Earlier this week, Kim Kardashian showed up to the Met Gala along with every other famous in the history of time and space. Wearing a subtle white dress by Vivienne Westwood, she—like her sisters, and 99 percent of all other attendees—ignored the Rei Kawakubo/Commes des Garcons theme and embraced simplicity and wearing whatever-the-hell-she-wanted over the experimentalism that was supposed to define the night.
But if you’ve been paying attention to Kim’s post-robbery narrative, you’d know that she’s aiming for less to be more. As she explained to Ellen DeGeneres last week, materialism dictated a good part of her life before Paris, and in the wake of the trauma she experienced, she’s begun approaching her life differently.
“It was probably no secret, you see it on the show,” she explained. “I was definitely materialistic before. Not that there’s anything bad with having things and working hard to get those things… but I’m so happy that my kids get this me and that this is who I am raising my kids, ’cause I really don’t care about that stuff anymore.”
And that’s great, for real. Materialism is never a good look, especially because money and possessions are fleeting and everybody knows that after you’re able to pay for shelter, food, and other necessities, you can’t (and won’t) buy happiness. Over the last few months especially, Kim has used her social media platform to focus on family life over business (minus that morning sickness-pill sponsored post), and opted to party with Kylie—and a slice of pizza—after the Met Gala instead of anyone and anything else.
But was materialism ever really Kim’s biggest problem? Nope.
Personal feelings for Kim Kardashian aside, let’s admit that she’s a brilliant businesswoman. The woman parlayed a sex tape into a career as a public figure and branded herself an influencer before that term was even coined. From watching the show or reading about her, we knew that she worked hard and she worked constantly, fronting first for her own brand and then aligning herself with designers, phone case companies and her own family, which created a dynasty. Despite accusations she was “famous for nothing,” Kim was actually famous for showing up: she showed up on red carpets, to business openings, to galas, to restaurants—and she boosted the exposure of these companies via her own.
And that’s no small feat. Anyone who’s been “on” for a party knows that emotional and mental labour is as challenging as physical work, and shouldn’t be dismissed by those who may not understand it. You couldn’t pay me enough to attend two parties in one week, let alone several in one evening.
The problem is that showing up isn’t enough in a post-Trump world. Between the robbery (which went down on October 3, when we were still living in an Obama world) and her return to social media three months later, everything changed. Kim may have said that she’d vote for Hillary (after saying she’d vote for Trump—woof) in the weeks before the election, but that was the extent of her political discourse. She didn’t show up to rallies or protests or use her platform for much more than an extension of her own agenda. And while she shouldn’t be expected to do anything after being held up at gunpoint in Paris, when she reappeared on Twitter and Instagram, she dealt primarily in her main area of expertise: herself. And despite the Kardashian-Jenners being a fun break from the garbage fire of our current political landscape, “showing up” in the Kardashian sense needs to mean more.
These days, showing up means backing a cause—or, at the very least, not contributing to a new one (see: #Pepsi). Rampant materialism is not what will lead to Kim’s public downfall; really, that’s what she continues to be built on. Instead, it’s her apathy that may deal the biggest blow to her relevance. Which is complicated because she’s not inherently apathetic. In fact, she’s quite the opposite: Kim’s tendency to share about herself and her family shows us just how much she cares and feels—as do blog posts like the one she wrote in support of BLM which encouraged followers to do more than throw down a hashtag. Ultimately, Kim is capable of delivering more than a public appearance, but she’s hung so much of her profile on doing just that. Or more specifically, of living a particular kind of life.
If Kim’s abandonment of material things is sincere, then that’s wonderful and great and indicative of personal growth (which is necessary for everybody). But to live better and more honestly doesn’t necessitate leaving possessions in the dust, it means hinging yourself on more than those things. She can promote Lumee phone cases and detox teas until we’re all dead, but that needs to accompany a bigger message and a bigger ethos. To live simply doesn’t mean toning down a red carpet look, it means acknowledging where you are needed and then existing there.
Because Kim still has the power. She just needs to decide where to put it.