Elle is doing this goofy gambit where 50,000 of its subscribers get special “personalized” messages from Kim Kardashian on their issues. I put that in quotes because she did not herself autograph all 50,000 of them; they are computer generated (it’s questionable how much of any of that is even her handwriting), and it’s unclear from the PR materials whether there are any available messages other than “Hi _____! Love you! XOXO!” I’m guessing they had a rotating stock of 10 or so. Kim’s quote is about being so excited to see people’s reactions to their special personalized covers, but is this really a valuable, touching, thrilling surprise of any kind? It reminds me of that scene in The American President where Michael J. Fox says — referring to leadership — that people who crawl through the desert and find no water will drink the sand because they’re so desperate and thirsty, and Michael Douglas snarls, “They don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty. They drink the sand because they don’t know the difference.” This feels like assuming those 50,000 Elle subscribers don’t know the difference.

There are two covers available right now, which you can see in the above slideshow, along with the interior pics. I haven’t seen a cover with any text, although every Elle in 2018 so far has been very minimalist, and it’s not like Kim’s visage requires an ID at this point in time. One is so-so. One is actually pretty good. And the interiors are… hit and miss and very Kim.

The story itself is well-written from a technical standpoint. It begins thusly:

Standing in the airy kitchen of her Calabasas home, Kim Kardashian West looks like she might be the twentysomething nanny or assistant of Kim Kardashian West. Without her signature chassis of bronzer, highlighter, contouring, and skintight Yeezy garb, the 37-year-old is almost indistinguishable from the handful of staff in the room, even to someone who has absorbed probably 300 GB of her selfies. In a long-sleeve cotton shirt and athletic pants, and with her hair in cornrows (more on that later), she is softer, daintier, in three dimensions than she is in two. I shouldn’t be surprised. If anything is true of Kim, it is her endless talent for optical illusions.

I appreciate the point here — the way Kim in person might not be what you expect — but choosing to make that point via likening her to the staff is off-putting, as if the very concept of The Staff invokes styleless riff-raff and that the notion of Kim blending in with, gasp, regular people is beyond the pale.

Oh, and about those corn rows. Shortly after this interview, Kim debuted them to much criticism and accusations of insensitivity, largely because she compared herself to Bo Derek and then doubled down on that comparison after the firestorm. There was concern she didn’t actually understand that Bo Derek didn’t invent cornrows, and that she was handwaving their complex cultural history. The Elle writer clearly is trying to give weight to the controversy, but — I suspect — is also handcuffed by not being able to criticize their famous cover subject. I sympathize with not being able to throw any real darts here; what I think helps is that Kim is given the last word on the matter, but it’s not a very useful one, so it makes me want to read between the lines of the author’s intent a bit.

“I’m not worried, because I love Bo Derek,” she says. “It’s a reference. If you genuinely love something, then it’s what you should do. It’s appreciation.” That may be her belief. And perhaps you could make a case that Kim is, in fact, referencing someone else’s act of cultural appropriation and therefore subverting the error. But you could also make the case that she’s compounding it. The way she sees it, she’s just doing what feels right to her. “It’s one thing when people mock something and are negative. I’m clearly not being negative. Images mean a lot to me. I spend a lot of time on them.”

Firstly, if images mean a lot to her and she spends so much time on them, you’d think she would choose them more intelligently and carefully. But beyond that, one thing we’ve learned over the years is that you can’t argue, “Well, I didn’t mean any harm, therefore I didn’t cause any.” You have to adjust your perception. You have to take the note, if not in letter then at least in spirit. Take the note, Kim. Just take it.

[Photos: Elle/Boo George]