MGU 215 | Beauty Culture

 

Recently, the Internet was shaken up with the posting of Khloe Kardashian’s unedited photo – and how she went to great lengths to make her legal team involved just to get rid of its existence online. This reveals how this kind of situation shapes the public perception of beauty culture. Dissecting the many takeaways from this issue, Whitney Lauritsen explores how influential people with fame and money impact society’s beauty standards. As a result, this pushes many individuals, mainly women, to compare themselves to others, feel pressured to live according to cultural expectations and try to fit in to be accepted. Jason Wrobel reflects on how this mindset is being leveraged by capitalism, enticing people to embrace the constant thinking of unworthiness that can only be solved by buying unnecessary things.

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What Khloe Kardashian’s Unedited Photo Reveals About Beauty Culture

A story broke about Khloé Kardashian and a photo link. I’ve been fascinated by the story for a number of reasons that I thought would be interesting to explore on the show. For context, Jason has no idea about what happened. He doesn’t follow the Kardashians. He doesn’t pay much attention to these things. For context, for me, I tend to hear about these things through TikTok, which is where I’m fairly certain I saw it.  

TikTok is my source of entertainment, news, things that are going on around the world and different perspectives on it. The first time I heard about this, I saw TikTok of someone explaining why this situation was an important subject matter to explore because of its impact on other people. That’s why I wanted to speak up about it here on the show. I’m still forming my thoughts on it. There’s a lot of different angles that you can come at from this situation.  

For those of you that have not heard about it and that generally do not care that much about the Kardashians, I’ll give you the summary. I’m not a huge fan of putting people into perspective based on their age. I’m trying not to emphasize people’s age but it is interesting because, for me, the Kardashians seem young in a lot of ways. There’s youthfulness about them and sometimes I’m like, “These women are in their late 30s.” I don’t remember how old Kim is. Kim is older than Khloé and I always forget how old their other sister Kourtney is. They’re all within a few years. They have their younger sisters whose names are Kylie Jenner and Kendall Jenner. This is how little I pay attention to them. 

Those are the younger sisters that they had with Bruce Jenner, who’s now Caitlyn Jenner. The interesting thing about Khloé is that she has been often shamed for her body. Something that’s come up a lot in the news, especially on platforms like TikTok is how much she seems to be modifying her body to the point that a lot of people are starting to feel concerned. Because it looks like she was getting worked on her face and/or using a lot of digital filters and adjustments to make herself look a certain way.  

People have often commented how sometimes she’s unrecognizable. You’ll look at an Instagram photo of her, for example, and she doesn’t look the same as she did in a previous photo. That’s been something I’ve been intrigued by. Why does she feel the need to be changing her appearance constantly? That’s a huge reason I want to discuss this. It’s that pressure that people have in general but the pressure specifically that celebrities and public figures have and this cultural obsession that we have to look a certain way based on the current beauty standards and how that can be consuming.  

That’s been going on for a little while and I don’t follow Khloé on Instagram. I only hear about these things secondhand through platforms like TikTok. Sometimes, I’ll go on her Instagram because I’m fascinated by this and I want to see it for myself. I bet you I’m not the only one unless you’re purposely avoiding her. A photo came out of hers. I didn’t see it when it was live but the story was that this photo was released. It was on her Instagram account and it was a photo that was not supposed to be posted.  

This was a picture of her in a bikini standing in front of a pool without any makeup. Her hair was up in a bun and there was no photoshopping done. There were no filters or adjustments to her body. It looked like a candid photo taken of her. This was her grandma, who’s also in the limelight. Her name is MJ. She apparently took this photo and one of the assistants either to her grandma or Khloé posted it accidentally and there was a miscommunication. It seems Khloé saw this photo and got upset about a being posted on her account but it could be wrong. Regardless, she saw the photo was public and she had it taken down.  

She got her legal team involved to seek out anybody online who was sharing the photo because she didn’t like the photo of herself. She thought it was unflattering. She put up another picture of herself that was more flattering and was trying to brush this photo under the rug. In the process, people like me got intrigued and we wanted to see this photo and now it’s easy to find the photo of her. As soon as I saw it, I thought, “What’s the big deal?” I remember looking at it and trying to figure out what was “wrong with it.” What didn’t she like about herself?  

MGU 215 | Beauty Culture

Beauty Culture: Women and men are subjugated in similar ways, mainly in terms of their sexuality and physical appearance.

 

At first, I thought, “She looks young here. This must be an old photo.” I realized the reason that she looks young was because she wasn’t all made up and edited. It was a natural look to her. I thought, “She looks good.” The rest of her body, I didn’t think much of it. I found myself staring at the photo trying to find the flaws that she was seeing about herself. The first subject matter here is does she have body dysmorphia? Does she look at herself and think that she doesn’t look good? That’s one level of this conversation.  

The second level was a little strange, the lengths to which she and her legal team went to try to erase this photo. They were contacting people that were sharing this photo and perhaps even threatening legal action unless they took it down. I thought, “That’s such an extreme response.” It’s not like she was naked, compromised or whatever. Some people thought that it’s all in her right to ask for the photo to be taken down. If somebody doesn’t like a photo, they should be able to have it taken down. Many of us can relate to that. The average person, I’m sure has had one experience in their life where a friend or family member posted an unflattering photo. You felt embarrassed and you asked them to take it down. Have you been in that situation, Jason? He’s nodding yes. I’ve been in that. 

Maybe when I was younger. Nothing comes to mind. Nothing’s flashing. 

