Lets face it; Kim Kardashian basically made her debut on social media. The million-dollar question is always, “Why is Kim Kardashian famous?” The truth is there really is no reason other than the fact that social media made her famous when she was pictured with Paris Hilton. After Ryan Seacrest launched Keeping Up With the Kardashians, fans were all about Keeping Up with Kimstagrams. Kim has created a very distinct self-image and self-presentation of herself on Instagram, although the rest of the Kardashian sisters are coming up very close behind.
There is no doubt that Kim Kardashian carefully constructs, deconstructs and reconstructs her self-image on Instagram based on what is going on in her life at the time. Kimstagrams are filled with pictures of clothing and fashion (to appeal to the lady fans) and then, of course, the seductive Kim selfies and photo shoot pictures for her male fans. Kim is ‘traditionally’ known as somewhat of a sex symbol wearing revealing clothing, taking risqué pictures, and of course showing off the signature curvy Kim body. According to Amy Shields Dobson in her publication The ‘grotesque body’ in young women’s self-presentation on MySpace, Kim would be called ‘hetero-sexy,’ which refers to girls trying to represent themselves as sexual beings for the heterosexual community. It is a certain brand of femininity with the ultimate goal of being attractive to men, a combination of ‘traditional femininity’ with characteristics such as pink, delicateness and ‘girliness,’ mixed with mainstream heterosexual porn femininity with characteristics such as high heels, revealing clothing and large breasts. The Kimstagrams say it all.
Dobson goes on to discuss the presentation of female celebrities in high fashion magazines where images are “generally ‘classical’ in a fashion and aesthetic sense, and fetishistic in a narrative sense” (13). This is the portrayal of women in magazines, but social media sites allow for the self-production and self representation of the female. Kimstagrams brand Kim on social media the way she wants to be seen, and has the ability to alter her image based on fan feedback through comments and likes. With over 11 million followers it seems to me that her self-branding is doing just fine. Sarah Banet-Weiser points out how girls are using social media in various ways for empowerment voice and self-expression in Branding the Post-Feminist Self: Girls’ Video Production and YouTube. Each platform provides different possibility and different affordances, but they all afford creative identity-making. Anthony Giddens describes identity as a “project of the self” where identity-making is a constant dynamic and relies on media and other spaces as a way to be “self-reflective” and constantly evolve, update reconstruct the self. There is a constant interaction between the self and others, and user feedback is very important.
In her article, Without You, I’m Nothing: Performances of the Self on Twitter, Zizi Papacharrissi discusses the concept of collapsing public and private performances in pursuing privacy, publicity and sociality. Instagram collapses public and private by disclosing to the public certain aspects of one’s private life that followers may not have known about without this platform. It is a tool to create an authentic self in the online world. Social media creates both fame and consequences. Even though Kim is the ultimate heterosexy female, her Instagrams have drastically changed since becoming a wife and mother. However, she still must maintain her “Kim Kardashian” self-image online. One way of maintaining this authentic self is by revealing some of those personal pieces of her life. The classic “authentic self Kimstagram” is her selfie with the caption: “11 hr flight….6 hrs to go!!!! #nomakeup #nofilter.”
Kim authenticates herself by showing her fans that she isn’t always the glamorous celebrity they love, even though she is clearly posing for her “no filter” picture. The next classic Kimstagram is the series of #ThrowbackThursday pre-baby photos Kim posted of herself throughout her pregnancy where her figure clearly changed. Even more than her fans do, Kim missed pre-baby body even though she kept up with her sense of style on Instagram for those 8 months. She loved posting bathing suit pictures to remind her followers (and definitely herself) that she is still THE KimK with hashtags like #IWasSooooSkinny. After baby North came around, Kimstagrams have been filled with all the designer clothing the baby has received and showing off her new post-baby looks. Her social media presence has been more active in the last 2 weeks than it has been since June!
Kimstagrams are back and better than ever, but unfortunately posting pictures brings along consequences with the fame. Kim recently posted a current post-baby bathing suit picture, which many people felt was “racy, desperate and sad” for the 32-year old mom, according to a NY Daily News article. Some followers felt she should be taking care of her new baby rather than taking sexualized pictures of herself now that she is starting to get her body back. Kim followers have not been pleased with her recent Instagram activity, but that is the way social media works these days – public and private collapse, and users must compensate for that through the constant reconstruction of their identities. Celebrities like Kim create performances for themselves in order to find an authentic self for their audience, but there won’t always be positive feedback and identity will never be static.
Intsagram is about allowing celebrities to show their true and authentic selves to their fans rather than having an outside source reveal personal aspects of them in tabloids. Even though feedback may not always be positive, it is always real and directed directly to the user. Identities are meant to evolve and change in order to keep them dynamic. Kimstagrams show the good and not so good aspects of herself and that’s the way to authenticate her presentation online.