I need to preface this article with the fact I have a gigantic girl crush on Kendall Jenner. If you’re looking for proof, go onto my Pinterest, find the board labelled Girl Crush and look for the first post. It’s Kendall! I also willingly paid for her app. And bought dresses (yes multiple) from her Kylie & Kendall Forever New line. Now that we’ve got evidence that I do in fact like Kendall Jenner, it’s time to get to the point of this article. Why can’t Kendall Jenner seem to get it right?
She was 2018’s highest paid model, and is from one of the world’s most renowned families. She has the world at her feet. But lately, it seems that every other step she’s making is a bad PR move. Don’t believe me? Type ‘Kendall Jenner’ into Google News and see for yourself. The latest is a subpoena regarding Fyre Festival, and continued negative coverage of her sponsorship with Proactiv. I’d call these strikes one and two, but Miss Jenner has a long history of publicly missing the mark.
I’m sure she did things that frustrated us regular folk before 2017 (Harry Styles and the New Year’s yacht, anyone?), but when thinking of Kendall’s public missteps, the first thing that springs to mind is the infamous Pepsi commercial.
The campaign was accused of trivializing the Black Lives Matter movement. It essentially depicted Kendall Jenner and a can of Pepsi acting as a peacemaker between protesters and police. Bernice King, daughter of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, posted a photo of her father with the caption “if only Daddy would’ve known about the power of #Pepsi”. Pepsi removed the ad after 24 hours and apologized, and also apologized directly to Kendall Jenner. Which only drew more criticism – and countless memes of Kris Jenner.
Now Kendall obviously didn’t come up with the concept for that campaign. According to Forbes, Pepsi’s brand value is $18.4 billion. That’s to say, the company can afford to hire the best of the best when it comes to marketing. But Kendall was essentially the public face of that campaign. So when social media backlash arose – and it arose swiftly – Kendall copped the majority of the flak for it.
Kendall was criticised at the time for not responding to the backlash. In typical Kardashian-Jenner fashion, the event was used as fodder for Keeping Up With the Kardashians. The delay in the show meant people only saw her reaction five months after it happened. Many thought five months later was too late, was essentially capitalising for monetary gain, and didn’t address the real issue, but showed Kendall as painting herself as a victim.
Shortly after the public fiasco came the ‘greatest party that never happened’ – Fyre Festival. Originally promoted late 2016 on Instagram, with models posting group photos in coordinated skimpy swimwear, it was supposed to be a brand new music festival on the islands of the Bahamas… we all know how well that turned out. Once again, Kendall did not come up with the festival idea, but she hitched her wagon to the wrong advertising campaign. And instead of apologizing for it like Bella Hadid did, she deleted the post from her Instagram.
In June of the same year (big year for Kendall Jenner screwing up, huh?), both Kendall and Kylie faced backlash after releasing a line of shirts that showed their faces superimposed over those of music legends – Tupac Shakur, the Notorious B.I.G, Ozzy Osbourne, Pink Floyd and more. Both Voletta Wallace, mother of Notorious B.I.G, and Sharon Osbourne, wife of Ozzy Osbourne, took to social media to express their distaste over the shirts. The lawyer for Notorious B.I.G.’s estate sent a cease and desist letter to the girls. The shirts, which retailed for USD$125, were pulled within 24 hours, and a public apology was released. The screenshotted apology (written on the Notes App, like all good celebrity apologies are) said that the designs were not well thought out, they had no intention to disrespect, and that they’ll use this as an opportunity to learn from these mistakes.
Let’s fast forward to mid-2018, where we reach the LOVE Magazine debacle. I remember reading the caption when it was first published – my first thought was: “ooh, not a good look.” She was quoted saying: “Since the beginning we’ve been super selective about what shows I would do… I was never one of those girls who would do like 30 shows a season or whatever the f*ck those girls do. More power to ‘em.”
A lot of models retaliated on social media, saying they don’t have the luxury to step back from shows without suffering financially and that often it’s more like 80 shows a season. Once again, Kendall was accused of completely lacking how her privilege has helped her excel in the modelling industry when other models have to slog away at it for years with limited connections, and that her language just reeked of entitlement.
And last but not least, we have the Kendall Jenner Proactiv campaign. Part of the problem with this PR stumble was not the Proactiv partnership – Kendall has been the face of numerous brands in the past (that’s why she was 2018’s highest paid model) – but the hype leading up to it. Kris Jenner posted about how she was so proud of Kendall for being so raw and brace and vulnerable. In a time when numerous people are coming out with their #MeToo stories, a lot of people assumed it may be something similar. A teaser video of Kendall saying she can help her fans also flamed more speculation with people speculating it may have been struggles with a mental health issue or perhaps a coming out story.
When it was revealed to be a brand sponsorship, people were furious with both Kris and Kendall. People thought the whole thing was overhyped, and that it may have been something genuine as opposed to paid sponsorship. Kendall has spoken about her struggles with acne before – which can be a debilitating struggle for some people – but not once has she mentioned Proactiv in the same vein. In fact, her, and her sisters, have credited their family dermatologist Christie Kidd with clearing up Kendall’s acne.
And therein lies why Kendall Jenner can’t seem to get it right – none of it seems authentic.
And authenticity that is something the general public is demanding more and more from celebrities, to politicians, to brands. With the Pepsi campaign, Kendall had never before been seen to be ‘woke’, and never promoted herself as a white ally. When you think of Kendall Jenner, you don’t think of an activist campaigning for the Black Lives Matter campaign – in fact, the family is constantly accused of capitalizing off black culture.
Although everyone thought the Fyre Festival sounded too good to be true, Kendall couldn’t have personally predicted that the event would fail to such a spectacular degree. However, her post did not disclose that she was paid to post about the festival (a rumoured USD$250,000) – she did not #ad or #sponsored. The Federal Trade Commission guidelines require that Instagram users disclose to their followers when they’re being compensated for promoting a product. Kendall didn’t, and her post was considered to be in direct violation of the FTC guidelines. It’s not the first time the Kardashian-Jenner family has gotten in trouble for their Instagram advertising.
The criticism for their line of shirts with their faces imposed over musical legends is pretty self-explanatory. These are people who have solidified themselves as icons in the music world, and whose music transcends generations. Kylie and Kendall have done a lot with their lives, but they’re definitely not at icon/legend status. You can look up to someone, and not superimpose your face over theirs on shirts sold for $125 – another example of them looking at profit over anything else. The fact they didn’t reach out to the people/the estates of the people whose imagery they were using came off as disrespectful – and illegal.
The LOVE magazine quote reeked of entitlement. Her apology also didn’t look properly at what she had said – she blamed it on being misquoted and taken out of context, instead of owning up to her words and acknowledging the amount of privilege that comes with having the surname she does – and the connections that immediately come with it.
Kendall has been open with her struggles about acne for many years, but not once in an interview or on her now defunct app has she mentioned Proactiv. She’s turning her struggle into money– wish I could do that with all my issues – but once again it’s inauthentic. People were so excited to get authenticity from a Jenner, but the reveal of sponsorship just disappointed her fans yet again.
Kendall capitalises on new opportunities without considering the repercussions of her actions. She lacks the foresight to predict the backlash that will come with her public moves. When you’ve got as many public blunders as she has under her belt, you’d hope she has a hell of a lot of hindsight now to guide her. Or perhaps a better PR person. Kris seems to be losing her touch.
Written by Kate Evans