It’s been a big year for Kim K She married Kanye West in Florence, wrapped the ninth season of Keeping Up With The Kardashians and began filming the tenth, released her seventh fragrance, posed nude for two magazines, posted the most popular photo on Instagram ever (after editing it for four days), designed a clothing line, released her debut range of hair care products, began selecting selfies for her very own coffee table book, and is estimated to earn millions from the Kim Kardashian: Hollywood app. She also sparked numerous fashion controversies, dressed her child in stylish clothes, and came to Australia twice.
This sheer volume of self-promotion (which is large, even for someone whose sole occupation is promoting themselves) helps explain, I think, why Paper magazine’s recent campaign to ‘break the internet’ by placing Kardashian’s bare butt on the cover of its forthcoming December issue didn’t quite work, in that the internet remained very much in tact.
On 12 November, Kim posted a picture of the cover to her Instagram. The image depicted her wearing a slinky black dress and bending forward ever so slightly to balance a champagne glass on her bottom. The headline read ‘KIM KARDASHIAN BREAK THE INTERNET’. Later that day, she posted an alternate cover that featured her bare shining butt as the dress fell away beneath her. Even later on, more photos from the shoot were leaked – and this time she was naked, full frontal.
Social media went relatively crazy – ‘relatively’ being the operative word here. Of course, a plethora of memes began circulating immediately. Think pieces like this one began appearing. People tweeted in both praise and disgust. And the photo of her bare bottom has garnered about 915k likes on Instagram during the three weeks since it was posted. Which sounds like a lot, until you consider that one of her wedding photos generated 2 million likes in a day. In terms of general Kim K fandom and the amount of internet coverage she normally receives, the Paper cover didn’t fare poorly – but it also didn’t register with Kim’s fans any more than other photos she might post.
That’s not to say that receiving 915k Instagram likes doesn’t indicate Kim’s celebrity power. Very few stars command that type of attention, apart from Justin Bieber and Beyoncé and Rihanna. It’s more that for Kim, it’s just business as usual. For as beautiful as Kim’s naked body is, it’s not anything fans haven’t seen before. She hit the limelight in 2007 thanks to a leaked sex tape. She posed nude for GQ during October. She’s been posting suggestive selfies of herself since the dawn of social media. Her body may be beautiful, but it’s not especially surprising. We’re used to seeing her butt, and we’re also used to Kim doing crazy publicity stunts. Her entire life is a publicity stunt in itself, both the means and end of a crazy, money-making, power-acquiring trajectory. Her very fame is built on the playful and shameless self-exposure captured in the Paper shoot, as the success of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, the reality TV show documenting her family’s day to day life, attests to. Sure, the full frontal nude photo to be printed inside Paper is a new step – but Kim is always taking some sort of new step, the type that celebrities always do (choosing an obscure baby name, hosting an elaborate wedding, releasing perfumes, etc).
Paper, as interesting as their article is, seems to have misinterpreted the power of lil’ Kimmie. The problem is not that Kim didn’t break the internet, it’s that she’s doing it daily. Calling attention to it seems kind of bland, or slightly embarrassing, when referring to a star that can literally spend an entire episode of television eating pasta at her mum’s house and be revered for it. The internet can deal with it. Fans can deal with it. We might go crazy for a few days, but then we’ll just like whatever pic she posts next.