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