Somewhere between a sex tape, a reality show, and a series of pro-athlete boyfriends, Kim Kardashian became more famous than Paris Hilton. And while some of us are content to ride the wave that is Hollywood’s celebrity-industrial complex, others can’t ignore the nagging feeling that America’s most famous Armenian is famous for, well, nothing.
Last month, Stefano Tonchi put Kardashian (naked) on the cover of his ailing glossy W in what some called a cheap ploy for newsstand sales and publicity and what others called genius. The New York Times saw it and called it “The Perfect Peg To A Thursday Styles Story About Kim Kardashian And Why She’s Famous.”
And while we love Eric Wilson, the secret to Kardashian’s popularity is laid out in the red banner Barbara Kruger placed across that cover: “It’s all about me / I mean you / I mean me.” Kim Kardashian is famous for whatever we want her to be famous for which in turn makes her even more famous. For example, this is what happens when the New York Times asks fans what it is they love about Kim.
“The average girl,” said Julie Sunday, 22, from Scranton, [Pennsylvania]…
“She represents fashion,” said Wendy Sosa, 22, a waitress from the Bronx. “I like the way she dresses.”
“She has an ethnic sex appeal,” said Sarah Harooni, 26, a paralegal from Queens. “I like how she created a franchise with her sisters. That opens a lot of opportunities for women who have a spark of beauty and want to shine. She reminds me of Sophia Loren.”
In other words, Kim represents whatever these women want her to represent — a relationship of and in which Kardashian is not only aware, but entirely complicit.
As Wilson writes:
She does not talk about fashion and image as most designers and celebrity designers do, with platitudes about quality and authenticity, but rather as a person who seems wholly content to allow consumers to project upon her whatever image they wish. “I really do believe I am a brand for my fans,” she said.
She does not talk about design in terms of cut or craft, either, but of Twitter and Facebook, of blogs and text messages. When fans ask her what she is wearing or what lip gloss she uses, she answers them and then creates products in the vein of what they like. When she was deciding on a color for her Kim Kardashian perfume bottle, she asked her followers on Twitter whether they preferred a hot pink or a light pink. (It was light pink, by far.) “Twitter is the most amazing focus group out there,” she said.
And so, Kardashian becomes a designer, a buyer, a launcher of credit cards for children, and a spokesperson for any and every brand willing to pay her — provided they have a product her consumers want. She may not be particularly talented, but some designers could benefit from taking a page or two out of Kardashian’s book. If you give your consumers what they want, they will buy it.
Kim Kardashian Inc. [NYT]