The Kardashian Empire and its Contributions to Shaping Social Norms

by: Ashley Myers

The Kardashian family has created an empire that no other family of influencers has been able to replicate, and have a ubiquitous force on popular culture. Everyone knows their names, brands, and television shows, and many strive to be like them: beautiful, rich, and successful. They have integrated themselves into mass media, and offer up a template for people who want to become successful influencers. Since their first television show, “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” came out in 2007, the family has soared to the top of the social pyramid, and has left an imprint so large on our culture that it has actually helped to shape some of the social norms we follow today. From shaping an idea of the ideal body type to empowering female entrepreneurs, the family has clearly had an impact among younger generations’ thoughts on how they should act, as well as what they should look like.

Since their rise to fame the family constantly competes for who has the highest net worth. Currently, Kim holds the highest net worth in the family at $1.8 billion, with a large portion of her wealth coming from KKW Beauty and Skims. Following behind her is Kylie with a net worth of $600 million. Kylie was also named “The Youngest Self-Made Billionaire” at the age of 21 by Forbes in 2019. The family has also collectively launched 26 businesses since they made a name for themselves. However, not all of these businesses have succeeded as exceptionally as their top brands today. Yet, the family has demonstrated that failure of a business venture does not necessarily mean that you have failed. They take their failures as a lesson instead of a defeat, which shows hopeful entrepreneurs that even the most powerful business people fail. Despite the public’s animosity for the Kardashian family, they are a successful family of women in business, and are an inspiration for female entrepreneurs who want to make a name for themselves, as well as for mothers who want to do it all.

Despite their overwhelming success as business tycoons, their brands also tend to promote a specific beauty standard. For example, Skims is a shape wear company that is “Kim’s answer to shape wear that actually works” and is designed to “smooth, enhance, lift and tone.” Though the company encourages women on embracing their natural shape, they call their product “solution-oriented,” which paradoxically implies that women’s bodies are not good enough as they are, and they need a brand like Skims to help them achieve the ideal shape. Another brand that tends to promote looking a certain way is Kylie’s makeup brand, Kylie Cosmetics, and specifically her popular lip kits. Kylie’s lips have famously become a part of her signature look, and have become the preferred look for many individuals. Her lip kits are designed to help consumers achieve full, plump lips without the help of lip fillers. However, the brand constantly uses Kylie’s lips as a model for the brand, despite the fact that she has admitted to receiving lip injections. Though the brands tailored by the Kar-Jenners may be controversial, there is no doubt that their multi-million dollar brand empire is a tremendous testament to just how influential they are in the beauty industry, and how they help promote specific beauty standards to be the norm.

The Kar-Jenners seem to set up their brands to make it easier for the general population to be more like them without spending loads of money on their appearance. However, the photographs we see on social media are not entirely realistic, as almost all of the family has had some sort of work done as well as has admitted to using photoshop on the photos they post to social media. The phenomena of advertising brands that are supposed to make you look more ‘perfect’ feeds into the idea that women must look a certain way to be beautiful, and it is no secret that social media idealizes the bodies of the Kardashians. Social media sites such as Instagram and TikTok make it increasingly easier for users to change their appearance with the countless filters that they provide. There are even filters that help you to replicate the look of the Kardashians, such as the Kardashian filter effect on TikTok

While the brands created by the Kar-Jenners are a testament to how successful and influential they are, they also contribute to shaping certain social norms, especially how we think about body image. The family’s brands and companies are seemingly centered around products that better how we look, such as clothing, makeup, and skin care products, so it is only fitting that the family has a set beauty standard: curvy with a small waist, full lips, glowing skin, perfect makeup, and no sign of cellulite or imperfections. Due to their empire of brands and influence in the media, the beauty standard they have created has become ideal for much of the younger generations, and it has actually become a norm to strive to look this certain way, hence why their brands have gained so much popularity. Though this promotion of a certain body type may be good for the family’s ever growing empire, it is not necessarily good for everyone else. Constantly seeing images of seemingly perfect women online can cause distress in mental health, and can even lead to eating disorders. This feeling among women has become increasingly normalized, especially those between the age of 18 and 25. Along with the idea of needing to fit a certain body type, photoshopping pictures has also become increasingly normalized. Social media has essentially become an individual’s highlight reel where all posts are carefully tailored to fit a certain aesthetic. Though this norm was not created by the Kardashian clan, they have definitely helped to promote the idea that photoshopping is normal, as their influence on social media is enormous, with their following count amounting to over 1.2 billion followers collectively. As social media continues to be a very influential platform for the younger generation, the promotion of having a certain body type by influencers continues to have a negative effect on how people view themselves, and the Kardashians’ seemingly perfect feeds are not helping the situation.

While the Kardashians are a controversial family with drama surrounding their every move, there is no doubt that they are very influential when it comes to ideas surrounding female entrepreneurship and body image. They are powerful women who have made names for themselves through entrepreneurial ventures, and are loved and hated by viewers around the globe. Though many of their projects have good intentions, the norms they promote are not always ideal for women in society, especially younger generations, when it comes to mental health. The Kar-Jenners have created a powerful empire with a platform that has the ability to influence certain social norms, whether they have good or bad ideals. Let’s hope they continue to push forward good ideals into the media, and leave hurtful ones in the past.


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