As Kim Kardashian walked the red carpet at the Met Gala in New York last night all eyes were on her. After weeks of TikTok theories the rumours were proven true – the reality TV star was wearing Marilyn Monroe’s famous crystal embellished Jean Louis dress, the dress Monroe wore to sing Happy Birthday to JFK in 1962. It’s a dress which is usually stored in a temperature controlled vault in Orlando, Florida, a dress which was sold for $4.8million in 2016, a dress so important that it had to be flown to Kardashian accompanied by its own bodyguards.
But, in the hours after Kim’s big moment, criticism began to swirl about the extreme lengths Kim went to fit into the iconic outfit after she told a Vogue reporter that she’d lost 16lbs in just three weeks to wear it. Kim said, ‘It was such a challenge. It was like a role. I was determined to fit,’ before continuing, ‘I would wear a sauna suit twice a day, run on the treadmill, completely cut out all sugar and all carbs, and just eat the cleanest veggies and protein. I didn’t starve myself but I was so strict,’ Kim noted that when the dress finally fit she cried, ‘tears of joy.’
While 41-year-old Kim lauded herself for being up to the ‘challenge,’ many others took to social media to point out what it says about women’s beauty standards – particularly when both Kim and Marilyn Monroe have been long heralded as ‘curvy,’ when, in fact, they are both incredibly slim women with what were/are, for the majority of people, entirely unattainable body shapes.
While much work has been done by many great people to inspire at best, body confidence, but, if not, body neutrality, here was Kim normalising a message about weight loss that wouldn’t have been out of place in a 1990’s Special K advert. In a later Instagram post she revealed that after weeks of restriction she’d be binging on donuts and pizza later that night.
Of course, what Kim Kardashian – or any celebrity – chooses to do with their body is their decision and theirs alone. Women in her position are undoubtedly under a huge amount of pressure to look ‘good’ at all times and Kim is not personally responsible for how people feel about her any more than she is responsible for how people feel about themselves. But there is a difference between not being responsible, and being irresponsible.
When arguably one of the most famous women in the world turns up to one of the most publicised celebrity events of the year and speaks openly and glibly about how she lost 16lbs in three weeks thanks to a highly restrictive diet and lifestyle, to wear a dress for just 10 minutes (Kim slipped into a replica after the photocall), it would be remiss to not question her awareness around the impact this would have.
Kim boasts 307 million Instagram followers, her face and body (and that of her equally famous sisters) have influenced thousands of young women to undergo surgery – from Botox, to butt lifts – the Kardashian effect has literally changed the way we see ourselves. To think that she wouldn’t have an idea of how this rhetoric could be damaging to other women is to suggest she’s been living under a rock for the last two decades.
Kim made the decision for herself and she was honest enough to speak openly about it but in 2022 we should not be normalising disordered eating – at one point in the interview Kim mentions how she subsisted on tomatoes – in order to fit into a dress. It’s damaging, it’s dangerous and it has a real life impact on how people, particularly young women, see themselves.
In both the UK and the US eating disorder cases are on the rise with Havard research saying that one in five women will experience one by the age of 40. Further research by psychologists Zoe Brown and Marika Tiggemann has shown that exposure to images of thin celebrities can contribute to women’s body dissatisfaction.
Personally, as a mid-sized curvy woman interviews like the one Kim did remind me that no matter the huge amounts of work that can be done women can, and will, still be judged on their size, they will be celebrating for shrinking themselves and reporters will still fail to ask the big questions such as why we feel the need to fit our bodies to clothes, rather than the other way around.
Many women will know that niggling feeling that they are simple not enough, or, in terms of their body shape, too much, so when celebrities like Kim Kardashian fail to recognise the impact the messaging they put out has on people, we all suffer.