Kim Kardashian was accused of editing her waist size. Body image advocates say that’s dangerous.

·7-min read
Kim Kardashian was accused of editing her waist size in a recent SKIMS ad. (Photo: Getty Images)
Kim Kardashian was accused of editing her waist size in a recent SKIMS ad. (Photo: Getty Images)

Kim Kardashian faced backlash for a recently released SKIMS campaign video where it seemed that her waist was edited to appear slimmer than it really is, drawing criticism for perpetuating an unattainable beauty standard in her brand's marketing. But even after a SKIMS spokesperson told Page Six that the distortion of Kim's finger tracing her waist was just a "glitch" due to poor quality that has since been corrected, the conversation around video editing and the dangers of celebrities using it continues.

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A close up of the video clip in question appears in an Instagram Reel posted by self love advocate and influencer Kenzie Brenna who spoke out about the ad shortly after seeing it herself. And while she shared that she felt "really disappointed" in the reality television star for seemingly altering her body to illustrate an idealized figure, she tells Yahoo Life that she is also hurt for the message that it sends to other impressionable women.

"I feel like it's misguiding people and I feel really protective of younger girls and younger women. And I feel like the Kardashians never, ever come out to take responsibility for the large amount of influence that they have," Brenna says. "When someone of that magnitude is altering their body in certain ways, those are like the types of people that are mostly leaders. [Kim] has more followers on social media than politicians, and if this is the standard that we're still trying to hit, we can't ever do it. It's not even about dieting. It's about digitally altering your body and enhancing your body in ways that dieting and plastic surgery can't even do for you."

The role that the Kardashians play in both creating and perpetuating the ever-evolving beauty standard has been made clear throughout the years, as the physiques of all five Kardashian-Jenner sisters turn into trends made profitable by their marketing of diet teas, waist trainers and now SKIMS shapewear. As long as they're not honest about the means that they've taken themselves to look as they do in the media, however, Brenna says their influence is detrimental.

"Not only are they getting plastic surgery to get rid of their lines, to get rid of features that they don't like, they're using makeup, they're contouring. And then on top of that, they're using filters. And then on top of those filters, they're using editing apps to make their nose smaller, their lips bigger, their jaws different," she says. "You are having people trust you and it's misplaced. You're not being honest. There's a level of dishonesty here and we don't need that in 2021."

More importantly, Brenna points out, that so many of the people most impacted by the Kardashians's images don't have the media literacy to understand the tools and tricks that can be used to alter images, whether on a television screen or on social media. This is something that Victoria Garrick, a body image and mental health advocate, quickly realized after a video that she created to expose video editing techniques went viral on TikTok.

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"I just thought I would be showing the drastic difference between the edit and the real version, but people were blown away by the fact that it was even possible in the first place," she tells Yahoo Life of the video that shows a highly edited version of herself in a bikini before revealing what she actually looks like. "That's why I posted my second video explaining, 'Hey, this is how I did it,' so you can see how easy, fast and quick it is to do something like this."

The TikTok video followed controversy surrounding Khloe Kardashian, who had an image of her in a bikini removed from the internet after it was posted without her permission. The fallout included an Instagram live video and a feed post where the youngest Kardashian sister aimed to prove what her natural body looks like, as people claimed that the viral photo didn't look at all like the Khloe that appears on social media. Still, as Garrick indirectly pointed out, videos aren't proof of a "natural" appearance.

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While some called Khloe's response to the ordeal a "missed opportunity" to acknowledge what really goes into her nearly perfect appearance, Garrick later explained the dangers of unknowingly consuming edited content, saying that it serves as an unrealistic basis for comparison. And while comparison remains a big problem for social media users of all ages, she hopes to make her followers aware of the unattainable standards many of them are holding themselves to as a result.

"You're comparing yourself to the celebrity's picture or you're comparing yourself to something online, and then you don't feel like you are good enough. You think you need to go lose weight, you think you need to have a bigger butt, you think you need a smaller waist. And so I guess my hope is to say, 'Hey, even these people don't have those things. It's not attainable,'" she says. "I like to reveal what's possible and what's really happening behind the scenes so that consumers can feel more comfortable in knowing this is never going to be attainable for me, so I don't want to put myself through the ringer of dieting and eating disorders and body dysmorphia."

Brenna similarly focuses on the mental health implications of the mere existence of content like that which the Kardashians put out there, explaining that although some people try to "minimize" the impact that these images can have on individuals, there's actually a larger issue at play.

"There's a level of self-regulation and self-responsibility that we all absolutely have to be doing for sure. With that being said, when Kim [posts edited content], it doesn't matter if I look at that ad or if I look at her stuff or not. There is a Kardashian industrial complex that we actually do need to be talking about," Brenna explains. "She influences beauty trends. She influences body trends. She's influenced the plastic surgery industry. She's influenced makeup, makeup artists, what's trendy, what's cool right now to wear. So whether or not I look at her stuff, I am still impacted by her and you cannot minimize that."

She goes on to say that it is a "very deep and complex process to separate yourself" from the beauty standards that exist throughout pop culture and the feeling that people must change themselves to adhere to those unattainable ideals. And while creating content that makes more people aware of the realities of a celebrity's edited images doesn't solve the problem, it certainly starts an important conversation.

"Talking about this, opening it up and airing it out releases a lot of shame for people. When I tell people this is not a real body, this is a body that has been surgically enhanced and now digitally altered, so that even if you had money, you still couldn't look like this, you would still have to digitally alter yourself — it makes people feel like they're having a permission slip for the first time in their lives to be themselves," Brenna says. "This work is really important."

Garrick adds, "I still think that the diet industry is a big, big machine that's going to take many years to break down, but fortunately there are so many amazing people and creators who are helping kind of shed light on it."

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