Walking into Kylie Jenner’s Pop Up Shop, the eye is immediately drawn to the back wall, where two, big screen TVs hang above a bed, playing scantily-clad, risqué images and videos of the 19-year-old starlet, some of which saw her writhing with older boyfriend, rapper Tyga (27).
Turnout was incomprehensible, with 1,200 young men and women having lined up by 8:30am to get inside the first storefront for the reality TV starlet. Her power and popularity cannot be denied, but the implication of why is in question.
I later percolate on the Kardashian-Jenner empire, my mind was drawn to the much-discussed quote from Gillian Flynn’s 2012 best-selling novel “Gone Girl.” Flynn’s heroine mused that men say “cool girl” as the “defining compliment.”
She explains, “Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, s–t on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.”
The Kardashians became a household name after the release of Kim’s (36) sex tape in 2003, which may or may not have been an event orchestrated by momager Kris Jenner (61), per Ian Halperin’s tell-all “Kardashian Dynasty.” She has since famously “broken the internet” with her nude Paper Magazine photo shoot, as well as with her naked selfie, which elicited criticism from stars such as Piers Morgan, Chloe Moretz, and Bette Midler.
Eldest daughter Kourtney (37) is likely most known in relation to philandering, on-off boyfriend Scott Disick (37), with whom she shares three children. Khloé (32) has long held the cringeworthy title of the fattest Kardashian – not my designation – which likely, in part, has inspired her recent weight loss, and tv series “Revenge Body” and denim line Good American, aimed to be flattering on everyone. She is also often discussed in relation to the people with whom she is linked romantically, which includes NBA players Lamar Odom, James Harden, and Tristan Thompson.
Kendall Jenner (21) has been the most elusive regarding her personal life, mostly using her astronomical Instagram numbers (70.3 million followers) to promote her brand – modeling photos, branded content, and sexy snaps of her body. She is, however, known for being free with her body, from posing topless or nude to going braless in sheer tops. She gushed on her app, “It’s sexy, it’s comfortable, and I’m cool with my breasts!”
And Kylie is arguably known for her controversial relationship with Tyga – who had previously been engaged to Blac Chyna, with whom he shares a child, and happens to be the current fianceé to Rob Kardashian, with whom she also shares a child – as well as for getting lip injections. She has become sort of a mini-Kim, especially since Mrs. West has become a mother to two children, posing in similarly risqué photo shoots and sharing lingerie, bikini, and nearly nude shots on Instagram.
They frequently indulge in fast food, documenting drool-worthy meals on social media and writing about their favorite picks on their apps. Kim memorably stopped for fast food twice – KFC and In-N-Out – on the day of her desert nude photo shoot.
They use waist trainers to keep their waist-to-hip ratios low, posing together in the controversial devices – which double as advertisements, their body sculpting raking in the dollars. They love sports, turning court-side seats into a runway, hock sex toys on their apps, and would seemingly like us to believe that their leisurewear includes items such as lingerie, fishnets, and stilettos.
They recently negotiated $80 million dollars for three more seasons of their hit E! reality series (with an option for a fourth) according to TMZ, a hefty price tag for a glimpse at the family famous for its salacious headlines. Momager Kris iconically encouraged daughter Kim to pose for Playboy, snapping her own photos at the shoot as she gushed, “Kim, you’re doing amazing, sweetie.”
Khloé even called out her mom for it, quipping, “Of course you do because you get 10%. That is sick.” And though the quote often ends up on comical listicles, many would agree that it is. Kris has become famous for essentially pimping out all of her daughters, effectively ignoring her only son until this year when he and fiancée Chyna kicked off their own reality series, which was just renewed for a second season.
Meanwhile, while they would not necessarily be considered soft-spoken, the Kardashian-Jenners are careful not to alienate any of their audience with strong opinions. Kim famously avoided calling herself a feminist, insisting, “I don’t like labels,” despite maintaining “I love to support women.” She hesitated from aligning herself with the unpopular image of an angry, spinster woman who hates men, especially since her career has hinged on her sexuality.
So what does that mean for women? The Kardashian-Jenners are successful, high-powered, and autonomous women. So why are they criticized as being bad role models for young girls? I believe it’s the same reason it was so shocking to walk into a store run by a 19-year-old and find the focal point to be a bed, candles, and sexual videos.
Additionally, the Kardashian-Jenners present a goal that’s seemingly impossible to achieve. They frequent Epione in Beverly Hills to laser away even the tiniest bit of cellulite, inject their lips for a more attractive pout, and even the toddlers of the family model custom Balmain designs. They’re the epitome of the ‘cool girl’ … and it’s earned them millions… but at what cost?
READ MORE: I Survived the Kylie Jenner Pop Up Shop
It’s also worth noting, that amid fighting for the right to post nude selfies and sharing their best makeup tips, the Kardashians have never advocated for staying in school. Kourtney is the only sister to have received a bachelor’s degree, and Kylie told Interview Magazine that she didn’t want to go to college because she’d rather be a businesswoman. Of course, that comes with the privilege and connections to be able to forego the years of schooling and hop right into success.
On the flip side, rapper Nicki Minaj, who is also known for racy lyrics, risqué dance moves, and revealing costumes, is known for encouraging fans to stay in school. She advises this whenever she can, saying at one performance, “Y’all better stay y’all a—es in school. Don’t be no slouch. Go to school, get your education, okay? Promise?”
The Kardashian empire may enable women to hold positions of power and make bank, but its success is built on the patriarchy and stereotypical values such as the idea that women are only as good as what they can offer a man, for example, their body. Do I respect them? Yes, of course. I’m a fan. I have more Kylie Cosmetics Lip Kits than I’d like to admit, the Kimojis on my phone, and while I don’t watch it religiously, I’m no stranger to “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” But that doesn’t mean I think they are something to aspire to. With an incoming president who does not value women aside from their bodies, we need real role models for girls now more than ever.
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