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29 Apr

Are the Kardashians finally taking accountability for toxic beauty

In a recent trailer for The Kardashians, Kylie Jenner says she wishes she had never ‘touched’ her face, and addresses the harmful and inconceivable beauty standards her family sets

Last night, the trailer dropped for the newest season of The Kardashians, and there was a moment that – if authentic – could possibly be the beginning of some meaningful conversations around beauty standards, body image and the role that celebrities and influencers play in our self-esteem.

The moment in query comes when Kylie Jenner is shown in a discussion together with her sisters. “All of us just must have an even bigger conversation concerning the beauty standards that we’re setting,” she is shown telling them. The scene then changes to her talking to longtime friend Anastasia Karanikolaou, admitting that she doesn’t want her daughter Stormi to do the things that she did, and that she regrets changing her face. “I wish I had never touched anything to start with,” she concludes.

Trailers are, after all, designed to grab people’s attention, and little doubt the whole series is engineered to establish situations that can get us talking. So we could have to attend until the episode airs and watch the complete conversations before we all know if it is a real attempt by the family, or at the least by Kylie, to reckon with the impact that they’ve had on people‘s self-esteem, particularly young women.

Having said that, this isn’t the primary time that Kylie has appeared to deal with the difficulty. In a cover interview for HommeGirls this month, she said that becoming a mother has made her love herself more. “I see my features in my daughter… my daughter looks like me. I get to see my beauty in her, and it’s made me love myself more obviously,” she says, adding that the sweetness advice she would give Stormi is that she is ideal the best way she is.

That is under no circumstances groundbreaking, and could be very much cloaked within the language of self-empowerment that the sweetness and wellness industries are likely to use to sell us products. However it could point to a shift in perspective that we haven’t seen before from Kylie or the remainder of the family, who’ve never contended with, or taken responsibility for, the negative impact they’ve had on beauty culture.

Everyone knows that the Kardashian-Jenners have influenced the best way we glance – a lot in order that we’ve almost stopped interrogating it. Their trademark aesthetic is so ubiquitous that everybody knows what it means to explain a make-up look or body type as “Kardashian-esque”. That’s to not say the features that they’ve been celebrated for are natural or innate to them – the entire family has cherry-picked and co-opted much of their aesthetic from marginalised communities, including Black women and drag queens. However it’s undeniable that the Kardashians, particularly Kim and Kylie, have been the only biggest influences on beauty within the last decade.

When Kylie announced she got lip fillers in 2015, web searches for the term increased by 3,233 per cent; there was a 70 per cent rise in enquiries for lip filler inside 24 hours, and a nine per cent increase in lip enhancements amongst 13- to 19-year-olds alone. Two years later, she released the three lip kits that might launch her now billion-dollar make-up empire. The second most followed woman on Instagram with 388 million followers, every make-up look Kylie posts is seen and emulated world wide. 

Meanwhile, Kim spearheaded one in all the archetypal beauty looks of the 2010s – the ultra-glam, full-face, highlight-and-contour Instagram face and the slim-thick curves often achieved by cosmetic procedures like BBLs. And within the 2020s, she has seemingly helped to usher in a recent era that has seen a “return to thinness”. After all, Kim isn’t wholly liable for this cultural shift, but we will’t deny that at the identical time she shifted her look – reportedly removing her BBL and taking Ozempic to suit into Marilyn Monroe’s dress – the world did too.

The family has profited hugely from their influence – alongside Kylie Cosmetics, the Kardashian beauty empire has included KKW Beauty, SKKN, perfumes, supplements and detox tea partnerships. They’ve also contributed to making a beauty tax that’s higher than ever, because of the role they’ve played in popularising cosmetic procedures like injectables and surgeries. The result, during the last decade, is a self-esteem crisis where eating disorders are skyrocketing and mental health issues, akin to dysmorphia or depression, are on the rise. And thru all this, the Kardashian-Jenners have addressed their very own insecurities and the pressures they’re under to stick to a beauty standard – but have never acknowledged their very own role in pushing these pressures onto the remainder of us.

In an interview with Andy Cohen last yr, Kim, Kourtney and Kendall denied that they promote unattainable beauty standards, while within the HommeGirls interview, Kylie said: “I had my one lip insecurity thing, so I got lip filler, and it was one of the best thing I’ve ever done.” What’s left unsaid is how she then went on to make hundreds of thousands of dollars from young women who feel insecure about their very own lips – how she turned from captive to jailer.

Khloé particularly likes to color herself because the victim of beauty standards, and has never once admitted, possibly even to herself, that she has now develop into the villain who’s upholding and perpetuating the ideals that she felt so harmed by previously. In 2021, Khloé spoke out concerning the toll that years of criticism of her body and appearance have taken on her self-esteem. “It’s almost unbearable attempting to live as much as the inconceivable standards that the general public has set for me,” she said before happening to defend her right to photoshop, edit and use filters on her social media posts.

It’s not clear from the trailer what has prompted Kylie to begin discussions together with her family concerning the way they use their influence and the impact it has on others. Much of what she has said up to now has centred around Stormi and the hopes she has, as a mother, for her own daughter. So it’s likely that has played a major role within the shift in perspective. And possibly this can all come to nothing when these episodes air, and the hint of self-awareness and reckoning that we glimpsed within the trailer can be the extent to which the Kardashians take accountability for his or her actions.

But when the time ever comes once they do truly determine to interrogate the sweetness standards that they’re setting, they’ve the chance to have some very meaningful conversations and make an actual impact. The wonder system is rigged against us all, however the Kardashians have the influence and the platforms to take the pain they’ve suffered and channel it into changing the system fairly than upholding it. Step one, for them, is to confess they’re the issue.

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