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Kim Kardashian’s Goodbye to Instagram Face: Are Women of Colour Better or Worse Off?

ByAnjale Gnanasampanthan

Mar 17, 2023
An image of Kim Kardashian wearing a black dress

On the 12th of December, 2019, the New Yorker published an article declaring that the 2010s had been an ‘Age of Instagram Face’. This referenced how the popularity of social media, Facetune and plastic surgery in the last decade had resulted in the prevalence of beautiful women with hourglass curves who looked “distinctly white but ambiguously ethnic.” According to the New Yorker, this Instagram Face is “a young face, of course, with poreless skin and plump, high cheekbones. It has catlike eyes and long, cartoonish lashes; it has a small, neat nose and full, lush lips.” Recently, however, Instagram Face muse Kim Kardashian debuted her bleach blonde hair and smaller size while wearing Marilyn Monroe’s dress at the 2022 Met Gala, suggesting that the celebrity has turned away from her “ambiguously ethnic” face and body. As a result, fans and critics of Kim Kardashian alike have been wondering if Instagram Face and curvier bodies may be ‘out’, and an era of ostensibly white features ‘back in’. But is this a bad thing?

Kim Kardashian’s supposed aesthetic return to whiteness exemplifies celebrities and influencers moving away from commodifying multiracialism, as many point out how both Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus have previously profited off of releasing music and wearing clothes heavily inspired by black culture. Grande has even been accused online of “race-fishing” due to how often her skin colour appears to lighten and darken. Women of colour argue that their features, which were historically used to ‘other’ them, have become celebrated on white women that have adopted them through plastic surgery and photoshop. This is also deemed problematic due to its effect on women of colour’s body image. Alisha Gates, professor of English at Florida State University, said to the Guardian that “You steal a version of what a Black woman’s body should be, repackage it, sell it to the masses and then if I’m Black and I don’t look like that?”

With beauty trends shifting away from multiracialism, women of colour are once again reckoning with their natural features as a trend, yet now as an outdated one. Unlike white women like Kim Kardashian, who allegedly reversed her BBL (Brazilian Butt Lift) to reduce her surgically-modified curves, black women born with curvy bodies are not able to do the same. “I blame the Kardashians,” said Mayoori Jeganmogan, a student of colour at the University of Edinburgh. “It’s very tied to race in my opinion. While Kim was married to Kanye, she used plastic surgery to imitate the physique of a black woman. As soon as she divorces him, she’s dating Pete, wearing Marilyn Monroe’s dress – the epitome of white female beauty. The lip fillers, the box braids. All gone.”

Since faces are not the only canvas in which this new trend is being shaped, media publications have been speculating on the next body trend. “Bye-bye booty: Heroin chic is back,” claimed the New York Post in their headline. Referring to the nineties trend characterised by pale skin and ultra-thin bodies similar to models abusing heroin, the heroin chic trend has been heavily criticised for encouraging eating disorders. “I am of the generation of the first wave of this. We never fully recovered. I lost two decades of my life,” Jameela Jamil wrote on Instagram. Heroin chic’s centring of white bodies, with Kate Moss being one of the original poster girls of the look, potentially reveals how women of colour -particularly black women’s curvier bodies – are no longer seen as an object of desire by mainstream western culture. “I just feel like women’s bodies being treated like a trend is so sickening – franchising and disenfranchising certain bodies based on the fashion trends,” expressed Mayoori.

With beauty standards changing almost as rapidly as fast fashion trends, are young people, especially women of colour, expected to accept the end of Instagram Face and welcome heroin chic? Should women who have used plastic surgery to increase the size of their features follow in the footsteps of Kim Kardashian, or disregard trends entirely? “I won’t let some stupid trend make me and my friends feel bad,” said Mayoori. “If women are obsessed with their bodies, they won’t be as economically or politically engaged, and I think our generation is smarter and more self aware.”

Kim Kardashian” by Eva Rinaldi Celebrity Photographer is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.