Kim Kardashian West: Reinventing Hollywood Fame, For Better or Worse?
When Kim Kardashian’s name was first mispronounced in the media, it followed the words “sex tape” - a beginning that typically ends in infamy rather than fame. As of today it’s more often followed by “mother”, “entrepreneur” and “political activist” (okay, and maybe “cultural appropriator”, but let’s stay focused here). Still, with all the money in the world and the constant criticism of being famous for being famous, a gal can get bored. A partnership with charmin toilet paper? Been there. Promoting bejeweled lollipops with pics that makes us think of the past she longs to forget? Done that. But exacting power on the lives of people who may not even like you? Well, only one reality star has done that, and Kim has been inspired. Regardless of your stance on the the polarizing Kardashian Klan, there are a few undeniable traits that can be attributed Mrs. Kardashian West. And with a second presidential pardon underway, Kim’s pro’s may just outweigh her con’s --- depending on wether you count dat ass as a pro or a con.
Before your iPhone knew how to autocorrect her last name, Kim had sordid beginnings in the realm of celebrity. But sprinkle some PR magic on it, and the salacious nightmare becomes the salacious American dream: through a ruthlessly enterprising mama and a true grit veiled in capricious beauty, Kim K rose from the muddled waters reality television and into omnipresence. Instead of shrinking in shame at the tape that shall not be mentioned, she cut a deal with E! and brought her whole family up from the depths of anonymity. I for one am not advocating faustian transactions, but in a land where one in ten millennials will ghost on their own families in exchange for fame, she is, in this sense, #goals. After all, Kim is a catalyst for the state of our culture as much as she is a product of it. Considering the abundance of celebrity sex tapes available, and the amount of non-famous people who co-starred in them for our pleasure and condemnation, Kardashian was not the most likely person to be interviewed by Oprah — but that shit still happened. If the blame for her tape can be redistributed across our culture, then what would be left is a staunchly capitalistic business person with countless direct and indirect employees. And aren’t we supposed to like those kind of Americans?
Another sweeping ambition of Kim was to redefine American beauty. Her ex Nick Cannon reminisced about her dream, saying it was Kim’s close relation to her precursor Paris Hilton that made her set the goal. She wanted her more ethnically ambiguous features and curvier body to be the standard over Hilton’s My Size Barbie genetics. Though Kim may have achieved that in part by buying body parts that were probably made in China (not for long! USA! USA!), she did in fact shift American beauty standards, for better for worse. It is true that people are literally dying for a Kim K ass now, but in years passed they were dying for an Angelina Jolie rack or a Kate Moss physique. Many still are. While we can’t credit Kim for totally upending “traditional” (read: white) American beauty standards, she did help broaden the scope of what it means to look desirable while attaining mass appeal.
Still, reaching success as defined by our culture is not the only thing Kim could be credited for. Between selling everything from her own selfies to nail polish, Kim took the time to learn about Alice Marie Johnson, a woman serving a life sentence for a non-violent drug crime. Though it may not have taken more than a smile and a binky to gain President Trump's attention, that she did, and that she conquered. Johnson not only has been granted clemency by Trump, but now speaks out to expose the nature of mass incarceration. Empowered by this win, Kim now seeks to free Chris Young from his 30-year sentence and is bringing her husband along for memes help.
Kanye also met with Trump for what the President called “lunch”. Possibly capitalizing on Trump’s penchant for celebrity, Kanye indulged the competing forces in his head by mentioning alternate realities, the trouble with political monoliths, alienation of male voters by Hillary Clinton’s #imwithher campaign, and welfare all in the first three minutes. He eventually landed on the prison sentence of Larry Hoover, a former gang member considered by some as a political prisoner, and his plan to persuade Trump to end stop and frisk in Chicago. He also found time to segway his misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder into a plan to empower the pharmaceutical industry, which may do more harm than good. It seems Kim may need to prep her husband before meetings with the leader of the free world, as many think his meeting was theater at best. Others are surely scrambling to be on staff for Kanye’s inevitable 2020 presidential run. I just think Kanye was trying to find alternative ways to woo Trump, knowing he’s partial to blondes. Either way, Saturday Night Live is better than ever.
Admittedly, it’s an exercise to defend Kim Kardashian on paper. For every charitable contribution, she can quickly negate it by hawking questionable products to transform us into her ideal of manufactured beauty. The truth is that like all of us, Kim is both saint and sinner. Unlike most of us however, she lives in a vacuum where all of her actions are magnified. Equal doses of adoration and hate can turn a person into an avatar of themselves. If they can help release a few people from prison in the meantime, well, maybe that’s enough.
Cover image via ABC News