When I finally gave up my prejudices and just sat down and watched Keeping Up With the Kardashians already, I found myself completely hooked on a show that, apart from all its zany shenanigans and larger-than-life characters, was filled with people who really spanned the spectrum of body types. Yes, they’re all beautiful and it’s difficult for a normal woman to look like one of them, but in strange ways, the Kardashians and Jenners really taught me a lot about loving my own body and expressing my sexuality. One wouldn’t think the Kardashians would be good role models, but in some ways, they kind of are.
I started watching Kardashians circa 2011, before the younger Jenner girls became the social media behemoths they are now, topping the list of Time’s 25 Most Influential Teens in 2014 and cornering the market on the Instagram selfie (right behind sister Kim). So when Kendall and Kylie Jenner hit puberty, I was just in awe of their beauty and their very differing bodies. But more than that, I’m constantly in awe of how the Kardashian clan own their different body types.
2014 saw several huge Kardashian stories: Kim Kardashian posing nude on the cover of Paper magazine, Kendall Jenner wearing that sheer top at the Marc Jacobs show, Kourtney shooting a nude pregnancy spread, and who could forget Kylie’s metamorphosing lips? The common factor that ran throughout all of these alleged “scandals” is that the Kardashians are comfortable with their bodies. They approach sexuality openly and without shame. And that is possibly the strongest message I could have learned from them. For example…
Kim proved there’s no such thing as a perfect body type.
Kim swept onto the scene years ago and changed the way our culture viewed beauty. Kim “brought back” the curvy-girl ideal and challenged the waif look that was so dominant during my childhood. Some may think it’s just another example of a “perfect” body type that’s unattainable, but Kim’s body was not the normal beauty standard at the time, and she changed that. She made us embrace our curves again.
Go ahead! Post a selfie if you’re “feeling your look.”
I also learned from Kim that if you like the way you look on a certain day, posting a selfie can be a powerful way to express self-love. If you’re really struggling with your weight gain (even though you’re still beautiful at any weight), it’s okay to want to take a naked picture and feel strong in your sexuality. I respect Kim for owning her sexuality and for deciding under what circumstances the world got to see her naked. I also feel sorry for her, because she felt less than the gorgeous goddess she is when she gained pregnancy weight. But that photo shoot made her feel good, and I was struck with the powerful statement she made on the risque cover of that magazine, her tendency to self-promote aside.
It’s okay to do things that make you feel good about yourself.
Kourtney is the girl with the breast implants. Kourtney, with all her determination, arrogance, fire and intelligence, proudly stated that she’s had a boob job and that she doesn’t care what you think. Kourtney taught me that plastic surgery can be a positive thing if it significantly changes the way you approach your body. If tweaking something makes you happier, feel stronger and more confident, then no one should shame you for taking that big step.
Kourtney also had a nude shoot, and showed me how stunning pregnancy is, and how as women, our changing bodies should be celebrated.
You’re beautiful at any size.
There’s Khloe, also known as “the fat one.” Khloe got a lot of flack when she first became famous, simply because she was taller and a little bigger than her petite sisters, and she looked a little different. Khloe had to deal with a negative body image for most of her life, and every time she received a hateful comment, my heart grieved. No one deserves to have that kind of public hatred directed toward them because of their appearance. And dear, funny Khloe also inspired me with her constant deluge of workout videos on Instagram, and showed me that if you feel good about yourself, you’ll look good too.
Kendall proved she controls her body, and that no one argues with Marc Jacobs.
Kendall walked the runway in an open-weave top in 2014, which prompted many to call her an exhibitionist and many, many other much more impolite things, but all I could think when I saw her was, “wow, that must be so liberating.” And also, in her own words, “who’s going to argue with Marc Jacobs when he’s putting you in an outfit?” Kendall made a circumspect choice for her career, did something she felt comfortable with, and took control of her body. Her actions were almost exclusively for the female gaze, but her body is also her own to do with what she will. She’s happy with her choices and her body, and that’s a lesson that truly hit home. I hated how the media treated her: they shamed her for making choices about her body, and that’s never okay.
Kylie taught us all a lesson about minding our own dang business, and showed that even she feels different because of her fame.
The world saw growing Kylie and struggled with itself, at a loss to understand her expanding mouth. But once again, the family owned the narrative of their bodies and didn’t take kindly to being cyber-bullied. Jenner took to social media to remind the world to “talk about something important” and leave her alone. And then a few months ago, Kylie stepped out with a shirt that said “DUFF” across the front, a.k.a. “Designated Ugly Fat Friend.” People on social media tore her apart, because what does she know about being ugly and fat? But I feel like Kylie was up to something here.
Personally, I feel like Kylie wore that shirt because she knows what it’s like to be picked apart, criticized, attacked, and hated because of the way you choose to present yourself to the world. Kylie’s lips—whether or not they were surgically enhanced—are her own business, not the world’s. Truly, all of the Kardashians have been attacked constantly for what they do with their own bodies. Kylie’s not fat, but she may sometimes feel the same shame plus-size women feel when they hear the derogatory term aimed at them. The word DUFF is the act of reclaiming the word “fat” and turning it into a positive.
The bottom line is that nobody’s perfect. The Kardashian girls are polarizing in our society and have done somewhat questionable things, but they also have the influence and ability to change the way women perceive their bodies and their sexuality. All of the Kardashians have, time and time again, changed the narrative about their bodies and owned their sexuality. Indirectly and inexplicably, they’ve taught me about my own body, my own sexuality, and all the myriad ways to love myself.