Interview magazine is just as confused as the rest of America about who our First Lady is. But unlike those who simply refuse to call Melania Trump the FLOTUS, considering her husband is a man who hardly stands for liberty and justice for all, Interview decided to declare a woman equally as problematic and divisive “America’s New First Lady:” Kim Kardashian.
Being an editor in the digital space, I know what Interview is doing here. Nothing cures a slow news month like Beyoncé breathing on social media or Kim Kardashian sucking up a Black woman’s air and declaring it her own, and she’s granted many a magazine the opportunity to use her likeness in racially and sexually subversive ways for the sake of “breaking the Internet.” So when I saw the Interview mag cover and the headline that accompanied it, I wanted to be one less click the site received and bypass the expected snarky comments here from people asking why we’re talking about Kim K on a Black woman’s site.
But then I saw Janet Mock’s name associated with the article. Mock, a Black woman and trans rights activist, surely must take Kim to task in this piece, I thought to myself. So I gave in. I clicked on the link to the story about this woman whom I also refuse to reference as my new first lady and right out of the gate my original suspicion of a set-up was confirmed.
“If anyone can be said to embody the American Dream, it’s Kim Kardashian West,” the intro begins, detailing how, via their E! docuseries, Kim and her family have evolved from displaying “Brady Bunchantics and innocuous drama to serving as a rooted-in-real-life mirror to what the American family looks like today, bringing up topics such as race, gender, and, more recently, trans identity.”
Taking us on a mentally exhausting journey through how Kim, 36, earns more than $45 million a year “based entirely on being herself” — which is actually not true — the intro graph ends with a quote Kim said during her conversation with Janet Mock: “Not bad for a girl with no talent.”
If it weren’t for the final sentence which reads, “Kardashian West recently got on the phone with the writer, journalist, and trans rights advocate to discuss what it’s really like to be the most famous woman in the world,” I would’ve stopped reading there. But knowing Mock didn’t put together those three paragraphs of pious praise, I was still holding on to the expectation that she would make Kim dig beneath the surface and atone for her deep, dark (pun intended) appropriating sins. Instead, I read chatter like this:
MOCK: No matter what folks may say about you, you are a beauty icon, because you’ve challenged standards of beauty to make it a bit browner, a bit bronzer, a bit curvier. I wonder how conscious you are of raising a mixed Black girl in the world?
KARDASHIAN WEST: I’m very conscious of it. Kanye always has his family around and people who look like my daughter—that’s important to me. She’s obsessed with her curly hair, and if she finds someone who has the same hair, she runs to them and is like, “You have curly hair like me?” And we get to talk about it. We also talk about it with my niece Penelope, because she and North look really different, but they’re best friends and they’re together all the time.
MOCK: I love that. I think that often people are uncomfortable talking about identity and race, but on the show your family tackles a lot of these topics head-on, as well as the trans stuff.
KARDASHIAN WEST: We want to raise our kids to be really aware. I think that’s all you can do. The more you talk about things and keep them out in the open, the more they won’t be taboo. Kids are already so open. They say anything. So if you educate them, they feel like they have this knowledge and then they feel empowered.
Mock, being the journalist and icon she is, knows full well Kim never challenged any standard of beauty or embraced the identity of a brown woman. She adopted physical characteristics typical of Black and brown women and they became accepted because they were attached to a white face. Kim may not be wholly responsible for America’s tradition of only appreciating certain physical traits when attributed to a white woman, but she and every single woman in her family have certainly been complicit in passing those features off as their own, making money off of them, and not saying a single word or doing a solitary thing to support the women whom they’ve stolen from to build their “American dream.” Forgive me if I’m not intrigued by this self-made woman narrative or satisfied with these superficial questions and the answers they beget. This is a woman who just two weeks ago urged people to forget about the racist comments makeup vlogger Jeffree Star made. It’s not enough to know the Kardashian family talks about identity and race if the conversation revolves around forgiving a white man for calling Black people the n-word.
But perhaps I’m as naive as Kim when it comes to race for thinking she would ever be forced to take responsibility for her missteps. To recognize more about her daughter’s Blackness than her curly hair. To acknowledge that her son looks like the men being gunned down in this country and to actually care about those things. Instead, a Black woman is having a conversation with a culture vulture and we’re still talking about her unnatural beauty and how much work it takes for her and her sisters to make money off of pretending the looks they push out to the media are their her own. By the end of the interview I wasn’t surprised when Mock admonishes, “You’re basically your family’s Olivia Pope” and Kim responds, “That’s the perfect description!” Another Black woman’s identity stolen.
I can’t recall a time when Kim has been interviewed by someone whose life work is centered on intersectionality and being a voice for the invisible, the silenced, the cast aways, the threatened. Just once, I thought someone might push the envelope and force Kim to look inside instead of down from this undeserved pedestal she’s been placed on. Kim’s interview ends with a quote from her stating, “You can say a lot of things about me, but you cannot say I don’t work hard. I don’t sing. I don’t dance. I don’t act. But I am not lazy.” She’s right; it’s not Kim who’s lazy, somebody has to research Black culture to plot their next money move, and she’s got a decade or more of doing just that under her belt.
In this case, it’s Interview who takes the lazy crown for releasing an issue harking on the American dream in a time when everyone who’s not a rich white male is fighting tooth and nail, and even losing their lives, to hold on to just a piece of their’s and allowing a woman like Kim Kardashian to personify it. Kim can keep her ill-gotten wealth, the rest of us Black and brown people are just trying to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, and I assure you she and her multi-racial family are not the ones we’re looking to to aid in that fight. But it’s lazy journalism like this that ensures some lost child out there somewhere will.