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Kylie Jenner
Kylie JennerPhoto by James Devaney/GC Images

The Kardashians continue to play the victims of toxic beauty standards

It’s just infuriating at this point

When the trailer for the third season of The Kardashians came out in April this year, it teased us with footage that seemed like the family was finally going to address, and maybe even attempt to reckon with, the impact that they have had on beauty ideals, body image and people‘s self-esteem. “All of us just need to have a bigger conversation about the beauty standards that we are setting,” Kylie Jenner is shown to be saying to her sisters. Well, the episode in question was released yesterday and we now know this was all, if not a straight-up lie, then highly deceiving.

It starts when Kylie goes over to Kourtney’s house to do her make-up. Khloé is also there and the three sisters start talking about imperfections and beauty standards. Based on the setting and outfits, this is clearly the discussion shown in the trailer when Kylie says they need to have a bigger conversation. Except she never says that, because the comment has been cut from the final scene. Kim and Kendall are also not present, as they were made to seem in the trailer.

Kourtney kicks off the conversation by saying, “I do think you should be confident, even in your imperfections. I was just thinking about the beauty standards in the world today…” Kylie then adds: “I just think we have huge influence. And what are we doing with our power?” This doesn’t lead anywhere, however, and it is sadly the last self-aware comment anyone in the room will make for the rest of the conversation. This is because the discussion quickly descends into them framing themselves as victims and placing the blame on everyone but them.

“I see so many young girls on the internet now fully editing. And I went through that stage too but I’m in a better place. And other people can instil insecurities in you,” says Kylie. Khloé follows this up with: “That’s how I accumulated all of mine, is from other people. I had the most confidence. I was chubby and in a skintight body-con dress. Society gave me insecurities.”

Of all the sisters, Khloé in particular likes to paint herself as the victim of beauty standards. In 2021, she spoke out about her right to photoshop, edit and use filters on her social media posts because of the toll that criticism of her appearance has taken on her self-esteem. “It’s almost unbearable trying to live up to the impossible standards that the public has set for me,” she said. Undoubtedly, Khloé has been subjected to years of cruel harassment and torment – and on a personal level, we should feel a lot of sympathy for that. But she needs to accept and admit to herself that she has now become the villain, and she is the one who is actively working to uphold and perpetuate the ideals that she felt so harmed by in the past. 

Throughout the conversation with Kylie and Kourtney, the three call out various other people who are responsible for making them feel insecure, from mother Kris, who Khloé blames for making her want to have a nose job, to each other – Kylie says she never thought about her ears until her older sisters would call her Dopey and it made her not feel comfortable wearing her hair up. To keep placing the blame on others but then never examine their own impact on people is, at this point, willfully ignorant and downright insulting. The family has profited hugely from their influence over beauty standards and the pressure they put on others to adhere to them. These are people who have made millions from promoting waist trainers, detox teas, diet supplements, shapewear, make-up and skincare products. Khloé had a TV show called Revenge Body, which saw jilted participants put on intense weight loss regimes and makeovers to transform themselves to inflict ‘revenge’ on their former partners. 

The Kardashians have also contributed to creating a beauty tax that is higher than ever, thanks to the role they have played in popularising cosmetic procedures like injectables and surgeries. During the conversation, Kylie makes a point of saying that she has never had surgery on her face (her body is conveniently left unaddressed), just fillers. “One of the biggest misconceptions about me is that I was this insecure child and I got so much surgery to change my whole face, which is false,” she says, claiming that she’s had “only fillers”. Creating this strange moral distinction between surgery and injectables does not absolve Kylie from the part she is playing in upholding beauty standards. “I always want everyone to just love themselves,” adds Kylie, who has a billion-dollar cosmetics company.

It’s a frustrating conversation to be a viewer of – to watch them skirting around the issue, getting so close to the real problem but then refusing to acknowledge, let alone accept, their own part in it; to see them co-opting the language of self-love and turning it into empty, deceiving rhetoric to justify the damage they are inflicting. The beauty system is rigged against us all, but the Kardashians have the power to try and change the system, rather than upholding it and pushing the standards ever higher. 

As Kylie says, they have huge influence and they need to admit to themselves that they are part of the problem; that they are a huge part of this vague nameless “society” they keep blaming. It’s time they stopped complaining about being victims and interrogate their impact in a meaningful way.

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