You’re fortunate in that Jason. That’s part of this conversation, too. It all depends on the individual. Statistically, men probably experience this less than women. Although men have their insecurities about their appearance and each individual is going through whatever it is. I remember experiencing that in high school, too. Seeing a picture of yourself and thinking, “I look different than I thought I looked.” In my head, I’d be like, “I looked in the mirror the way that I look, somebody took this candid photo of me and I don’t like it.”  

There’s even one in particular that flashed up in my head that wasn’t that bad but I remember looking at it and feeling insecure. I remember looking at pictures of myself in bathing suits when I was a teenager and feeling bad about my body. That experience that she’s going through, from my perception, is relatable for some of us. Most of us don’t have the power and the money to go and try to take legal action. Most of us are not in that situation where we would even have to.  

It’s rare for a non-public figure to have a photo distributed unless it’s often pornography or something like that. Most of us can’t relate to that and that’s an important thing to note, too. We are in different situations than Khloé, so we have to have some grace for the fact that this woman is trying to protect her image, I suppose, and maybe from a personal reason. She might be trying to protect it from a business reason because she makes money off of her image.  

She wants to “look her best and meet the beauty standards” so that she can probably profit off of that. Maybe more people will like her if she’s pretty and part of her “origin story” or her experience on however long the show has been on the air, she was often seen as a less attractive sister. She’s got one sister that’s a modelKendall. She’s got one sister who is this huge beauty guru. She’s got Kim Kardashian, who a lot of people look up to as the pinnacle of beauty. She’s got Kourtney, who’s always been naturally beautiful. She doesn’t need to do much. If you look back on older photos and videos of Khloé, she was the heavier one. She was maybe not always as fashionable as her sisters.  

Over the years, you’ve seen her do a lot of work trying to get to the same point as her sisters. I can relate to that, too because my sister is blonde. She’s always had a thin frame. She’s got a body that’s a current-time natural beauty and it’s effortless for her. She can eat food differently than me. When she eats certain foods, they don’t seem to impact her body as much as they impact mine. Growing up, I felt envious of that. Sometimes, people would compare us. There’s a lot in which I can relate to but the big difference here is I’m not a public figure, at least not as much I suppose. Being a content creator puts me somewhere in that world but I’m not at that level where Khloé is at.  

What’s happening is there are mixed messages going on. There’s the message that a woman should have the right to decide whether or not a photo of her is distributed. I agree. If you’re uncomfortable with something, you shouldn’t have to explain yourself. You should ask for it to be taken down. It’s a different situation when you’re a public figure and people start to wonder why are you so upset about this image. Jason, she went to the extremes of doing a live video on Instagram showing what her body looks like because she’s been suspected of doing a lot of work and photoshopping herself. After she went through this whole process of trying to remove that photo and scrub it from the internet, she then did a live video to show what her body looks like on the video to say, “This is what I look like. There’s no editing.” 

As human beings, we struggle between autonomy and fitting in. We want to be ourselves, but we also want to be accepted. Click To Tweet

Someone like me sees that and believes, “That starts to feel like massive insecurity. Why does she have to try to prove herself so much?” She’s putting this message across of, “My body is so important. I have to show it off.” She’s posing and dancing around to some pop music. She’s got her underwear bikini or whatever she’s wearing hiked up on her waist in this extreme way. She’s showing off her stomach. It’s this vain movement that she’s doing. She recorded a second video practically naked in her bathroom, jumping up and down to show how firm her body was and showing all of her different angles. She wrote this long Instagram post about what she’s been going through over the years, which is basically what I’ve summarized.  

It’s interesting for me because part of me has this compassion for her and all the pressure that she’s been under. Part of me feels like this is adding more pressure to women. Khloé is basically saying, “I worked hard for this body.” In other words, she didn’t feel like she was good enough before so she’s adding to that pressure that women have to work hard and they have to change themselves to be accepted and loved. By trying to take that photo down, which most people from the commentary I’ve seen have looked at and said, “She looks beautiful here. She looks great. What’s the problem?”  

When you try to take a photo down that looks good to other people, they start to wonder, “If she doesn’t think she looks good, should I feel bad about how I look?” “If that’s not good enough, I must be in bad shape. I need to change my body.” She was going on with, “The lighting was unflattering.” All of that is triggering for me because of the pressure that anyone has that form of femininity. There’s so much pressure to have the perfect lighting, wear the right clothes, spend a lot of time eating a certain way, working out and potentially getting work done. Going on to Instagram and making sure that you’re curating it to look good but not too good as to show that you use the filters.  

You could spend your entire day curating your image for that one photo on Instagram. I suppose if that’s the line of work that you want to do, who’s to criticize it? If that’s how Khloé makes money, it’s off of looking a certain way. The reason that she makes money is because companies pay her to be a role model and sometimes, literally, a model so other people will aspire to look like her and buy their products. That ties into capitalism and perpetuating these beauty standards of never being good enough.  

Beyond the normal pressures of how you eat, how you work out, what clothes you wear and how you pose for the camera and edit it, there are then all these other thoughts of, “If that’s not enough, I need to buy the same products that she’s using. I need to use the body care and supplements that she’s using. I need to eat the exact way that she’s eating. I need to do the same workout she’s doing. I need to buy the clothes that she’s wearing.” All of that money and time that goes into maintaining that image doesn’t leave you much room for the rest of your life.  

For me, the bigger issue and I imagine you feel similarly, Jason because you seem triggered by them, is the vanity, superficial and redefining these beauty industries. The last thing I’ll say is that one of the best articulations of this that I’ve seen is the Kardashians have played into and perhaps even created beauty standards so high that they can’t even meet them. Who they are in a candid photo is still not good enough.  

