I love the Royal Family. I don’t mean William and Kate, I mean the Kardashians and Kanye. Kim Kardashian exemplifies the American Dream of Now, Now, Now, Now — it is the Gatsbyan dream, to come from nothing, to fake (or fuck) your way to glory and riches, it is a journey many celebrities fall apart on the road down. It is an imperfect, messy process; it is one full of gore and OK! And Today! headlines and unflattering photos. It is our unending obsession. And the Kardashians have won. They have empires. They are on the runways; they are watching from the side, they are on our television screens, on our iPods, on our feet. It is impossible to ignore them even if you would like to. I love how they are unkillable.
Easy criticism to throw at Kim is to pit her against Beyonce, easy criticism would be to talk about Kim being a slut. She had a sex tape and it was released without her consent. People still rag on her for this, which is both insufferably boring and endlessly puritanical. She had sex with someone she trusted and he broke her trust and people will never let her forget it. But you know what? She got her money. $40 million net worth officially, $18 million off her failed marriage, $80,000 a pop for just existing in the public per episode of her show. She took the chokehold and turned it into a whip on the American Media empire. In a world where a woman’s body is continually held hostage by past lovers and their nude pictures, saved Snapchats and more, Kim Kardashian emerged and had the fortitude to channel Lady Bathory and get a blood facial. And she got paid by America to make this happen. How’s that for badass.
Of course, it is precisely her undeniable acumen for making a Business out of Body that America doesn’t like. When women are supposed to make money off their bodies, it is to be done quietly or else it is shamed. Even if prostitution is the oldest trade in the entire history of ever, it is not something you want to tell your parents about. Even if it pays for college. Kim is both business and businesswoman, and people just can’t shied away from their disgust that she gets gold and we’re stuck, praying our ex’s don’t go down Petty Road with our nudes.
Plenty of vitriol has been said about Kim, most of it snark at how she’s continually shunned by fashion, even more so than her fiance. (I particularly find the situation surrounding Kanye’s fashion line — lifestyle line? — funny and terrible, because were it not for him, leather sweatpants would not have been a thing at all. But that is a story for another time.) Kim gets a custom dress by Ricardo Tisci? Everyone screams about how she looks like a couch. Baby clothes from Katie Couric? Only as a guilt-gift after Katie mouthed off about Kim on network television. People don’t get ‘it’ — they don’t get her. They don’t get how she’s made a name for herself despite the fact our culture is set up to shame women in her position to the shadows or a breakdown. Kim has done neither. Instead, she ended up with arguably the most expensive bag ever (Condo x Hermes, anyone?), and oh yeah, a beautiful child. By all accounts except our own incontrovertible guilt, Kim broke our rules. She’s the sexbomb celebrity, the mother and businesswoman, the Madonna and Madonna. Women aren’t allowed to be all of these things, and so we must punish her.
It is strange, then, to see that her little sister Kendall was courted as one to watch on the runways. To date, she’s walked some killer shows: Marc Jacobs. Givenchy. Chanel. Sat front row next to Anna. Kim and Kanye went on something of a Presidential campaign to get Kim to the Met Gala last year and she didn’t score an invite to Vanity Fair’s party this year. It’s like Kim’s the ugly adopted child or something. You just want her to go away. It boggles my mind.
Of course, Kendall has been in the spotlight of fashion — or fought her way into it — for less time than Kim. And you guys, she’s doing so well for herself in it. Maybe because she fits what fashion wants: sexless bodies to wear the clothes, that willowy body type that wore Marc Jacobs space-age garments so effortlessly. It’s a body that fits fashion dimensions well. It’s easily controlled. She’s arguably a chameleon, too, and up for anything: a fashion model debut at Marc Jacobs in a sheer top? I know some girls who’ve been modeling for seasons, and they’d have broken out in a sweat. Reportedly, Kendall’s fellow models didn’t even recognize her when she had the Jacobs pastel wig on and bleached her brows. I certainly did a double take when Kendall walked at Givenchy, closing the show. She’s actually….very….good. She’s easily mutable, a pretty kind of forgetfulness that fashion adores, and she still maintains that star power behind all the transformations. You can almost forget she’s a Kardashian, that she’s a girl you’re meant to hate and be bored by. It’s alluring. It feels innocent.
It’s something her big sister might never get — that acceptance. Kim is too blatantly complicated, maybe too declasse even — too big of a star, with a body that’s loud and a business that’s bigger than what we think celebrity “deserves”. Even other celebrities wonder about her relevance, of her “deserving” the fame or the money or the wealth. They like to forget she’s more than her worst mistake, that she’s actually a business woman who took shame and made it a business. Yes, she probably wants that VOGUE cover, but yes, Kendall Jenner might be the Kardashian to get it first. Because she’s purer, perhaps, and more easily controlled.
I think that is kind of a bummer.