Do I Love To Hate You Or Hate To Love You, Kim Kardashian?
Oprah Winfrey’s recent interviews with the Kardashian family did the unthinkable. For the first time since she came to my attention, which was just under a year before the sextape causing a stir as Paris Hilton’s BFF when they visited Australia in 2006, I began to respect Kim Kardashian. During the two-part sit down with Oprah, Kim held herself with poise and I thought her answers were reflective, honest and thoughtful. One interview cannot change an entire half-decade’s worth of opinion, however, and what tugs most at my heart when discussing the phenomena that is Kim Kardashian is she as modern-day idol for Middle Eastern girls.
Kim expressed to Oprah her pride in representing Middle Eastern women ‘in a modern society.’ “I remember when the wave of Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayek and these beautiful Hispanic women came into light, and I looked up to them and I loved them,” she offered. “But I was like, ‘Where are Middle Eastern women?’ I think we took that category or helped broaden that.”
Over the years I’ve wondered if Kim considered herself of Middle Eastern heritage and felt the outpouring of love from those of a similar background, and I finally got my answer. If we’re to be technical, Armenia isn’t a Middle Eastern country. Once part of the Soviet Union it’s classified best as Eurasia, although many argue it belongs to the “greater Middle East.” There’s no denying Middle Eastern girls including myself (I’m of Lebanese and Cypriot heritage) have adopted Kim as a mascot that attests to our beauty in a western context. I’ve chuckled as I’ve received invites to (and joined) Facebook pages dubbed “Why Do All Lebanese Girls Think They’re Kim Kardashian” (with over 40k “Likes” and counting) because it’s starting to become true. And as much as it kills me to admit it, I marvel over our personal similarities. We’re the same age and have similar taste in men. We grew up idolizing Lopez and Hayek for representing a different kind of beauty (Hayek is also part Lebanese, let’s not forget) and on a more trivial level we both suffer from psoriasis and dislike Indian food (yes, I’m paying close attention).
An essential component of Middle Eastern women’s allure has always been that to the public eye, we’re not so “out there.” We pride ourselves on our raw sexuality being just as fierce as say, Latinas, but traditionally much more concealed. Kim’s rise to fame as the girl with the sextape is decidedly not Middle Eastern. There’s nothing quietly alluring about Kim doing Playboy and her gratuitous booty popping in homemade family YouTube videos. And while breaking stereotypes and going against the grain can be applauded, in a time where strippers are glorified and more girls dream of being boss b*tches than boss ladies there should be absolutely no shame in being demure as a point of difference. Apparently Kim’s current boyfriend Kanye West feels the same, with reports suggesting he told her to look toward contemporaries like English royal Kate Middleton for more elegant style cues.
I’ve been watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians since its first season, taking interest in the family’s mixed heritage (Armenian from late father Robert Kardashian and Scottish, Dutch and Native American from “momager” Kris Jenner). Even when I wanted to throw things at my TV at how vacuous and shallow Kim and her siblings appeared, I stay tuned because of elusive moments like Khloe speaking passionately about their cultural background when husband Lamar Odom is asked to play basketball in Turkey (Armenia and Turkey have strained relations thanks to a number of historical and political issues, including the Armenian Genocide that began during World War I and continuing Turkish attempts at its denial). These moments are few and far between though and I wish they would occur more often (perhaps they don’t, and therein lies the problem).
Kim Kardashian does seem very personable, and honestly too nice for someone so vilified by many in the blogosphere. She’s put her entire life out there for the public to judge and scrutinize, as we do with abandon. I have to come to terms with the fact I’ll forever be conflicted about her fame and as told to Oprah, her newfound position as a Middle Eastern female icon. While I’m proud a woman who looks like me is one of the most talked about people in the world, a part of me will always be disappointed at how she came to be that way.