They still need to have the perfect lighting, edit their photos and approve every image that goes out about them. They can’t just relax and be themselves, which adds to this messaging for women or for anyone. I don’t want to make assumptions based on gender. They are putting this pressure that you can never relax because when you relax, you’re not good enough. That feeds into all of this capitalism that we often talk about on this show. Those are my feelings, Jason. I’ve caught you up on this a little. I’m curious, what are some of your thoughts and first impressions given that you had not heard about the story at all? 

First of all, the phrase that you talked about where one creates a standard and one can’t even measure up to the standard they helped co-create, when you said that it was like, “Wow.” Not just in influencer culture, celebrity culture. One could blow that out to a lot of different industries. You hear the same musicians or artists that have a breakthrough novel or album that sells millions of copies or a breakthrough album. The pressure to meet the standard or the success they’ve created does some interesting things to people’s mental health. This is a related thing where you have a paradigm of success where people expect certain things from you and you become a slave to that success. The pressure to continue to succeed and to make money makes me wonder, is it even joyful anymore?  

MGU 215 | Beauty Culture

Beauty Culture: Candid photos are tough because they are not under your control. That’s why selfies became so popular.

 

Since we’re talking about Khloé Kardashian but I wonder for a lot of people who get into a mode of their life. They discover success, wealth, fame, the constant pressure to keep up and outdo yourself not necessarily maintain the standard but exceed the standard and outdo oneself, “You have this hit movie. What are you going to do for the sequel?” “Your debut album sold ten million copies and you have a diamond record. What are you going to do for the second album?” In this case, you have a family who created a standard of beauty. To your point, Whitney, I have a lot of thoughts. I’ve talked to friends and also family members that have sisters or brothers.  

I’m an only child so I can’t necessarily relate to this. It is interesting how often I’ve observed in conversation people telling me, particularly sisters, brothers in a different way. Brothers in like, “I wanted to be a good athlete like him. My brother was my role model,” and those kinds of things. In particular, with family members that are older than me and you brought up this competition between sisters and female family members or even mother and daughter. I can’t relate because my father wasn’t aroundI didn’t have siblings. I never felt I was in competition with my mother but I see this coming up a lot. It’s this idea of triangulation or feminine competition within a family. There are a lot of layers to this.  

What also comes up for me is this idea of feminism or female empowerment is a nuanced and complicated thing. I am by no means an expert, a sociologist or an anthropologist. It’s an interesting thing that female empowerment can have different lenses on it, Whitney. I’m going to bounce this back to you because what I see from certain friends, acquaintances and colleagues is people say, “Relying on their body, appearance and sexual desirability based on these beauty standards to make money.” Some friends and people are doing well for themselves in saying, “I want to empower women and raise up women. If I take my clothes off, being scantily clad, always in makeup, nude, sexualized or whatever, I’m doing this to empower myself and other women.” I’ve seen that perspective. Is it empowerment?  

I’m asking you because I’m curious. Is it empowerment if we are subjugating ourselves, women and men, an individual are subjugating oneself to a commercialized standard of appearance to sell things? Is that empowerment? Is it enslavement on a certain level mentally and spiritually? I’m asking this in real-time because on the one hand, I can see the idea of that being empowering. I can do what I want with my body. I can take my clothes off. I can use my body and my appearance to make money. That’s empowerment. 

On the other hand, that perspective could be that pressure, stress and anxiety to maintain that standard constantly, I don’t know if that necessarily feels empowerment to me. I’ve brought this up in previous episodes about starting to lose my hair and feeling all kinds of weird emotions around that of my self-worth and my desirability. I have my own version of that. It’s to say if I look at something like Muscle & Fitness or I look at Men’s Health magazine and it’s all about, “Have six-pack abs in two months.” “Losing your hair? Do this to get your hair back?” “Learn these five techniques so you can have sex all night long.”  

Women and men are subjugated in similar ways. How sexual are you? How virile are you? How young do you look? This is my opinion. I don’t feel like that’s empowerment. I feel like it’s gaining success, fame and money through a structure that is using you. The capitalist system is like, “These people are sexy. They fit the beauty standard. Let’s use them as public figures and celebrities.” To your point whether it’s a makeup line, skincare, supplements, a cellulite reduction thing, freezing your fat or buying that sauna seems like there’s always some sales pitch attached to this stuff. I don’t know that this feels like empowerment, Whitney. I’m curious how you feel about this line between I’m empowered because I can do what I want with my body and present myself this way versus are we continuing to enslave ourselves and subjugate ourselves to standards that are impossible to meet? Where is that line between empowerment and subjugation? 

Many of us are confused and society has allowed us or perhaps even conditioned us to be confused. There are a lot of different perspectives on the world, so it’s hard for us to find our place because a lot of our sense of self is centered around what other people think. I’m reading the book, The Righteous Mind. It’s helping me understand it from a biological and traditional societal framework around our belief systems, the pressures to fit in, the group mentality and all of this. As human beings we struggle between autonomy and fitting in. We want to be ourselves but we also want to be accepted.  

We can only be a version of ourselves, that feels acceptable. There’s this fear that if we are too outside of the norms, we might be ostracized. We might not get what we want. To your point, Jason, in terms of how that ties in, there are so many pressures. They’re also being perpetuated by our actions. For example, in one of the article I sent you is a summary from Standard.co.uk. They summarize some of Khloé’s statements on her Instagram and she said that she was trying to live her life as honestly as possible with empathy and kindness.  

People that say that they love us can still be judgmental about our bodies. Click To Tweet

Is photoshopping your body honest? I’m using Photoshop loosely. It could be Facetune or whatever app you’re using. Is that honest? I suppose it’s honest. Maybe we need transparency like we do in our industry as content creators. If you and I are sponsored, we have to put #Ad or #Sponsored at the beginning of our post or somewhere within it. We have to say it clearly that we are being paid to promote these products. I feel that the next level of transparency would be when celebrities say, “I’m using an app. Here are the filters that I use to edit myself.” That way, somebody can look at them and say, “They have been altered.” That transparency would be helpful because although Khloé says she wants to live honestly, the other human beings that are perceiving her may think that honesty is different. 

