should we really be celebrating kylie removing her lip fillers?
Images from Instagram
In 2015, a new beauty trend seized the Internet. It was called the #KylieJennerLipChallenge and involved sucking on a shot glass to plump your lips. Suck too long, however, and you risk bursting all your blood vessels and looking like the victim of very symmetrical spider bite.
But it’s not just self-inflicted lip hickeys. The Kardashian family reportedly triggered a rise in cosmetic surgery, with Kylie’s surgeon himself telling WWD, “It’s like Kylie single-handedly gave a whole generation the ticket to a more enhanced version of themselves.” Her company, Kylie Cosmetics, whose signature item is their Lip Kits, made $420 million USD in its first 18 months, and is set to hit a cool billion by 2022, WWD reports. In essence, she’s built a multimillion dollar business off the back of her distinctive lip fillers. And they are everywhere. Friends, colleagues, influencers, waiters, celebrities, yummy mummies -- the entire female cast of Love Island, presumably.
All considered, it’s not really surprising that the internet spiralled into anaphylactic shock with the news that Kylie Jenner has removed her lip fillers. A few days ago she Instagrammed a picture of her and friend Anastasia Karanikolaou captioned “heat wave”. Except people weren’t of dwelling on how they managed to not look like the clammy lobsters the rest of us resemble in this weather. “She looks like the old Kylie here idk why”, someone commented, to which Kylie responded, “i got rid of all my lip filler [wide eye emoji wide eye emoji smiley face emoji]”.
People are “HERE FOR IT.” According to various tweets, “Home girl looks bomb as fuck”, “The culture is changing!” and “lip fillers are cancelled until further notice.” They’re not necessarily wrong -- given Kylie’s inordinate influence in the beauty world, this may very well trigger a seismic shift in surgery requests (or lack thereof). And she does indeed look bomb as fuck. But is a few millimetres reduction in lip girth something we should be unequivocally championing?
For starters, a lot of the rhetoric around the story is Kylie’s return to a more ‘au naturale’ aesthetic. Vogue UK , The Daily Mail , W Magazine , Metro and then some all bandied the word “natural” around as enthusiastically as a new organic vege crisp brand. But others were quick to point out that she wasn’t entirely back to her lips of yore.
Also, dissolving some lip filler doesn’t exactly turn her back to the prepubescent Kylie that asked Kris how old Kourtney was when she got a boob job. Because let’s be honest: it’s probably not the only work she’s had done. She mightn’t have confirmed any other surgery, but there’s endless internet analysis extrapolating the precise number of procedures she’s had from a handful of before and after shots.
Even if she hasn’t been under the knife, she’s fairly proficient in manipulating her image in ways that don’t involve any skin punctures. She’s been called out for reportedly Photoshopping an Instagram selfie. And she recently posted a makeup tutorial with Vogue, in which she applies about five different eyeshadow colours, a mask of foundation and performs some contouring wizardry where she buffs a Picasso-esque cubist situation into an seamlessly blended Mona Lisa. It is phenomenal, yes, but is is not ‘natural’.
There’s also the fact that celebrating the return of the thin lips Kylie was born with risks excluding women who weren’t -- particularly those of colour. “Kylie Jenner removed her lip fillers and y’all are suddenly saying big lips are ‘out’”, one Twitter user said. “Black people have always had big lips. Stop treating people’s features like a trend.” Another added, “‘Kylie Jenner took out her injections’ ‘big lips are cancelled’ aigh can y’all admit that y’all use black features as trends now and go ?”
This adoption of features commonly associated with with women of colour (curvaceous bum, cornrows, luscious lips) has seen Kylie and her fellow Kardashian krew cop a fair bit of deserved flak. Meanwhile, Kim’s cosmetic line has been dragged for not offering a full spectrum of skin colours. When Kylie debuted her concealer range, it had a wider colour selection -- although people argued she was only capitalising on the success of Rihanna’s inclusive Fenty line. In short, they’re essentially picking and choosing the elements of black culture they like, but aren’t subjected to the marginalisation that generally comes with it, nor prepared to actually support and provide for the needs of POC. Unless Rihanna does it first.
What’s more, all of this feeds into society’s disturbing obsession with treating bodies like they’re a single use Claire’s accessory you can dismiss after a couple of selfies. This is, of course, nothing new. Pre Industrial Revolution, upper class white people didn’t want a tan because it was associated with the working class who laboured outside. Now everyone’s blistering in the heatwave slathered in negative SPF, in attempt to more closely resemble the living Michelangelo sculptures swanning around Love Island. Approximately every two days someone retweets a picture of Marilyn Monroe with a caption that longingly yearns for the more ‘curvaceous’ body ideals they held then -- nevermind that she remodelled herself from curly brown-haired cherub to bleach blonde bombshell to get famous. The 90s’ dubiously named heroin chic movement idealised malnourishment. Last year the New York Post published an article proclaiming ‘boobs are back’, prompting thousands of women worldwide to wonder where precisely they’d gone in the first place. Pinning up a singular body part as fashionable, whether that’s a inflated pout or a narrow definition of ‘natural’, is just one more form of objectification -- fetishising those who fit the ideals of that moment, body shaming those who don’t.
"It’s a vicious, paradoxical cycle that sees celebrities simultaneously subjected to the same unrealistic standards they help perpetuate."
Ironically, it’s this sort of shame that compelled Kylie to build on her original lips in the first place, and then build a brand on that. “I was insecure about my lips, and lipstick is what helped me feel confident," she told the Evening Standard in May. Her insecurities have even trickled down to her child. In a recent Q&A, she said, "I prayed and prayed that she would have my big eyes, and she has the biggest eyes ever. The one thing I was insecure about, she has. She has the most perfect lips in the whole entire world. She ain't get those from me. Thank her dad for those." It’s a vicious, paradoxical cycle that sees celebrities simultaneously subjected to the same unrealistic standards they help perpetuate.
Ultimately, it’s every woman's prerogative to do whatever they want with their own bodies, whether that’s pumping it full of silicon or embracing full bush. But until we stop reducing features to trends, it can be hard to figure out if we really do want something, or are just buying into the latest fad.