Kim Kardashian broke the internet this week, and all of cyberspace seems to be pretty disgusted. Everyone but me.
Yes, she’s the poster child for what-exactly-is-your-claim-to-fame pseudo-celebrities. Yes, she sets an appallingly bad example for young girls who are being taught that sex sells. And yes, she’s become the symbol for all that’s wrong with modern culture. But I give her a pass.
Why am I willing to put my beliefs that a woman’s worth should be determined by what’s on the inside and not on the outside temporarily aside? Because Kim looks just like me. Don’t get me wrong–we really look nothing alike. I’m not nearly as beautiful, glamorous, or, well, bootified. But I have dark hair. I have brown eyes. I have olive skin. I have a hard-to-peg ethnic look. I’m curvy. Hell, I’m even 5’2–the same height as Kim.
When I was coming of age in the 1980s, magazine covers were graced by women who looked nothing like me. The models were gazelles–tall, lithe, fair-skinned, blonde-haired, blue-eyed. No amount of Sun-In or dieting would ever make me look that way. Instead, I spent years developing terrible self-esteem, convincing myself that I was fat when I was, in fact, the perfect size, and loathing my dark hair, dark eyes, and dark skin.
Over the years, my ethnicity became the subject of a guessing game among strangers. Are you Italian? Greek? Puerto Rican? Middle Eastern? Armenian? The latter didn’t make sense to me until the Kardashians burst onto the scene. I had never met or seen anyone Armenian. I had that aha moment the first time I laid eyes on Kim, Kourtney, and the rest of the clan. I do kind of look Armenian.
I still get asked about my ethnicity at 40. Just last week while I was in line with my kids ordering food, a woman excitedly asked if I were Italian. I told her no, and noticed a mild look of disappointment fall upon her face. She didn’t press me further, but most people do. When I give my stock answer–Eastern European–to those curious minds, they usually look completely baffled.
My 10-year-old daughter also gets quizzed about her ethnicity. She inherited my dark, wavy hair and olive complexion and my husband’s full lips. Her eyes are a lovely shade of hazel. She looks less like Kim K than I do, but still fields questions from strangers about her country of origin. When she was a baby, we were at an Arby’s in the middle-of-nowhere North Carolina. Someone approached us and said, “Mixed babies are always the most beautiful.” My husband, whose roots are also Eastern European, didn’t bother to correct her.
I’m hoping that my daughter won’t grow up with the self-esteem issues that I had since our culture embraces diversity now more than ever. In our household, we value education, encourage creativity, and work on teaching both of our children that the lives they lead and the manner in which they lead them are of the utmost importance. I certainly don’t applaud an oiled, photoshopped butt on a magazine cover, nor would I ever want my daughter to think that acting like a Kardashian is appropriate. That type of self-centered, overtly sexualized behavior will never be accepted in our home.
But it’s unrealistic to expect that a preteen girl isn’t going to be anxious about her looks, isn’t going to scrutinize herself in the mirror, isn’t going to compare herself to the images she sees on the screen and in print. If my daughter grows up completely uninterested in how she looks, that would be amazing, but I’d also be a fool to think that’s realistic. If she does pay attention to the images around her, I prefer her to be exposed to a host of different sizes, shapes, and colors. Kim K is by no means the ideal role model, or a role model at all, but at least she’s different.
Now as for that infamous
cover–while we’re all wasting time on social media expressing outrage, Kim is laughing all the way to bank.