Meaning, “Because, to me, honesty and real are similar, if not the same.” What does Khloé Kardashian look like? Is this an honest representation? Posing in specific lighting, wearing a flattering bikini with specific poses that you’ve been working on for years and years, you can go down this whole path of, “How do you define what’s real when it comes to our bodies?” That’s a huge part of the problem here. What I perceive is real is when I stand in front of the mirror. That’s what I look like at that moment.  

I could turn to the side and my body is going to look different than it does at the front or on a different angle. A lot of people are conditioned to pose their bodies like putting your hand on your head, putting your foot up a little. I noticed this within myself in all the ways that I manipulate my body before a photo is taken or even manipulate my body in front of a mirror. That’s why candid photos are tough because we are not under our control. That’s why selfies became so popular. With a selfie you’re looking at yourself and you can make sure that you have the angle to position yourself in the way that you believe is most flattering.  

For me, realness is how my loved one sees me. To your point, Jason, even our loved ones have viewpoints on us. People that say that they love us can still be judgmental about our bodies. We might not even feel fully comfortable in front of them. I noticed the way that I dress in front of certain people and certain friends that I feel more comfortable with versus a little bit more insecure about my body. I noticed my tendency to do my makeup, my hair or whatever. It’s all of these little things in my head that I’m reflecting on to adjust myself. That’s when I wonder, “Is it honest of me?” We’ve got so many gray areas in terms of honesty. When Khloé was saying, “I’m trying to live my life as honestly as possible,” I truly wonder what is her definition of honesty because it’s not the same for everybody. That’s an important thing to say.  

She said, “It’s almost unbearable trying to live up to the impossible standards that the public have set for me.” This is the line where people were like, “Did the public set that for you?” It’s perpetuating that maybe the public did set that for her but she’s perpetuating it and keeping it going longer by participating in it, in my opinion. To say that it’s this victimhood but I’m like, “You are part of this. You have to recognize that people look up to you. They uphold you at those standards. If you perpetuate those standards, you are part of the challenge.” It’s like being racist. As a white person, I could say, “Other white people are racist but I’m not.” That’s not true. I’m a white person and have been part of the racist culture. I need to examine what my role has been in it.  

It’s the same thing with these beauty standards, money, privilege and all of these angles that we can come up with. We cannot act as if we’re not part of the problem. We have to take personal responsibility. I find that line triggering. She almost contradicts herself by saying that she’s used filters, lighting and editing to present herself to the world in the way that she wants to be seen. It’s like, “You said that you are trying to live up to these standards. Are you saying that you want to live up to those standards?” It doesn’t quite make sense. This is where when you start to pick apart what you said, Jason, I don’t think she even knows what she wants. I don’t know if she knows who she is.  

It’s likely that she and many other people, myself included, are so confused because we don’t even know who we are anymore because of the way that we believe that we’re perceived by others. We’re trying to live up to standards that we’re also part of perpetuating. I believe that women have a choice and what they share. I believe that women should be honest and leave in life with empathy and kindness.  

MGU 215 | Beauty Culture

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

I feel that we need to reduce judging and try not to fit into these molds. Isn’t she trying to fit into the mold? What she’s saying feels all over the place and confusing. That’s not enough for me on this subject matter. We need to dive into this a lot deeper. She potentially needs to address this with a professional. We could probably write a whole book on this subject matter alone. Interview therapists, psychologists and all these people that study history, culture and all. This is a complicated thing. It can’t be solved by sending out an Instagram post. 

It’s complicated. If you can imagine being a person who was growing up in a family that before they were even famous, there was wealth and privilege there then came the fame, which brought more wealth and privilege. I’m trying to imagine first of all growing up in that type of situation because it’s the opposite of how I grew up in a lot of ways. In terms of empathy of imagining a person who, all of a sudden, is watching her sisters rising to a level of fame, wealth, being heralded and hated as being a family that represents this thing, I don’t know her. I can’t comment on her personality or her psyche.  

In some families and mine too have this black sheep. I don’t like this term. I would love a new term. I don’t like it because of the connotations of it. A better term would be an outcast or a pariah someone who’s like, “That’s crazy uncle Ted.” “That’s weirdo cousin Jason or bizarro sister Whitney,” or whatever it is. There’s a fear if you look inside of a family unit, in general, of being a nonconformist, being radical thinking, acting, behaving and choosing a lifestyle that is different than what you grew up in. There’s a lot of pressure. There’s religious pressure, societal pressure, a lot of family dynamics at play. You add a lot of money, fame, TV and the lens of society upon you. The empathy comes in. I can understand what she’s saying in terms of this herculean amount of pressure on her. 

I wonder if there’s a part of her that wants to hit the eject button and get out of the whole thing? It sounds to me that there probably is, “This is stupid. I’m full of anxiety and stress. I never wanted this anyway.” When you put fame and money in things, the temptation will cause people to destroy themselves for fame and money. We can see quadrillion examples of that. They will destroy themselvesThey will go against what their soul is telling them to do because there are enough zeros on their Instagram account and their bank account. That’s not a new concept.  

I wonder from an empathetic perspective, Whitney if she is confused and there’s a part of her soul that wants to get out the whole thing and exit the game completely. It’s not a perfect analogy. Everyone either applauded or vilified Meghan Markle and Prince Harry for doing what they did, “You exited the royal family but you still have this money.” I don’t want to even get into that but it comes down to you’re born into wealth, privilege, fame and money. Maybe there’s a part of you deep down that’s like, “I don’t want any of this,” but the pressure and the expectation are too much that you feel trapped. Maybe she feels trapped.  

