Kylie Jenner probably seems like an obvious choice when thinking about celebrities to write about in the online world. Her social media presence has given her a whole new claim to fame (possibly her only claim). Kylie’s Instagram is so revered by fans, that Glamour Magazine published her tips on “How to Take a Good Selfie”. My personal favorite piece of advice, “It’s really weird when people post constant selfies.” The irony of this pointer is almost too much to handle. (See image below)
…does this face ever get old?
All selfies aside, Kylie Jenner’s strong presence on social media, the fact that she is only sixteen and the influence she has on her followers, all contributed to my decision in choosing to study her self-performance on Instagram.
Amy Dobson in “The ‘grotesque body’ in young women’s self presentation on Myspace” discusses the way both celebrities and femininity are represented in fashion magazines. She states, “the poses are non-naturalistic, but rather static, theatrical, framed, and classically feminine, so that whilst the celebrity may look at the viewer, she remains symbolically distant from the viewer, ‘out of reach’, and an object of idealisation. The image that results of the celebrity in question is a fetishised and idealised one…”(13)
In contrast to this representation is the tabloid magazines which aim to demystify celebrities in a “grotesque” and shaming manner. Social media complicates this relationship between producer and publisher because now users can be both. They have the capability of both creating and sharing their own images. In the case of Kylie Jenner, the pictures she posts are very much classical representations of femininity. They are highly stylized and she appears frozen in time, similar to the representations seen in high fashion magazines. Even though Instagram is a non-professional photo medium, her selfies have the same characteristics of an editorial magazine. Not only are these idealized photos, many times they are overtly sexual and appealing to the male gaze. Her photos perfectly embody the concept of “heterosexy”. Images that aim at being attractive to men and take cues from pornography. They are images that mix traditional girlishness with porn sexuality. It may be that Kylie Jenner is not only the perfect example of “heterosexy” among teenagers online, but also that she is an influence spreading and making this trend even more prevalent by giving tips to fans on how to take photos more like her own.
Despite the fact that Kylie Jenner is a celebrity with 6.3 million followers on Instagram, when studying her posts over the past week I realized something very interesting about her identity on this platform. Kylie Jenner is nothing more than your average sixteen year old girl, taking sexy pictures for boys and flaunting her possessions and friends. While I am positive that Kylie carefully constructs the identity she wants her fans to know and believe, her Instagram has a very personal, youthful vibe grounded in reality that often times many celebrities profiles do not have. Like Kylie, many girls on social media are blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. One way users create their own reality on Instagram is by self-branding. Through what they are wearing, to the activities they are doing, these photos create a whole profile of the user, specifically designed by the user.
Sarah Banet-Weiser in “Branding the Post-Feminist Self: Girls’ Video Production and YouTube” discusses how the practice of self-branding and selling yourself on YouTube has become normalized especially for young girls today. Similarly I think that Instagram, because of its focus on images and visual cues has created a similar standard of self-branding. Not only are users creating a brand for themselves and viewing themselves as a commodity, they are also using consumer participation in established brands to reinforce their image. Banet-Weiser states, “I want to suggest that this “life” is one that is often intricately linked to the culture of branding. Broadly defined as the deliberate association of products and trademarked names with ideas, concepts, feelings, and relationships, brand culture creates a context within which consumer participation is not simply (or even most importantly) indicated by purchases, but by brand loyalty and affiliation, linking brands to lifestyles, politics, and social activism. Developing a self-brand on commercial social networking sites means that girls reference brands not simply as commodities, but as the context for everyday living.” (13)
If there is one thing in this world that I know is true, it’s that Kylie Jenner has a lot of Cartier “Love” jewelry. How do I know this? Instagram of course. Besides selfies and model shots, its her next favorite subject matter. So what does this brand association do for her online identity? It lets people know that she has money and style. Kylie models as well as has her own clothing line with her sister Kendall at Pac Sun. By studying her Instagram it clear that she positions herself as a “fashionista”. Many posts are dedicated to her sense of style. To enhance this image she posts pictures of all of her designer, high fashion items; bags, jewelry, shoes. She wants her fans to admire her sense of style as well as see her of an arbiter of taste, and she uses brand loyalty and affiliation to help aid that perception.
For a celebrity, Instagram is a platform to show fans their “true” self. I say this because of the fact that celebrities can post the photos and share the content they choose. In a world where paparazzi are spreading stories and tarnishing images, this is a chance to take back control of their representation. Kylie Jenner has used posts on Instagram many times to speak to the stories spread about her and to communicate on a personal level her “true” identity. However this is what people on social media are doing everyday, communicating, evolving and playing with their self-identity online.