To the surprise of few, the Kardashian-Jenners are in the news again. Now, it’s Kylie’s turn in the spotlight for her faux-full lips.
Inspired by her realistic-looking makeup, many have taken it upon themselves to sign up for the “Kylie Jenner Challenge.” Challenge participants try all sorts of weird methods to suction their mouths and enlarge their lip size.
The final results of the challenge are harmful in a myriad of ways. The challenge can cause pain, swelling and bruising, and potentially scar or permanently disfigure faces.
But on a larger scale, the trend highlights and glamorizes the supposed novelty of a white woman with big lips, while, historically, women of color with traditionally large lips have been ridiculed for those features.
Racist advertisements and cartoons depicted members of with large, red lips, usually accompanied by an offensive slogan or joke. White Europeans put Africans in human zoos because their physical features were considered a spectacle. This dehumanization of the black community heavily contributed to the racial oppression that continues today, which has become apparent through the language used to discuss the Baltimore protesters.
Most “Kylie Jenner Challenge” participants probably do not intend to do anything other than emulate Jenner’s recent beauty stunt. However, the sudden surge in acceptance and desire of big lips indicates society does not view traditional facial features of minorities as attractive unless they are on a white person’s face.
This lip-enhancement follows the big-butt trend popularized by Kylie’s half-sister, Kim Kardashian. Kim, infamous for her large posterior, was criticized late last year for her #breaktheinternet post on Instagram and her photoshoot with Paper Magazine. In the shoot, Kim recreated Jean-Paul Goude’s racist photograph emphasizing the naked butt of Carolina Beaumont, a black woman.
This insensitivity extends beyond Kylie and Kim.
This January, Cosmopolitan magazine fell into some hot water overt, “21 Beauty Trends that Need to Die,” a post using minorities as examples in the “R.I.P.” side of the list. White women were also included in the “dead,” side but there was a distinct exclusion of women of color in the “hello, gorgeous” section.
In a similar vein, the media ridiculed black actress and singer Zendaya Coleman, for wearing her hair in dreadlocks on the red carpet, while praising Lady Gaga’s dreads.
Making a complete list of white celebrities copying features of other individuals of color could take days.
While Kylie and other white celebrities get to pick apart bodies of color, individuals of color continue to fight for agency over their bodies and their lives. The past year’s protests against racist police violence are only part of a larger issue in which bodies of color are considered less valuable than white bodies.
Praising white women for their beauty while degrading women of color for their own physical features sends a dangerous message to girls of color, telling them that their own bodies are not beautiful or worthy. Although Kylie did not intend it, the popularization of her latest trend is only a perpetuation of racial oppression.
Photo courtesy of Disney|ABC Television Group.
Hanna Greenblott is a sophomore English language and literature major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.