To your point, if we look at personal responsibility and exerting one’s will, she could choose to exit it. She could choose to say, “I’m opting out of the whole thing. I’m going to cancel all my social media accounts. I don’t care about the sponsorship contracts. I’m done with it.” As hard and scary as that choice would be, it’s important to remember the autonomy and the agency we have as individuals in a situation like this to say, “Maybe some soul searching and therapy is in order.” Maybe deep down her spirit is like, “I don’t want any of this.” It’s probably terrifying to have that thought when you’re in that position because of the fame, money and expectations.

Who knows what she’s going through but that’s part of what I’m saying in terms of this public statement that she made? It doesn’t show the full picture. At the same time, we can’t force somebody to be ready to make a giant leap, as we saw with what happened with Meghan Markel and Prince Harry. That was emotionally taxing and experience for them to leave that family and to make that whole shift. I’ve often wondered about Caitlyn Jenner because from my perception, she stepped out of the limelight in terms of the Kardashians.  

She’s no longer on the show and I don’t know if that’s because they don’t want her to be or she doesn’t want to be. You see her in bits and pieces. She was on the Mask Singer or something. I don’t keep up with all of that. I did find it was interesting because she was involved with the show and she was Bruce. Once she made her transition, she had a little TV show. I’m curious, maybe she wants to go live her life. Maybe she wants to step out of the limelight. That’s cool and respectable. There’s nothing wrong with being on a reality TV show except for the fact that you have to take ownership of how you affect other people and that’s part of it. The big message here is it’s not about her. When you’re a public figure, your job is related to inspiring other people. You take that responsibility with that. 

When you put fame and money in things, the temptation will cause people to destroy themselves for them. Click To Tweet

A good article I found on this topic is on TheDailyBeast.com. I don’t know how great the sources are but this was well-articulated. One of them was, “Economic incentive always takes precedence over women’s actual needs,” which is such a great phrase. Further down on the article, going back to Khloé’s statement, they said that she’s justifying herself by saying she didn’t “pay for it all” as in received surgery. A lot of people have debated, “Is she lying about that? Did she get surgery?” To the point of this article, they said regardless of whether she went to a surgeon, saw a nutritionist, worked out with a trainer or hired a personal chef, she did in fact pay for the way she looks in one form or the other.  

That’s true. I don’t know what the statistics are but it seems to me from my perception that most women do not have the body that Khloé has. We saw what she looked like before. In fact, Khloé’s physique many years ago is probably not that far off from mine. I find that relatable. Unfortunatelythe media calls her out as fat, which makes me wonder, “I must be fat according to the media.” If I look like Khloé’s before photos, I must be doing something wrong.  

I’m personally not interested in spending the time and money to go to a nutritionist, to work out as hard as she and hire a professional chef to change my diet completely. I’ve done all of those things over the years and my body has changed. I’ve seen “results” from eating a certain way like when I was doing the vegan keto diet. It made my body look a certain way that I thought lived up to some of the beauty standards but I didn’t want to do all the work that came along with that. For me, it felt like work and I missed eating some of the foods. That’s a long whole road. It was a lot of work physically or mentally and it can be more expensive to try to figure all this stuff out.  

There’s so much pressure from companies to buy their products, in order to maintain yourself, which is also disturbing and not within reach for a lot of people. That’s part of this issue, too, Jason. That’s a privilege to be able to do those things. The pressure that people feel where they don’t think that they’re good enough because they can’t afford to hire a nutritionist, eat all organic and work out because they’re busy at working a job. Most people are too exhausted to go through a workout. You can argue for and against all this stuff. You can say, “Eating organic can be inexpensive.” I myself wrote a whole book on that. You can eat organic for a low amount of money a day but you also have to have access to those places that sell inexpensive food or you have to have the knowledge of how to put that food together.  

As you and I know, Jason, when you and I did an experiment and we ate for under $5 a day, we were cooking all the meals ourselves. We weren’t buying any packaged foods. We had to cook everything ourselves. We had to go to the store and price shop. It took a lot of work and effort for us to eat for that less amount of money, so maybe. If you don’t have a job and you have a ton of time to go spend making your food and all that. 

Regardless, you can argue for the time, money and being creative. That’s not my point. My point is there’s a cost involved one way or another. Not everybody wants to spend the time, money, energy and have the resources to do any of that stuff. That’s a huge part of this whole issue with these beauty standards. They are part of perpetuating all that pressure and making it seem it’s honest when their version of honesty and reality may be different than a lot of other people. 

In this article that you sent over, there’s one line that pops out at me. Beyond the beauty industry or the celebrity obsession that we have, it filters into a lot of aspects of our culture. The line that jumped out at me is, “The idea that earning beauty adds a layer of virtue or importance to it and that’s capitalism doing its best work.” That hits it for me because it’s not the idea that you’ve earned your beauty, body, status and sexual desirability. We see this filtering in the wellness business into so many tentacles and cracks. If we take biohacking, for example, it’s like, “All of the EMF is going to destroy you and radiate you. You’re going to get cancer.”  

MGU 215 | Beauty Culture

Beauty Culture: There’s nothing wrong with being on a reality TV show, except for the fact that you have to take ownership of how you affect other people.

