Lonely idiots on the Internet love bemoaning the deservedness of Kardashian fame. Look at the comments on any Kardashian-related story and you’ll find them there, shouting into the abyss, like the animatronic vermin in a game of whack-a-mole set off long after the arcade has closed. “This whole family is just an embarrassment,” they declare, before retreating to remove their dinner from the microwave. There are heaps of resentment based in the idea that the Kardashians are robber barons of collective vapidity, greedily profiting off our worst cultural traits with their every move. That is, except for Kendall Jenner. Kendall Jenner seems like she would really love it if you guys could just let the whole sex-tape-cum-empire thing go.
Kendall’s younger sister Kylie seems to have gleefully inherited the spoils of Kim’s meteoric rise to fame. She appears to spend her waking hours posing for photos or those impossibly mesmerizing videos (in which she simply stares at the camera and moves it around a little bit). If you’re a cynic, it’s all a thinly-veiled vessel to sell us $29 lipgloss. If you’re a fan, it’s genius trash. Either way, it’s absolutely working.
The networth of popular opinion matters little for Kendall, though. Kendall is a model, and the fashion world isn’t quite sold on the whole Kardashian thing. It’s warmed up in recent years, but the name remains more of an obstacle than an advantage. Although her recent onslaught of magazine covers may suggest otherwise, if the Kardashian fame is water, Kendall is an awkward salmon, desperately flopping her way upstream.
Let’s revisit 2012, when Kendall and Kylie were just additional human beings who had been born into the Kardashian-Jenner name, rather than multi-millionaire moguls in their own right. For New York magazine’s fashion issue that year, the publication covered the book with a highly-saturated, deliberately out-of-focus photo of Kim along with a profile titled, “What Will the Fashion World Do With Kim Kardashian?” Kim was then embarking into the industry alongside then-boyfriend Kanye West, and rumor had it that Anna Wintour was not having it.
“Fashion is androgynous, anorexic, self-punishing, full of security-blanket snobberies,” wrote Benjamin Wallace. “It wants to be transcendent, above mass commerce. It hates sex, even as it sells it (coldly). It hates flesh. Kim Kardashian—a sexpot with curves and a prodigious behind, a sybarite as well as a full-on capitalist—is an affront to everything it holds dear. It’s hard to imagine a model who converted her looks into a business empire being perceived as anything other than impressive—an entrepreneur—but for this world Kim may be the wrong kind of model.”
Of course, the business empire has since vastly expanded, and the Kardashian brand has come to include a body type beyond Kim’s iconic frame. It’s a waist-trained middle, spilling out in breasts and butts, leading to dopey proclamations of curviness being “trendy” (as if such physical forms never before existed). And then there’s Kendall, tall, thin, and often likened to an (incredibly beautiful) alien. She’s off-brand, but the brand is still holding her back.
Kendall’s struggle with the Kardashian name was first explicitly acknowledged in the mobile game “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood” back in May.
“Not sure if you know, but I had lots of haters when I started working fashion shows,” the Kendall character said to a player from Cosmopolitan during a “phone call.” She continued: “They said stuff like I bought my stuff in the shows or my mom just made some phone calls. I’m not going to say that stuff didn’t bother me. But at the end of the day, I was following my dream of being a fashion model.”
There are plenty of blind items decrying Kendall’s rise, though the contentiousness has largely been kept quiet.
“It’s not really a shock,” “a source with inside knowledge of the modeling game” allegedly told Starcasm. “Kendall gets a ton of special treatment. She came out of nowhere and now she’s like best friends with all the major designers. The other girls are incredibly bitter about it. They all complain about how she bought her career, that she’s not really a good model and on and on.”
If Kendall really wanted to respond to her detractors, she could could have used Twitter, where she has almost as many followers as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump combined. She could have used Instagram or Snapchat, or gone full artillery and pasted the same notes app proclamation across all three. Instead, she buried the experience inside her sister’s video game.
Where Kim, Kylie, etc. profit from overexposure, Kendall is withdrawn, mostly posting promos for holiday collections or her ghost-written dystopian novel series. On her iteration of the paid-for app, the stories are mostly mundane and unengaged. There’s nothing Kendall is even willing to unlock. She would never throw an identical birthday party for Blac Chyna’s son the very next day or release secretly recorded phone calls on social media to an onslaught of snake emojis. There’s a sense that the fashion world has her on probation, and in order to comply with the terms, she must disappear herself from portions of the Kardashian business entirely.
So many lonely idiots on the Internet hate the Kardashians for how much they are loved, but in Kendall’s soulful alien eyes, the fame-esque spoils are cursed more than anything else. Don’t feel bad for her. There are approximately 6.9 billion people you should feel bad for before Kendall Jenner. Still, unlimited Lyft rides, free Airbnb stays, and whatever else are perks of a job with no opting out or time off. That’s true for all of the sisters, but most obvious for Kendall, as she sneakily recedes from the fray, often with a casually exposed nipple winking at how little we know about her. Maybe we don’t know as much as we think we know about any of the Kardashian-Jenners, but we know even less about Kendall, and her quiet elusivity makes the whole illusion seem less than enviable after all.