legal action and having Twitter users’ accounts suspended for 12+ hours simply for posting an “unflattering” photo is self-hatred at its most distilled. (And it’s especially ironic when you remember that Khloé runs a brand, according to its website, on a platform of body acceptance.)
It didn’t end there, though: After the photo went viral, Khloé took to Instagram Live to show off her toned body, from a distance, in a dimly lit room. As if she had something to prove. As if she was saying, “I don’t look like THAT. There’s something inherently wrong with looking like that, and I need to prove to you that I don’t.”
In one fell swoop, the Kardashians alienated women everywhere and showed themselves for who they really are: self-hating, fatphobic hypocrites. And while that might sound harsh, they are a brand, after all. And as far as I’m concerned, Kris Jenner and her krew need to rapidly evolve with today’s times before their brand gets left behind in the 2010s, just like Victoria’s Secret.
Images: Jamie McCarthy/WireImage
I stopped following all the Kardashians on social media when Khloé used “anorexic” as a compliment in 2018. It was the final nail in the coffin (shaped nails) of their toxic behavior and hindrance to the positive body image movement of which they once fancied themselves as champions.
But you don’t have to be following them to be keenly aware of their most recent content catastrophe, all provoked by an unfiltered, unphotoshopped, and by all standards very nice photo of Khloé in a bikini. It doesn’t look like the Khloé we know from TV and Instagram. It looks like the Khloé that may actually exist.
The photo is said to have been taken on a recent family vacation to Palm Springs, and was either leaked by an assistant or her grandmother (whose grandmother hasn’t taken a photo of us we don’t approve of?). But it’s not the photo for once that’s making headlines: It’s the aftermath.
After its initial posting, the offending bikini pic was removed faster than an accidental like on your ex’s Instagram, with the family allegedly working overtime to scrub any traces of it from the internet forever (a gargantuan feat, even for a family with such a firm grip on the media and its inner workings). Sister Kim herself even got involved, allegedly direct messaging people to request its removal, citing the image, taken in broad daylight, as being “doctored”, taken “in the worst lighting”, and a “copywright infringement” as opposed to the truth, which is that it’s just not an image Khloé has carefully curated for the world to see.
On its (contoured) face, this is just another effort on the famous family’s part to control their narrative and image, but dig a bit deeper and it’s all just extremely sad. The Kardashians, what with all their yacht-loads of external validation (a combined 80 gazillion Instagram followers and “likes,” a slew of homes, so much money, access to any and everything) are no further along—and in fact, they seem frighteningly behind—people without an ounce of their resources, money, and fame to find a shred of self-worth. The timing of the incident, right before news also broke of Kim Kardashian officially becoming a billionaire, pretty perfectly drives home that sentiment.
The sadness I feel about Khloé, who has spent years (and, as she laid out on Instagram on Thursday, her entire life) publicly striving to achieve a version of herself that she finds “worthy” is twofold. Look at that photo and you’ll see what we have been conditioned by society and media to believe is the ideal body: a flat stomach, curves in the exact right places. These are things that I—and most people—don’t have! And yet she is so ashamed of it, writing on Instagram that it “doesn’t capture your body the way it is after working so hard to get to this point” with its non-Barbie doll smoothness (thank you, Diet Starts Tomorrow for that analogy) that her sister—who, by all accounts, has plenty more to do with her time than reach out to random people on social media—is doing everything she can to hide it.
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It’s equally as sad to learn that Khloé has obviously not found her own version of self-acceptance and has not done the internal work necessary to love, or at least make peace with, the external. The message being sent to millions of young (and not-so-young) women who look up to her and her sisters is that this more-than-acceptable body is simply unacceptable.
Even her response is sad, going on Instagram Live to prove that “this isn’t photoshopped” when in reality the only difference in the Palm Springs image is a bit of skin texture. It’s impossible to comprehend what it’s like to be ridiculed by the media for the way you look, but the reaction—one that can only be compared to that of a leaked sex tape as opposed to simply acknowledging that it’s a bad photo and moving on—speaks louder than a caption could.
It’s also impossible not to examine this incident as it pertains to her clothing brand, Good American, whose Instagram bio literally reads “representing body acceptance”. Often heralded as “expensive but worth it” by legions of fans on TikTok and actually impressive in terms of size offerings compared to most other fashion brands, here we see a true inability for Khloé to practice what she preaches.
Whereas many of the models in Good American’s marketing materials represent a more realistic body image, a recent campaign image of Khloé looked more like one of those Stretch Armstrong dolls of the ‘90s, all elongated limbs and a distorted body shape. She wants to be a champion of body diversity—just not when it comes to her own body.
Looking at the images Khloé did choose to share drums up toxic feelings, too. Despite knowing that they’re likely doctored, despite knowing everything I do about feeling good in my skin and the pitfalls of comparison especially on social media,, there’s a small part of my brain that’s jealous of the woman in this image, with her flawless skin and exposed rib cage. As long as we continue to glorify images like this one, and these women in general, the longer it will be before shifting beauty standards and healthier relationships with our bodies will trickle down to us, the masses.
If nothing else, perhaps this might be a moment of reckoning for anyone who still views these women as body image role models. It’s high time we all realize that the Kardashians, with their weight loss tea spon con and usage of skinny as the ultimate compliment, are anything but.
Images: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images; khloekardashian / Instagram