 

I should get all of this expensive EMF blocking equipment, put a Faraday cage around my house, put copper-infused paint on my walls and spend all of this money so the EMF won’t destroy me. My telomeres are getting too short, so I should invest in all of these expensive organic Chinese herbs so I can lengthen my telomeres and maybe live to over the age of 100. I should invest in these super expensive high elevation goji berries because they have higher levels of lycopene and antioxidants. That’s going to keep my cells healthy. I could give a trillion more examples of it. The point is this virtue signaling that I’ve earned my health, my longevity and my beauty is capitalism doing its best work. Because if you don’t, “Where does this go to? You’re not enough.”  

You must not be enough because you can’t afford the $5,000 Cryo Chamber, the $55 lipstick, that $20 bag goji berries. You must be doing something wrong with your life. Everyone else is leapfrogging you because look how beautiful and vibrant they are. Look how long they’re going to live. Yoga has been commodified and I don’t believe that was ever the intent of the practice of yoga. I don’t believe that a lot of this was ever intended to become the juggernaut monster that it is.  

Like so many things that start with noble intention, become co-opted when people realize how much money they can make. I’m not pooh-poohing making money. We need it to survive in the societal paradigm. When you subjugate people to feelings of not-enoughness, not beautiful enough, not strong enough, not living long enough, not vibrant enough, “Buy this thing, I’ve got the solution for you,” it’s predatory and it’s fucked up.  

To blow this out, beyond the beauty industry, it’s part of the wellness industry. It’s part of the yoga industry, it’s part of the fashion industry. You’re not enough until you have this fancy new thing. The rub is and the reason the capitalistic machine continues to destroy and consume people is because once you get the thing, you still don’t feel like you’re enough. You’ve got to get the expensive hydroxy facial, you got to go to the right spa and you got to buy the right car. We’re all being subjugated to a degree that a lot of people aren’t even conscious of how deeply they’re subjugated.  

To me, the real question at the end of this, Whitney, is what do you want? Do you want to be free? Do you want to liberate yourself from the system to a degree where you feel a sense of freedom and self-acceptance? Do you want to keep feeding the machine because the machine is feeding you in terms of approval, attention, money and fame? What are you sacrificing as the result of that exchange? The more that I go on, the freer I want to feel. 

I realized that in order for me to feel free, I need to try and disconnect myself from these layers of subjugation and not-enoughness and the industrial corporate machine trying to tell me that I’m a piece of shit unless I have all this stuff. I’m wanting to liberate myself more and more from this subjugation because I don’t think that it’s healthy. Mentally, it’s healthy for our souls and I’m becoming more and more disinterested in playing the game. I don’t want to play the game anymore. That’s where I’m at with the whole thing. 

It’s hard to disconnect from at all having been part of it for so long as an influencer, as somebody trying to find my worth through my appearance. It’s not easy because I’ve spent so much of my life and others have to try to feel validated through how other people perceive me. It’s hard and scary to show up on camera without wearing makeup, doing my hair, wearing certain clothes and having the perfect background. Even showing up for our YouTube videos feels challenging because I have this deep-seated fear that other people are going to judge me, they’re going to think I’m unattractive, they’re going to think less than me that I won’t get the opportunities. We’ve talked about this a lot.  

There’s a whole train of thought connected to this and this is why this issue is so incredibly important. One last article I want to reference, as of now, at least who knows where this will go but is on BuzzFeed, which I didn’t expect to have such a great article. In this BuzzFeed News article, the author talks about how the photo looked normal of Khloé. That’s part of this problem, too, Jason. To your point, she’s saying normal isn’t acceptable. It’s like what I was saying before, relaxed.  

So many things that start with noble intentions become co-opted when people realize how much money they can make. Click To Tweet

It’s also this idea of normal isn’t good enough. In fact, she has been part of that. Perpetuated she had a show called Revenge Body which was all about getting revenge by changing your body. It’s like, “That’s how you stand up for yourself? That’s how you grow your confidence? Losing weight and wearing certain clothes.” That’s all been perpetuated and no wonder you don’t want to be part of it, Jason, or neither do I. It’s so exhausting. It’s too much.  

It’s too much time, money and energy. My value as a human being is so much more than those things if I spend all my time, energy and money on trying to uphold a standard that’s impossible that even Khloé Kardashian with all her time and money can’t adhere to. If anything, this is the positive to this situation. If we go, “Even Khloé Kardashian doesn’t feel good enough about her body to let this photo go then I’m never going to get to that point. I might as well not try and in a positive way.” That mentality of, “If instead of trying to please other people, trying to fit into these standards, what if I tried to please myself and fit in? What if I redefined my own standards?” That’s what I have been working on.  

It’s not easy. It’s taking a long time. If Khloé ever chose to do that herself, it’s not going to be easy for her either, to your point, Jason. Disconnecting from all of that is a lot of work because of these standards that she has set and the way that they have profited off of them. There’s so much money. One of the things that article on BuzzFeed says, “We might feel a little better about our imperfect human bodies if influencers like the Kardashians didn’t rank in millions from hawking unnecessary and ineffective weight loss tools.” 

“If famously beautiful women didn’t funnel their wealth into countless cosmetic surgeries, filters, Photoshop and Instagram Face weren’t so ubiquitous. Celebrities are incredibly powerful cultural figures. They’re happy to wield that power when it benefits them in accruing money, connections and fame. While often refusing to admit it even exists when they’re held accountable for putting toxic garbage into the world. It’s extraordinarily sad, to me, to imagine chasing down a nice normal picture of yourself because it’s not staged and edited to absurd levels of perfection.” 

All these messages go into our heads. They are feeding us and they are trapping us in this Matrix world that we’ve been living in where we’re constantly fed messages like this. Even if we don’t recognize it on a conscious level subconsciously, we’re seeing instances of this and thinking, “If Khloé is not good enough, I’m not good enough.” “If she doesn’t like the way she looks there then why should I like the way that I look here?” “If Khloé feels she has to go justify her body and bounce around in a bikini or naked to prove everybody how hard she’s worked, greatI should probably go do that, too.”  

