Kim Kardashian West is celebrating her 40th birthday, and has almost single-handedly changed what it means to be a marketable product on social media. She capitalised on the power of celebrity, on her own body image, breaking the internet, forgoing privacy in exchange for unimaginable wealth – and yet continues to reinvent herself. Some want her to stay in her own lane, she chose to go her own way regardless
There are few people who define the times in which we live quite like Kardashian West.
Even still, there's something about Kim Kardashian that rubs people the wrong way.
It doesn't matter that she is a hugely successful businesswoman (Forbes recently valued her at $750 million).
That she has set a new standard of body type (she admits to botox and fillers but denies any surgery).
That she is a working mum, who advocated the difficult side of pregnancy.
She remains treated with disdain by many, famous for a sex tape.
Famous for her family name and notoriety that comes with that.
When she was held at gunpoint in Paris, she had been, for a time, showcasing a lot of her jewellery on social media. "Flaunting her wealth," the headlines said, implying she deserved it. That was 2016, and it marked a change for her. She took a break from Instagram and changed her tactics. Four years on, the nude selfies have stopped, she's donating $1m to the Armenian relief fund, launching a new shapewear line and soon there'll be interiors line, KKW Home. She's right on-trend, all while training to be a lawyer.
Now that she has decided to deviate from what she has achieved up to this point, it still remains a problem.
When the reality star announced - albeit very glamorously via Vogue magazine - that she was training to be a lawyer, you could hear the scoffs and see eyes rolling.
"Sure Kim, just pay a team to do that for you," said critics. "Stay in your lane," advised another.
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The woman has been targeted from day one for capitalising on her body and sex appeal. She is an asset that sells - she knows it and is unapologetic about that fact. That alone is worth applauding.
But she is smart and savvy enough to know that she won't always have those assets to sell. Thanks to the Internet, she'll always have a 'before and after' photograph to be dissected, especially now she starts a new decade. Who can forget the articles which painstakingly point out that Kylie and Kendall have more youth on their side? Kim, they say, isn't quite as relevant. Unless she does something drastic, such as breaking the Internet.
Though of course, she is as relevant as ever. She is pivoting; relying more on the brand she has built as opposed to it being solely about her body image (though she is, still using it and rather fabulously at 40).
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If you're a woman doing this, trying what is unexpected, you've surely done something which means you're undeserving. You've bought your way in as Kim did.
Or you're Madonna "grasping at something new and shiny to cling to," said one Irish article as she prepares to release a new album. (Note that no such thing was ever said about a man of a similar age, such as David Bowie).
She remains a divisive figure. How is it that a woman posting photos of herself can become such an influential commodity? For her critics and haters, it is beggars belief, but at its simplest, she was smart enough to know exactly when she was at the peak of her popularity – and capitalised on it in every way she could.
Surely she must be tired of it, or weary of the criticism?
Or perhaps she simply knows that criticism and publicity are one and the same.
And Kim has rightly hit back at those comments.
"I’ve seen some comments from people who are saying it’s my privilege or my money that got me here, but that’s not the case. One person actually said I should “stay in my lane.” I want people to understand that there is nothing that should limit your pursuit of your dreams, and the accomplishment of new goals. You can create your own lanes, just as I am. The state bar doesn’t care who you are. This option is available to anyone who’s state allows it. It’s true I did not finish college. For anyone assuming this is the easy way out, it’s not. My weekends are spent away from my kids while I read and study. I work all day, put my kids to bed and spend my nights studying. There are times I feel overwhelmed... [but] it's never too late to follow your dreams."
I remember how amusing I found it when she would say "can I live?!" on social media as critics called her shallow for cropping her son out of a photo. But she'll never win. She's still called shallow now, the insinuation being that she isn't cut to be a lawyer - not if she uses a Vogue cover to announce it.
Let her live. She has more than paid her dues.
And at 40, it looks like she no longer cares whether you think she's deserving of them anyhow.