Last week on Cosmopolitan.com, assistant fashion and beauty editor Brooke Shunatona published an article in which she chronicled living like Kylie Jenner for a week (because who else would a successful, apparently functional adult want to live like?).
I have one very important question for Ms. Shunatona: was she really at all surprised? Has she honestly looked at photographs of Ms. Jenner and thought, “Wow, that must be easy — I could totally put on that much makeup every day and not be exhausted!” Was it actually a revelation that putting that much energy into the way you look is emotionally draining?
“Because I’d put so much thought into my appearance, I cared that much more about what others would think of the way I looked, and that is something I never usually do,” she wrote. “I wondered if this is how Kylie feels on a regular basis, except times a million because there’s so much pressure for women in entertainment to look good.”
I really don’t know if that’s supposed to be a deep insight, because it seemed pretty obvious before this article was written. Ms. Shunatona repeatedly states that she rarely wears makeup, but that’s a poor excuse. She is an assistant beauty editor; she knows very well how much physical and mental effort it takes to make oneself look the way Kylie Jenner does.
In some ways, having all that with very little obvious “real” work (no, putting on makeup and going to the gym does not count) might seem like a pretty sweet life. Maybe it is, but if we’re going to agree with Ms. Shunatona’s conclusions, it’s really not. Instead, what Kylie Jenner represents is pretty disheartening.
I obviously do not know the real Ms. Jenner – I cannot speak to her inner talents nor her real flaws, and she may be a perfectly nice woman, but I can observe her very public persona, in which I see the crystallization of a culture that values material goods and appearances far too heavily, causing a pretty heavy physical and emotional drain on women.
Furthermore, whereas we at least saw Kim Kardashian enter the public eye with a little bit of work (she started as Paris Hilton’s assistant, after all), Public Kylie reaps the fruits and spends the money without any of the labor. She’s the beneficiary of the American dream having escaped the bootstrap struggle — and is somehow turning that into an Insta- career.
I don’t know that there’s any “solution” to this, but I think it is important that we think twice before rewarding a woman by watching her videos about what bra she wears, writing articles that reference her “curves,” and, especially, venerating this culture by trying to live like her for a week.
Caitlin Lansing is a 2014 graduate of Princeton University, where an adamant belief that “freak shows turned into beauty pageants” propelled her to write a 90-page history thesis about it. A former dancer and college cheerleader, she is no stranger to body scrutiny, and seeks to challenge the idea that one’s worth intimately tied to appearance.