“If it took her a ton of work to get to that point, I better get to work to do it, too.” All of that stuff is perpetuated for women and for men. It is time that we step back, think about it and recognize how it’s deeply affecting us. Take it from us on this show. Jason and I have had enough but I can’t honestly say that I’m fully disconnected from it. It’s going to take a long time if I ever get to a point where I’m not part of that system. 

My final thoughts on it are we’re not guaranteed a future. We don’t know how long we’re going to live yet I wonder at what point you stop giving a fuck. I don’t know that there’s a magic age for this but it seems to me that there’s a certain point where obsessing over your abs, the size of breasts, the size of your biceps and how good you look in these photos. It seems there’s a point because of the psychotic obsession of youth in our culture, the debilitating psychotic, violent obsession with youth that at a certain point it’s like, “I’m going to abandon ship on this.”  

MGU 215 | Beauty Culture

Beauty Culture: The capitalistic machine continues to destroy and consume people because once you get the thing, you still don’t feel like you’re enough.

 

I’m 78 years old. I don’t give a shit about the surgery, liposuction and the makeup. I don’t know that I have necessarily a point in this but it is part of the pressure to cash in “while we’re young and beautiful.” Let me make as much money and let me get as famous as I possibly can before things go south. The toxicity of this is ageism. The toxicity of this is not only the subjugation of beauty standards for men and women but it’s the rampant psychotic obsession with youth and freshness that we have in society. It’s psychotic because we don’t honor the elders in our society. We don’t honor the fact that people have so much to contribute creatively and intellectually throughout their entire lives. At a certain point, women in particular and we talk about the standards. It’s this weird vilification. Once men start going gray then they’re silver foxes. It’s all these daddy issues, “I want to get me a silver fox.”  

When women start going gray, we start to devalue them as beings because you’re old now. It’s fucked up. The ageism in our culture is fucked. Part of the pressure, Whitney, is particularly for women to cash in like a motherfucker before they “go downhill.” It’s so toxic and sad that we don’t honor our elders. We devalue them because they’re not sexualized anymore. Our obsession with youth, sex and beauty is fueling all this. If we can start to, as human beings, unravel this insane, toxic obsession with youth, beauty and age, maybe we can start to not feel this race to the finish line to cash in as much as possible before we’re not sexy anymore or whatever we’re thinking about ourselves.  

It’s the same thing that I talked about with friends who are actors, actresses or musicians. It’s like, “I’m not marketable anymore. No one’s going to want to represent me because I’m too old to make it.” This is fucked up thinking and messages we get. You’re no longer valuable as an artist because you’re in your 40s, 50s or 60s. Fuck all of this. I’m over all of this shit, Whitney, where it’s like, “Can we manifest self-love and the permission in ourselves to rage against the machine? Because this machine is doing so much damage to us psychologically. It truly is.”  

“I want to somehow, for myself, for you and for the readers, can we give ourselves the authority and permission to say, ‘I don’t give a shit how old I am. I’m going to do what I want with my life.’ Whether people accept it or not, fuck them.” I’m getting so fired up here at the end of the episode because you realize the depth that this goes to and how bad we are made to feel about ourselves. It’s horrible. I don’t know what I want to do about it but I’m getting fired up because I realize how much all of us are subjected to it and it’s awful. I want to examine how I’m feeding this stupidity, this toxicity and to go in the other direction.  

I don’t know what that’s going to look like but I’m getting fired up about all this, Whitney. I don’t know that I have a conclusion. Other than that on some level, we are all devalued and tossed aside when we reach a certain age because of the insane obsession we have with youth. I don’t like it. It’s not okay. It’s disrespectful to our elders. It’s completely disrespectful to ourselves to think we’re no longer attractive or useful in our society because of how we look or what our ages are. It’s beyond fucked up. 

We could go on and on. The rabbit hole I’ve been in looking into the responses of this photo controversy has brought up is pretty nuts. There were a couple of others that I wanted to bring up and one of which ties into that ageism, which was on People.com. It was a quote from Katie Couric, who has also been in a similar situation where people have edited her and she wasn’t happy about it. She said, “When we start seeing people as they age and appreciate the beauty that comes with that, women will stop trying to look young all the time. Someone said to me that I have so many wrinkles I said, ‘Wrinkles show a lifetime of laughing and smiling. That’s an awesome thing to show on your face.’”  

It’s wonderful as a sentiment to read things like that but we have a lot to undo. This is not easy work in terms of what action you can take, Jason. We first started as individuals and recognize how we’re affected by this. You and I, speaking openly about this on our show, are amplifying our voices and opinions on this. It’s going to take a lot of work. It’s like how racism and ageism take a lot of work. All of these isms, these judgments that we put on other people about how they look, how they choose to live, who they choose to love, this is a long process. We might not get as far as we want to get in our lifetimes but we can do our best to live from our truth.  

We might not get as far as we want to get in our lifetimes, but we can do our best to live from our truth. Click To Tweet

Another article on BuzzFeed News was poignant in saying that the Kardashian spectacle doesn’t work if they look like us. It doesn’t work if they look like regular people. Instead, we get their carefully curated images that they borrow from various cultures and allowing the women of the family to shapeshift, which has inspired a legion of Kardashian copycat influencers on smaller budgets. How could Kylie Jenner sell a $29 lip combo kit if her pout didn’t kickstart trends and challenges? How could Kim market Body Foundation to hide imperfections if she weren’t the poster girl for being hairless and having skin like glass?  

