Cookie banner

This site uses cookies. Select "Block all non-essential cookies" to only allow cookies necessary to display content and enable core site features. Select "Accept all cookies" to also personalize your experience on the site with ads and partner content tailored to your interests, and to allow us to measure the effectiveness of our service.

To learn more, review our Cookie Policy, Privacy Notice and Terms of Use.

clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Crucial Update

All the Arty Ways That Important Writers Have Described Kim Kardashian

“Kim's face is a like a Duchamp urinal: In declaring itself as a kind of public art, it mocks and dares and provokes.”

Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

As 2016 America’s version of royalty, Kim Kardashian has been the subject of a virtually infinite number of articles on the internet, including many on this very website. Over her decade of pop culture dominance, she’s also been the subject of a different type of journalism: the fancy, expensive celebrity magazine profile.

These sorts of pieces deviate from the average "Kim Kardashian Did X Thing" post in a few ways. Firstly, they harness the literary prestige of a usually Very Important Writer, are thousands of words long, and are generally accompanied by some kind of arty photo shoot that, in Kim’s case, typically involves either a) nudity, b) irony, or c) a combination of the two.

But here’s the thing about Kim Kardashian: Everything there is to know about her, she’s already told us. Kim Kardashian is the opposite of an enigma. The Kim Kardashian you know and love is as much Kim Kardashian as you’re going to get; any regular viewer of her E! series could tell you the same thing.

Which is precisely why it’s so strange, and often highly amusing, to read ambling sentences that attempt to craft a poetic description of a woman who has already done that job far better than anyone else ever could. Below, 15 of the best examples, from magazine profiles, long-winded reviews of her book Selfish, and good ol’ fashioned think pieces, including one that compares Kim Kardashian's face to a urinal (albeit the iconic porcelain version by artist Marcel Duchamp). Let’s dive in!

From GQ’s "Kim Kardashian West on Kanye and Taylor Swift, What’s In O.J.’s Bag, and Understanding Caitlyn" by Caity Weaver, June 2016:

This is the other element of Kim's new appeal: Marriage and motherhood didn't diminish her eroticism, but combined, they made it more palatable. Imbued it with a new élan, even. (It's difficult to slut-shame a 30-something mother of two when the man nuzzling her neck in photos is her husband.) It was as if, by fulfilling societal expectations of marriage and motherhood, Kim finally earned the right to take off all her clothes. Settling down allowed her to turn up.

From Vogue’s "Kim Kardashian and Kanye West: Keeping Up with Kimye" by Hamish Bowles, March 2014:

The dress is a fitting complement to Kim’s voluptuous movie-star beauty, with her flashing Ava Gardner looks and Sophia Loren figure that have helped to establish a new contemporary body paradigm after an era of waifs.

From Rolling Stone’s "Kim Kardashian: American Woman" by Vanessa Grigoriadis, July 2015:

And as much as her thoughts and actions on this Earth may be quotidian, the way she looks is out of this world. As she strides into the meeting precisely on time and in an outfit made up of colors found exclusively in nature — dark-green ankle-length dress, sand-colored lace-up sandals and tree-bark Céline purse — the effect is like a photorealistic painting, meaning that the Kardashian on the TV screen feels more real than the Kardashian in the room. She's a jungle Aphrodite escaped from a forest of big-booty nymphs, with a mane as thick as a horse's and as black as volcanic rock. Her eyelashes flutter like teeny-tiny go-go dancers' fans. Her nails are small, elegant talons, painted a color that manages to be both onyx and the bloodiest red. But it is Kardashian's body that is the thing, of course, and today, as always, her clothing is so tight it feels transgressive, clinging in particular to that strange, glorious butt, a formerly taboo body part that is now not only an inescapable part of the American erotic but also our best and most welcome distraction from climate change, income inequality and ISIS.

From the Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2015, by Martha Stewart:

Beautiful in an exotic, totally exaggerated way, Kim exudes energy, sexuality, drama, determination, impetuousness and happiness. But she and her famous, entrepreneurial siblings—shepherded by a savvy, tireless matriarch—have also expanded the very definition of family.

From W magazine’s "Kim Kardashian: The Art of Reality" by Lynn Hirschberg, November 2010:

This is part of Kardashian’s every-girl approach. She may look like a pinup, but she’s also practical and at least theoretically faces the same challenges as her mostly female fans. She has no particular talents—can’t sing, can’t dance, can’t act—but she has something that appeals: Kardashian represents possibilities, a goal that may be attainable.

And later:

As usual she sat very straight and seemed very calm, almost serene. There’s a stillness about Kardashian that is compelling. She never appears anxious or restless; she’s where she wants to be. That dual sense of ease and concentration is obvious to her fans.

