Kim Kardashian’s third Vogue cover comes at an intriguing time in her personal life. She’s in the middle of a messy, protracted divorce from Kanye “Ye” West in which he’s venting his spleen all over social media, and the two of them are in something of a dueling paparazzi relationship battle: Ye and Julia Fox vs. Kim and Pete Davidson, with Ye and Julia dominating the street-style visuals and Kim and Pete scoring the coolness points and the Us Weekly stories about how serious they are. Allegedly, prior to the 2014 wedding cover, Anna was strongly opposed to legitimizing Planet Kardashia until Ye — at the time, more of a… coherent force of creative nature — stepped in and brokered the deal. That’s all hearsay, and Anna has denied it, but her tepid editor’s letter said, “Kanye is an amazing performer and cultural provocateur, while Kim, through her strength of character, has created a place for herself in the glare of the world’s spotlight, and it takes real guts to do that,” which to me translates to, “Kanye is the talented man of the hour and we want a piece of that, and Kim… sure is relentless and inescapable.” Anna has since leaned in, though, giving Kendall her own cover and Kim a second one– the May 2019 issue, a prestigious gift because it was on stands at the time of the Met Gala, and Kim’s damp photo neatly and surely deliberately presaged her wet-look Mugler gala ensemble. And now, in 2022, here is Kelly Taylor Kardashian, choosing herself on a third cover and her first without Ye at her side. And right at the time when Ye has been firing an arsenal of poison darts her way. (I almost made the post headline “Kim Kardashian IS Kelly Taylor IN 9021-Vogue,” but then I cringed at myself.) Anna is officially Team Kim. Related: Kanye posted the spread’s pictures of his kids to Instagram with the caption, “GOD PLEASE BRING OUR FAMILY BACK TOGETHER.” I… do not know what to make of that.
We can talk about the cover itself in the slideshow; now, let’s take a gander at the story, about which I have enough thoughts that I need to put them in list form. I highly recommend reading the whole thing, because your reactions to some of it when read in the proper flow may not be the same as mine, and also, there’s enough to talk about that I actually skipped over a few bits to try and keep this from ballooning even more than it already has. The way Kim presents herself, and they way the Vogue machine is eagerly participating in it, interests me in large part because she likes to pretend that the way she presents herself doesn’t really matter — and yet it’s also heavily curated, so obviously she only believes it doesn’t matter when it’s convenient for her to handwave it. Anyway:
1. The opening anecdote is about Kim’s kids playing while waiting for her to come downstairs for her shoot, at which point there is some convoluted prose about Kim negotiating with each of them to get them to leave her and go inside, or something. (She is praised for giving each one undivided attention during the negotiations, which feels like a low bar.) We’ve all been there with needing to appease our kids for a second, but also, can’t they hang out and watch? Or, realistically, wouldn’t a nanny be like, “Hey, I’ve got this, go do your shoot,” without Kim needing to barter with Robux? I imagine this was supposed to be a Portrait of Family Normalcy, but it didn’t really land. But for me the line that was the most cringey was when the author notes that even though Kim is so famous and glamorous, the kids “first and foremost” call her Mommy. I mean… yes? They’re her kids. Should they call her Ma’am or Ms. Kardashian or Kimothy or K-Directorate or…? This notion that it’s noteworthy when fancy people are just plain ol’ mom is so dopey to me. Of course they call her Mommy. Of course to them she Mommy. But consider again that Kim is in the middle of Ye sqwawking about her parenting, so I’m guessing Vogue is trying to be very specific about its brushstrokes here.
2. She tells a story about being in the Bahamas for the holidays, and how she was with people (Pete?) who threw their phones in the ocean to disconnect from the world. This thrilled her (she did not do it though). It gives me anxiety. Did you back up your phone? Is all your shit in the cloud? Do you really want to spent $1000 on a new one? Was that phone already kind of dying or broken so it wasn’t as brave a gesture as Kim thinks? And did you please go get the phone carcass(es) out of the ocean? Because our planet doesn’t need that polluting the water. Get your dumb dirty death-brick out of the ocean please, Pete-or-Kim’s-random-friends. Next time, how about just symbolically dropping it into a glass of ice water?
3. Instead of finding freedom by tossing her phone, Kim changed her number to dodge the feelings of guilt and rudeness that came from her backlog of ignored and unreplied-to messages. Kim, that’s STILL being rude. You’re still ignoring the messages. You CHANGED YOUR NUMBER on people without telling them and so they’re still sending texts into the ether (well, presumably until they read Vogue, at which point they’ll learn they’re off your list). That’s not even just being too overwhelmed or off-the-grid to hit reply; that’s full-on being mean. It’s calculated rudeness, rather than the overwhelmed kind. Which is actually ruder.
4. Kim’s chef, who has just gotten over Covid, comes out to deliver some snacks and Kim asks how he’s feeling. His answer is that he’s still really tired. She nods. It’s such a weird detail. I read that twice, thinking I would get to a part where she sent him home with pay for a few more days to get his strength back. Maybe she eventually did, but it’s not on paper.