They are part of this whole world and no wonder Khloé has all this pressure. The article says, “When does the reality kick in that Khloé herself can’t keep up with the Kardashians? There’s no shame in admitting that she can’t?” It’s empowering to hear but if you look back to that previous statement, maybe she can’t admit it, Jason. Because she knows if she does, she won’t be able to make money in the way that she is if she’s too normal.  

The article says, “It’s worth emphasizing that mental illness doesn’t discriminate where class, gender, race or privilege are concerned. Therefore, it should never be minimized. What does discriminate is access to treatment help and support.” What they’re saying there is that because she has a lot of money, high class and got all this privilege doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have a mental illness. I imagine there’s some. I would be willing to bet that she’s got some sort of an eating disorder or disordered eating based on how much shame she probably felt from this perfectly normal photo coming up.  

That photo is like a Wizard of Oz moment where you reveal the curtain and it’s some little guy behind the scenes running this powerful thing. Was she ashamed of how her body looks? Was she afraid to be perceived as normal? Does she want people to see her so far above them and so powerful that she can admit that she’s a person? Is that too scary? How much too, I wonder, Jason? Was that her? Was that her team? What pressures was she getting from her family members and other people that work with them to control this whole image? What if that wasn’t her decision to react in that way? 

I have no evidence to support what I’m about to say. I’m putting out a possibility. What if all of this was intentional and orchestrated? If we know that the reason that the Kardashians, as an example, you can name any celebrity or influencer. The greatest currency is not the money they receive. The greatest currency is the attention. Whether that’s positive attention or negative attention, if we want to create a dualistic model for it, attention is still attention. Clicks are still clicks. Tweets are still tweets. Reshares are still reshares. Is it possible that maybe this was orchestrated to get more attention? It is possible because she got a shit ton of attention for it. Let’s not throw out the possibility of prestidigitation because you use the Wizard of Oz, the magic behind the curtain. It’s well possible that this was intentional. That’s all I’m saying. 

I thought about that, too. You’re right, Jason, in wondering about this spot on because that’s the tendency and the pattern with the Kardashians it seems. They bring up these sensational news stories to further keep the attention on them and it works. I get sucked into it. I’m curious. I want to go look at her Instagram when I don’t normally look at it. I found myself watching a little bit of Keeping Up with The Kardashians. It’s fascinating and they are masters at it. Our upcoming guest Owen who worked as a paparazzi for a long time, I don’t know if he said this on our show, Jason or he talked about it elsewhere. He has known Kim Kardashian for many years and she’s an incredibly intelligent woman and a great businesswoman.  

Clearly, all of them have become phenomenal powerhouses, which is great from a gender perspective in terms of women that have “been self-made” if you want to believe that. It’s amazing what they have accomplished with their businesses but at what cost is the big question. What cost for themselves and what costs for society? How much are we being manipulated? This goes back to that whole thing about Khloé saying that she wants to live an honest life. My perception of honesty might be different from her because if that was in fact a big publicity stunt, Jason, it’s frustrating. I will hold to my point in saying that at the least the benefit is that it gets us talking about body image and examining this.  

MGU 215 | Beauty Culture

Beauty Culture: Older people are often devalued by society because they’re not sexualized anymore, fueled by the obsession with youth, sex, and beauty.

 

There’s a whole rabbit hole that you can go down. I could spend probably hours reading about all this. There’s another one on People from Jameela Jamil and she comes out about diet culture, fatphobia, impossible beauty standards and she always has a good perspective on these issues. It’s great to see people like her talking about this. It’s great to see conversations. I’m glad that you and I had a conversation because we don’t know who’s reading and who might need to read this. We have no idea. It’s important to explore these things, learn about them and be open-minded. It’s important to recognize that this isn’t a black and white issue and this is not an easy one to solve.  

It’s not that Khloé Kardashian is a bad person. I don’t see the Kardashians in general as evil. I see a lot of amazing things that they’ve accomplished in their life. There are sides of them that I do not fully support and are good for our society. There’s a lot of manipulation involved and they’re playing into a lot of the capitalistic classism and not being mindful. There’s this famous line from the Keeping Up with Kardashian Show and it was Kourtney who said it. This was when Khloé was crying about something and Kourtney said, “People are dying, Kim,” and it’s turned into this meme. It’s representing the fact that you can cry over something.  

There’s a famous episode that many people know of where she loses a diamond earring in the ocean or something and she’s literally crying and distraught about it. I’d probably cry if I lost a diamond earring in the ocean. Unlike her, I can easily acquire another one. It’s important to remember that it’s all a matter of perspective. While it may be entertaining to watch them, while it might be interesting to pique our curiosity, to pay attention, we also have to be self-aware in how we’re impacted by their beauty, influence and behaviors.  

I am grateful to you, Jason, for having this conversation and sharing your thoughts. We would love to hear from you the readers about your thoughts. If you come across other articles and other points being made, please send them our way. You can reach out to us through direct messages on InstagramFacebook or Twitter. Wherever you can reach us, we are under @Wellevatr and that’s also our domain Wellevatr.com. You can comment there if you’d like. You can also find our email address if you’d like to have a private dialogue. We love hearing from you. We want to know your thoughts. We want to know if you have any additional information that you’d like to share with us on this because we want to keep the conversation going. If you have an idea for future episodes, we’d like to hear that, too.  

In fact, we got a suggestion from a reader that we already have in the queue. Please feel free to share anything you’d like to hear us discuss and further details on that. Thank you so much for reading. We’ll be back with another episode. We have new episodes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Friday is for our guest episode where we try to bring on interesting people that can further educate us and give us different perspectives. We look forward to having another one out. That’s it for now. Bye!

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