From The Atlantic’s "You Win, Kim Kardashian" by Megan Garber, May 2015:

Kim is naturally beautiful — she is gorgeous, pretty much empirically — but she is repeatedly unsatisfied with the methodical madness of chromosomes. She wants more. She works for more. The selfies compiled in her book may be harbingers of arrogance, or of insecurity, or of some combination of the two; what they also are, however, is evidence of an insistent materialism, of the conviction that one’s "look" is not a fleeting thing, but rather a thing that can be made into media. (Bedroom selfies: "Right before bed but you know your makeup looks good so you have to take a pic.") This is industrial production, applied to one’s appearance. Kim is inventing, in her way, a new strain of capitalism. Its currency is the selfie.

And then:

Kim's face is a like a Duchamp urinal: In declaring itself as a kind of public art, it mocks and dares and provokes.

From New York magazine’s "Jerry Saltz on Kanye, Kim, and ‘the New Uncanny’" by Jerry Saltz, November 2013:

To the famous, these new unprecedented levels of fame must feel like Kim’s nippleless boob: They perform, yet are removed from, yet embody the culture all at the same time. What they do makes a grand gestural show of doing away with concealment, modesty, and self-consciousness, in ways that leave us only with two truly concealed, rather than revealed selves.

From the New York Times’ review of the premiere of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, "The All-Too-Easy Route to Stardom," by Ginia Bellafante, October 2007:

Kim Kardashian came upon her career — as a person famous simply by dint of her aspiration to be — in the estimable way of the quattrocento masters: she apprenticed.

From Slate’s "Self-Publishing" by Laura Bennett, May 2015:

Unlike the many other gussied-up ingénues who rose through the ranks of reality TV, Kim Kardashian’s public image has always been a uniquely nimble balancing act. She manages to project a whole mess of seemingly incompatible traits: wholesome (family values) and scandalous (sex tapes), self-aware (jokes about her own materialism) and oblivious (carrying a Hermès bag painted by her 1-year-old child), highbrow (Vogue covers) and gauche (photo shoots of her butt). Even before Kanye West helped grease her entry into pop culture’s inner sanctum, she’d somehow cemented an image as the most grounded of reality TV’s leading ladies, the usual whiff of desperation counterbalanced with more apparent ownership of her song-and-dance.

And later:

Selfish comes to feel almost like a modern parable for the anyone-can-be-famous age. If you have ever entertained the thought that Kardashian selfies were mere judgment lapses, or the idle fruit of late-night boredom, the total intentionality on display in this book is like a punch to the gut. Here is a woman who presciently hoarded thousands of pictures of her own pouty mien, anticipating the day when some publisher would pay her to compile them. Clearly this is someone who has spent her life devising elaborate ways to get herself seen, and it’s mesmerizing to see the full arc of her self-actualization so vividly on display.

From Salon’s "The Surprising High-Art Theory Behind Kim Kardashian’s ‘Selfish’" by Daphne Muller, May 2015:

In the Internet era, Kardashian similarly employs this gaze and her female body as a platform to arouse discussion and attention (most recently, for Earth Day). And while it may seem absurd — even sacrilegious — to compare the work of a 19th-century visionary painter to a 21st-century mogul of mundanity, we can’t ignore that Kardashian is the most photographed woman in the world largely because she has fashioned her image as the pretext through which she has garnered a whole lot of subjects.

From The Cut’s "What Will the Fashion World Do with Kim Kardashian?" by Benjamin Wallace, August 2012:

The felony count in the indictment, though, seems to be the family’s utter dis­regard for the boundaries that give the rest of us a sense of order in the cosmos. It unsettles our ideas about how things work, or how they should work, to see the Kardashians thrive by blithely trampling over the customary lines between self and other, private and public, soul and body, work and play, real and fake ... There’s a sense that everything is for sale, and nothing should go un-monetized.

From Elle UK’s "Who Does Kim Kardashian-West Think She Is?’" by Louise Gannon, December 2014:

Kim is the ultimate example of an Andy Warhol vision – pop art in permanent performance. We are transfixed. But why? Sitting opposite her, I have to concede that a lot of it has to do with her looks. She is Cleopatra beautiful: perfect skin and the sort of face you want to keep looking at. More than that, though, is an innate self-possession.

From Paper magazine’s "No Filter: An Afternoon with Kim Kardashian" by Amanda Fortini, November 2014:

Social media has created a new kind of fame, and Kardashian is its paragon. It is a fame whose hallmark is agreeable omnipresence, which resembles a kind of evenly spread absence, soothing, tranquil and unobjectionable.

From the New Yorker's "The Multitasking Celebrity Takes Center Stage" by Nathan Heller, June 2016:

Kardashian's rise, far from being a run of fortune bestowed on an undeserving dilettante, is the carefully managed climb of a workaholic who, in shrewd and even innovative ways, ran a zip line through the snarled vines and carnivorous flowers of the tabloid-celebrity jungle and landed in the valley on the other side. The Kardashian business model seems to have three tenets: do what other people won't, retain control, and never let a licensing possibility pass.

Or, in Kim’s own words, "I am very much who you see." Indeed.

Watch: Kim Kardashian and More Stars on the Met Gala Red Carpet