A Look Back at Kylie Jenner’s Curious (But Amazing) Style Evolution
The birth and naming of Saint West has barely taken the pressure of the public eye off of Kylie Jenner since her controversial Interview Magazine cover hit the stands. In the spread, Jenner is dressed as a sort of sex doll in various constricting, shiny leather garments, her arms eerily stiff and arranged at robotic-like angles, recalling the artist Allen Jones’ first sculptures from 1969.
The press storm generated by the photos were immediate—other than the obvious comments on Jenner’s body and a flurry of about the ass-less leggings she dons in many of the shots, critics also targeted Jenner for posing in a wheelchair, deeming it insensitive to those who live with the reality of a wheelchair daily. Young, differently-abled women took to the web to post photos of themselves in similar garb, captioning their photos with things like “where are OUR magazine covers?” while the tabloids ran pieces with titles like “What Kylie Jenner should know about what it’s actually like to live in a wheelchair.” The comments on posts like this were full of choice insults for Jenner, with people calling her “Kytard,” “slut,” a “moron.”
Jenner is no stranger to bad press. Having rocketed to fame during her later teen years, she’s come under fire for many things: her lavish 18th birthday party gift (Ferrari), her use of cosmetic enhancements (lip injections), her relationship (she’s just turned 19, he’s 26). While it’s obvious that posing in a wheelchair is in poor taste for anyone, it often seems as if Jenner’s youth and bizarre upbringing is forgotten in these criticisms—rather than remembering that Jenner is a kid of barely 18 who’s grown up under a spotlight she was too young to ask for, she’s been positioned in pop culture as the punching bag of her family, a stand-in for the opulence and vapidity that one associates with the name Kardashian.
The harsh spotlight on Kylie may be in part because her style is almost addictively fun to observe, partially because you have no idea what’s going to happen next—her hair alone changes colour more than a mood ring. Like her sisters, she is rarely seen sans a perfectly coordinated ensemble: she’ll gravitate towards form-fitting, often mono-chromatic looks one day—she recently stepped out at the Dash boutique in an all white suit and moss green hair—and then appear in a very fall-appropriate, regular ensemble of knee-high boots, jeans and a caramel leather jacket.
Or perhaps Jenner inspires such ireful attention because she is very much a reminder of the they-have-no-reason-to-be-famous refrain many critics sing about the Kardashians—like her sisters, she has no concrete, palpable trade to thank for her fame. Whereas Kendall Jenner is making a name for herself as a model, Jenner’s “thing” is a bit more unclear. She seems to not really know who she is—something that’s made poignantly clear in her Interview Magazine piece, where her persona comes across as a confused series of publicity sound bytes.
In the interview, Jenner speaks about wishing to eschew her lifestyle of constant presentation, but also seems inextricably tied to it. Despite saying she wishes she could be “invisible” (her chosen superpower), Kylie admits to never having gone a day without checking social media.
The contradictions continue from there: Jenner says that if she wasn’t famous she’d “never wear makeup, because I honestly hate wearing makeup,” but also dreams of having “a successful makeup line.” She wants to be a good role model and also portray her true self when posting photos or doing shoots, but admits that the persona you see Instagram and Snapchats is “so not me.” Her one moment of true clarity about herself comes from own admission at her lack there of: “I’m just trying to not lose myself through this process,” she says in response to a question about how she manages to remain true to herself. “Because I feel like I’ve already lost parts of me, like, my youth,” says Kylie.
Culpability and fame have a strange relationship—culturally, we’ve created this crazy world of celebrity but haven’t really decided yet whether or not famous people are allowed to be treated like normal people. Much energy goes into Jenner’s family defending many of her actions by saying that she’s special given her wealth and opportunities—her sister Kim famously justified Jenner’s relationship with Tyga by saying that Jenner is not a normal teen—yet this same specialness seems to open the door for critics and commenters to hate on Jenner.
However, stripped of context, stripped of this “specialness” or any loaded feelings you may have towards the Kardashians and how they’ve achieved their fame, hating on Kylie Jenner is hating on a kid who never really had a shot at figuring out who they were, because her parents decided for her by hiring a camera crew—and most of us tuned in to watch. Kylie Jenner may seem doll-like in public persona, in her over the top snap-chat videos, photo shoots and wardrobe, but she’s a living, breathing product of our own fascination with beauty, wealth and fame and hating on her doesn’t serve any purpose—other than reflecting our own distaste for ourselves.