5. Much has been made over Kim’s efforts to pass the Baby Bar — on her fourth try, she did, which is three more tries than I thought she’d bother with, so kudos for that– and how she’s studying law without going to law school. At first I didn’t get why she wouldn’t just… go to law school, but I see where she might think she has the profile and platform and money NOW to make a difference if she goes straight to apprenticeship and then crams on the side, besides which, it means she can pick a trusted attorney and skip having to be around a bunch of loose-lipped looky-loos in a classroom. (She sincerely MIGHT be too famous to go to law school and be taken seriously; it’s been hard enough for people to take her Baby Bar aspirations seriously.) But I had to wince when the human rights lawyer she works for says that Kim is doing law school “the hardest way possible.” I immediately went, “SAY WHAT,” and that was BEFORE I read this next piece:
Though [Jessica] Jackson, who leads two nonprofits aimed at shrinking the prison industrial complex, took her own hard road to a legal career—finishing both college and law school in six years only after her then husband was sent to prison, leaving her a single mother without a high school diploma—she believes Kim’s path is even more difficult. “I wasn’t trying to run a business, film a show, and raise four kids.”
SAY WHAT, AGAIN? Kim has an enormous family, a (tired) chef, an army of nannies, and a massive financial cushion to pay for the things that will keep her life running while she devotes herself to academia. We can absolutely give Kim credit for pushing herself, for trying to think outside herself, and for trying to get it done without a bunch of assholes filming her talking in class. Personally, I think it’s great that Kim is turning her gaze outside of herself — in whatever form it takes — because she’s got the wealth and influence to have her choices matter. But we do not need to give her that credit by moving the needle into absurdist territory. Kim Kardashian is not limping exhaustedly down the most difficult law road anyone has ever traveled. She achieves what she does because she’s supported by privileges other people can only dream of, and I cannot imagine someone drowning in law-school loans and multiple night jobs reading this interview and having any kind thoughts at ALL about Kim’s road being the most difficult. Just no. And we should not participate in diminishing Jessica Jackson’s remarkable achievements to boost Kim, even if Jessica Jackson is graciously inviting that comparison.
6. The article touches (with a feather-light caress) on Kim’s extreme cultural influence, aesthetically, and whether any of what she and her sisters promote — or the way they promote it (if FaceTune and filters could burn out, their phones would be smoking every thirty seconds) — is toxic. Kim says she does think generally about what her kids might run across on social media, and how it might make them feel, but waves that off as being willing to “have conversations” with them and nothing more. She then rolls into a whole thing about how racehorses stay the course because they wear blinkers, and so she, too, puts on her blinders and focuses only on what’s ahead in her life and then trying to be happy for other people (this is such a roundabout Moral Superiority way of dismissing critics as “haters”). In sum, Kim comes right out and says she doesn’t waste a minute thinking about her own cultural footprint, because she’d rather just keep on making more of them, the effects of which she also will presumably waste no time contemplating. The expression “blinkered” is not a compliment, Kimbo.
7. There is an interesting button on the piece, pertaining to how Kanye always shaped each phase of her style and now she gets to do that herself. I’ll let her tell it, as the kids say. But I will note: Yes, celebrities are but human, and have the same fears we all do. However, while money cannot buy certain things, it certainly can pay for a sense of security in the face of life changes. So it’s a little hard for me to relate to her when she says it’s “scary” to be out there all on her own. And she might even just mean in terms of fashion, which…?!? That is not a real fear. She kind of knows that but maybe… doesn’t? Kim is not very introspective, I don’t think, and the story reads like the writer spent a lot of time with her and got plenty of stuff to describe, but not a lot of meat from Kim herself to give it meaning.
8. Speaking of Ye, I have a fair bit of sympathy for Kim because of the co-parenting pickle she seems to be in, and the fact that she does seem to be trying to take the high road. Now, I don’t know what is going on with Ye specifically, but he has confirmed in the past that he’s bipolar, and certainly he has seemed erratic more often than not lately. It must take an enormous amount of mental and emotional energy on everyone’s part to keep the kids feeling safe and happy and loved, and I respect that Kim appears to have tried to keep herself out of Kanye’s tantrums in the press as much as possible, and has even extended olive branches to her ex (like publicly supporting his album release, via a coordinated stunt where she showed up in a wedding gown). She’s very diplomatic in this profile. I’m sure there’s a think piece out there about whether Kardashians as a unit were complicit in Ye’s diminishing mental health (or more accurately, perhaps, in sweeping it under the rug), but the reality is, Ye’s mind is his and his alone. A grown adult is incredibly hard to safely micromanage in this way if that person is unable to participate in their own care, or refuses to do so. From my limited experience (it does not involve my own family), there is not a system in place to make a legal adult comply with meds or care instructions unless they are under a specific psychiatric hold, which is hard to get, so often all that’s left for everyone in that person’s orbit is to sit on their hands, watch life unfold, and wait, and worry, and pray equilibrium will win out. It’s scary and heartbreaking. So again, whatever is going on with Ye, I give Kim — she who is so public — credit for finding a way to keep as much of it private as is within her control. (Having said that, and while I think it’s great that she won’t vilify Ye to their kids, I hope she IS able to have frank discussions with them as they get older because they will have a lot of questions.)
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