For the majority of the last decade, the Kardashians have set the standard for beauty and body image. Will they ever have a serious discussion about the unrealistic ideals they’ve perpetuated?
Kylie Jenner‘s remarks in the first trailer for season 3 of “The Kardashians” hint at some discussion from the famous family: “All of us need to have a bigger conversation about the beauty standards we’re setting,” she says. “I don’t want my daughter to do the things that I did.”
“I wish I had never touched anything to begin with,” she adds, seemingly acknowledging previous cosmetic procedures.
Body image experts say Jenner’s expression of regret for her role in imposing unrealistic beauty standards is a step in the right direction. But, coming from a famous family that has left countless viewers at home feeling like the finish line for beauty is constantly being pushed back, will it be too little, too late?
The Kardashians’ complex role in establishing body standards
Body image standards existed before the Kardashians and will continue to exist after them. Whether you like it or not, experts say the images we present to the world have a significant impact on how others believe we should look.
According to Samantha Kwan, a sociology professor at the University of Houston, traits like large breasts, clear skin, and a slim waist will always be considered ideals because they correspond with beliefs about fertility and health. However, what is considered “beautiful” changes all the time, partly because it is a “social construction.”
“The world has discovered a way to commodify beauty.” “People like novelty,” says Tiffany Ima, a body confidence coach. “After a while, people realise, ‘OK, this body has been trending for a little while.'” Let us change what we think is beautiful.’… If your body isn’t in style at the time, it will make you want to look like what the standard is.”
Many people have noticed that standard shifting right now. Jenner’s well-known large lips have shrunk. Kim Kardashian revealed that she quickly lost 16 pounds to fit into Marilyn Monroe’s Met Gala gown last year. In the autumn, the headline “Bye-bye booty: Heroin chic is back” appeared in the New York Post. And the weight loss of celebrities such as Adele, Rebel Wilson, and Mindy Kaling has piqued the public’s interest.
“It’s not actually attainable because it’s not affordable,” Ima says, adding that most people who want to look like the Kardashians will never be able to do so. Because they have so much money, they can afford trainers, surgeries, and procedures that the average person cannot.
The Kardashians’ influence is complicated further by the fact that they have been accused of appropriating beauty styles and body features associated with Black women, usually without credit. These features are now being phased out in favour of more white-centric features.
“People like to see Black features on non-Black bodies,” says Ima. “For Black women, this is the first time in history that our body types have been considered ‘in,’ so to speak. However, it also places additional pressure on Black women who do not look like that.”
“Having one of the biggest influencers in the world embrace and promote a new standard about body diversity is an important step to real structural change,” Kwan says. “If beauty standards are in part created by mass media, these ideals can shift if prominent influencers in mass media sincerely question narrow beauty ideals, embrace body diversity, and celebrate women as entire beings beyond just their looks.”
Cosmetic surgery patients may regret their decisions for a variety of reasons, according to Kwan, who co-wrote the book “Under the Knife” based on interviews with women who have undergone these procedures.
“Some wished surgery produced better aesthetic results, while others lamented the inability to embrace their own unique beauty,” Kwan says. “Some people expressed self-loathing and an ongoing struggle to love and forgive themselves.” They all had one thing in common, though: they all wanted a change in the current beauty culture, which places so much of a woman’s worth on her appearance.”