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Should We Feel Bad for Kylie Jenner?

Jenner's recent comments about how it feels when her looks are publicly dissected have us feeling conflicted.

Kylie Jenner knows you’re talking about her face. Or rather, her facial filler. In a recent episode of Hulu’s The Kardashians, the youngest KarJenner sibling opened up to sister Kendall Jenner about public criticism surrounding her appearance. Referencing conversations on the internet around her use of injectable fillers during Paris Fashion week in January 2024, Jenner said: “It’s a miracle I still have confidence and can still look in the mirror and still think I’m pretty.”

At the beginning of the year, Jenner attended PFW and sat front row at Schiaparelli, Jacquemus and Jean Paul Gaultier. And while many eyes were on the runway looks, there was lots of conversation about Jenner’s physical appearance and her seemingly “puffy” face. (Mind you, jet lag and the toll of international travel is a thing.)

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Social media users pounced on the opportunity to share their thoughts on the 26-year-old’s appearance, theorizing that she got bad Botox and filler. One TikTok video analyzing what may have “gone wrong” with Kylie Jenner’s filler has amassed over 3.5 million views.

“I guess it does affect me,” Jenner said of the comments. Which is completely understandable. But what Jenner fails to acknowledge, and what her family as a whole fails to own, is any culpability when it comes to setting toxic beauty standards and exploiting fans who try to achieve them. So, should we really be feeling bad for Kylie Jenner that she’s getting a taste of her own medicine? It’s kind of complicated.

The Kardashians have long been a topic of conversation when it comes to beauty standards

You can’t really talk about modern beauty standards without talking about the Kardashians. From the moment they first appeared on our screens, whacking each other with designer handbags and crying over lost diamond earrings in the ocean, the famous family has been perpetuating unrealistic physical ideals. They’ve done this in myriad ways: by obsessively Photoshopping their social media photos to appear thinner (and refusing to fess up to it), promoting diet products, allegedly using fillers and altering their bodies with cosmetic surgeries (and again remaining tight-lipped on this) and speaking casually — and often admiringly — about crash diets and extreme thinness.

Who amongst us could forget Kim Kardashian’s appearance at the 2022 Met Gala, when the Skims founder not only walked the red carpet with then-boyfriend Pete Davidson, but lost 16 pounds in three weeks in order to fit into her archival Marilyn Monroe gown? It was a fact she very proudly shared with anyone who would listen.

As writer Jia Tolentino wrote for The New Yorker, Kim Kardashian is “patient zero” of the millennial “Instagram Face” phenomenon, essentially helping to create a “single, cyborian look” that eschews individuality and thrives on everyone looking exactly, immaculately the same. That, my friends, is influence.

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The key issue with the Kardashians isn’t necessarily that they look the way that they do. The issue is that the family has spent the bulk of their time in the public eye trying to sell the the illusion that they look the way they do naturally. This has had a tangible impact on the young fans who have tried to emulate them — with sometimes permanent results. After Jenner revealed in 2016 that her suddenly plump pout was indeed due to lip filler, the American Society for Plastic Surgeons reported “a sharp increase in lip procedures.” And a 2018 study found that butt-enhancing procedures like Brazilian Butt Lifts (BBL) had drastically increased by a whopping 256 per cent since 2000.

The Kardashian-Jenners have also profited from the unfair beauty standards they perpetuate

The most nefarious part of all this is that the family not only promotes unattainable beauty ideals, but thens profit by selling products to people, all in the hopes of becoming more like the Kardashians they idolize. They have frequently made conversations around their physical appearances the engine behind their businesses, and thus crucial and vital to their success — and often, without being truthful about how they look the way they do in the first place.

Are you after plump, Jessica Rabbit-esque lips like Kylie? The answer: Buy a Kylie Cosmetics Lip Kit! (No mention of the lip fillers she needed to achieve her own full pout.) Looking to be snatched like Kim K.? Just buy Skims! (No mention of the alleged cosmetic treatments she endured in order to achieve her own trim waistline.) Have you always wanted a juicy butt? Good American Jeans are a must. (No mention of the alleged Ozempic use and cosmetic procedures that resulted in for Khloé’s proportions.) This is simply false advertising.

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Photograph courtesy of Instagram/Kylie Jenner

Which brings us back to Jenner and her recent comments. While we’re against any person being made to feel inadequate or unattractive, the fact remains that the KarJenners utilize — and weaponize — their physical appearances in order to make money. And if you’re going to use people talking about your appearance in your favour, to hawk lip kits, booze and vagina gummies, then you kind of have to be ready to accept the negatives as well — or at least not claim to be a victim when the unfair beauty standards you low-key promote seemingly backfire.

Despite this discourse, Kylie and her sisters refuse to publicly acknowledge the impact they’ve had on people. In a July 2023 episode of the family’s reality show, the sisters came arguably the closest they ever have been to some sort of self-awareness when Jenner tried to broach the subject of the beauty standards they set. Talking to Kourtney and Khloé, Jenner said: “I just think we have huge influence. And what are we doing with our power?” Sadly, the conversation didn’t go any further.

But we also can’t put all the blame on the Kardashians

As much as people love to rag on this family, and as much criticism as they do deserve for their antics, we can’t put the entire weight of toxic beauty standards on their shoulders. Because while yes, Kylie Jenner and her sisters are perpetuating unrealistic beauty ideals, they’re not the sole root cause of the issue.

It feels reductive to blame Kylie Jenner entirely, because as several people pointed out online, Jenner and her family have also fallen victim to the very same system they’re perpetuating. There’s a reason the famous family started altering their own appearances. In a July 2023 episode of The Kardashians, the sisters talked about the impact society had on their own self-esteem, causing them to Photoshop images of themselves in the past.

“That’s how I accumulated all of [my insecurities], is from other people,” Khloé said. “I had the most confidence. I was chubby and in a skintight body-con dress. Society gave me insecurities.”

Jenner, who it’s worth noting has been in the public eye since before she was 10 years old, has spoken frequently about the toll that fame and public scrutiny has taken on her mental health. This is, after all, the same girl who faced paparazzi calling her “ugly” to her face when she was just a teenager. Oof. And despite how controversial the way she went about it was, Jenner’s lip kit empire was created as a direct result to the youngest Jenner being ridiculed for the thinness of her lips.

In the latest episode of The Kardashians, the beauty founder noted how inappropriate it is for people to talk about her looks, regardless of how she got them, saying: “Even if I did get ‘so much surgery’ and all these things, I still don’t think it’s OK to talk about someone’s looks. People have been talking about my looks since I was 12, 13 — before I even got lip filler, people were talking about my looks.”

She’s right. In many ways, critiquing the KarJenners only reinforces the idea that it’s OK to discuss and dissect people’s appearances at all. As writer Hayley Maitland noted in a January article for Vogue, “dissecting someone’s face and body with all the relish of a Beverly Hills surgeon accomplishes nothing beyond re-entrenching the idea that someone’s personal appearance is up for public debate.” And isn’t that where the problem originated from in the first place?

But that doesn’t mean Kylie Jenner and her sisters don’t need to take accountability

Regardless of who started the toxic beauty standards cycle, the Kardashian-Jenner family has undoubtedly contributed to and profited from its perpetuation. And they need to take ownership for that. Up until this point, this is a wish we haven’t seen come to fruition. With the Kylie Jenner’s latest comments about her filler backlash, it seems perhaps the famous family can’t ignore the toxicity of beauty standards and their repercussions, if only because it’s negatively affecting them. Maybe that’s a good thing.

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