There’s an old adage that often brings me comfort when the sight of my haggard, makeup-free face in the morning hits me like a horror movie jump-scare: “You’re not ugly, you’re just poor.” In other words, meeting the ridiculous beauty standards set by exorbitantly wealthy celebrities is extremely expensive, and unattainable to most people.
Kim Kardashian, a billionaire, apparently does not believe in this adage. In an interview with Allure published Thursday, in which Kardashian supposedly spills all the secrets about how she looks the way she does, Allure asks whether “she feels responsible, even guilty, for setting an unrealistic, unattainable beauty standard.” Kardashian responds, “If I’m doing it, it’s attainable.” In other words, to quote, well, Kim herself, just “get your ass up and work” if you want to look like her! If you want these surgically rendered proportions, just do some squats!
Of course, Kardashian’s own stories later in the interview contradict the notion that her look is “attainable” to all. When Allure asks about the criticisms she faced for boasting about losing 16 pounds to fit in Marilyn Monroe’s iconic dress at this year’s Met Gala, she responds: “If I was starving and doing it really unhealthy, I would say that, of course, that’s not a good message. But I had a nutritionist, I had a trainer.” These are not things everyone can afford, Kimberly!!
All of this very much reminds me of Emily Ratajkowski’s claim that she “doesn’t really go to the gym,” while maintaining abs so intense they look like Marvel Studios CGI. Like, it’s fine to be insanely hot. But when you brush off or conceal the probably expensive, time-consuming ways that you obtained your hotness—which are unavailable to 99% of people—you’re literally, deliberately just making people feel like shit.
Celebrities have access to private chefs, nutritionists, personal trainers, surgeons, aestheticians, and probably some professions that my proletarian brain can’t even conceive of. And fair enough (not really!), but don’t just tell people you look the way you do from taking walks, or that any beauty standard that you, a billionaire, set is “attainable” to everyday people. When your whole job is to sell and maintain a specific look, to shill your own line of beauty products by telling the poors we can look just like you if we buy them, at least respect us enough to be even semi-transparent!
Throughout the rest of Kardashian’s Allure interview, she admits to “a little botox,” but “never” filler on her face—a claim at least one beauty critic is challenging:
The rest of the piece is about as predictably, almost comfortingly out-of-touch as you might expect. Despite Kardashian’s billionaire status, she explains that she identifies as an “underdog” because she is “on a reality show and that’s not respected,” and she feels “like I need to work harder to show you guys that I’m not the person you think.” That’s relatable enough—mean internet comments can really get me down. But the difference between me and Kardashian is that she has the option to never log on the internet again and jet to Turks and Caicos every weekend, whilst I have to keep working or die.
Contrary to what I’ve written so far might suggest, I have no real grudge against Kardashian. Her frequent, cringe quotes may make her easy to pick on, but she’s by no means the only celebrity or influencer who isn’t fully transparent about how they got their look—while simultaneously force-feeding us their skin-care or beauty line. My grudge is with broader celebrity-beauty culture, and the endemic insecurity, disordered behaviors, and mental health struggles it’s inflicted on generations of young women and girls.