Tuesday, 16 December 2014

In Defence of Kendall Jenner

In February of this year, Kendall Jenner walked in her first major catwalk show - Marc Jacobs. I have to admit, when I read about this online my first reaction was "how unfair" and I said that she had most likely got that casting based on her name and her momager's involvement. However, none can deny the soaring success and tremendous reception Kendall has received in the fashion world, which is no mean feat. As someone who has modeled previously, I know how competitive getting a job is and how disheartening it is when you're unsuccessful. Earlier this week, I came across an open letter to the second-youngest Kardashian sister, penned by fellow model Arisce Wanzer on September 22nd 2014. I immediately disagreed with the words she wrote and the attitude that she has adopted towards her, so here is my own opinion on this view. First, here is the scathing letter posted by the Virginia-born model via online journalism site theblot.com:

Dear Kendall,
Take a moment and remove yourself from your current situation, if you can, to a life that isn’t riddled with excess and only hearing the word “yes” to your wants and requests. Now, imagine you’re from a small town and/or Third-World country where your only way to get out of your current social class, achieve your dreams, get a green card or just gain better work conditions is to become a high-fashion model. You have to leave for six months to a year sometimes, signing contracts you can barely understand, let alone oblige to, almost without choice. You’re away from your family, your friends and everything you know. You live in a one-bedroom apartment with six other girls in the same situation in this Big Apple, New York City.

Did I mention you’re only 17 when all of this goes down? That means you have to go to tutoring and/or English lessons in between learning how to “walk” at the agency, attending castings every other day, going on test shoots to get you experience, trying to learn your new neighborhood, going to the gym and hoping to maybe make some money all at once. Oh, and your apartment and test shoots aren’t free, by the way. They are added to your account with the agency, as are your casting outfits and cellphone. These are going to leave you in some serious debt if nobody books you for anything; some girls owe upward of $30,000 after a year of trying to book gigs, so take that into perspective as well, Miss Jenner.
So now let’s pretend you actually lived through all of that, and it’s finally Fashion Week. Exciting, right? This could be your big break! You could send your family in Belarus or Woodbridge, Va., the money they need for your little brothers to have new clothes and/or books for school and/or even afford a plane ticket home for the holidays! Imagine standing in line after line of girls with your exact height and body measurements all day, each one hoping for a coveted spot on the New York Fashion Week runway.
Casting after casting, and you just can’t seem to get your place. But suddenly after a week full of the word “No,” killing yourself at the gym, exhausting yourself in classes, cutting your diet in half, not talking with your family and sleeping in a room with six equally exhausted girls, you get the call. Your agent texts you with an 8 a.m. fitting at Marc Jacobs. Oh my god, you’re going to walk for Marc Jacobs! This is a dream come true, someone finally said yes, and the prestige is beyond what you could have imagined! So you pack your model bag, a bottled water, your walking shoes and agency-approved casting outfit. This could be your big break, assuming they don’t cut your look last minute, a common practice done to no-name girls, so fingers crossed!
The fitting was perfect, your garment is amazing, and Marc was SO nice! And cute, too! One last fitting after that one, and it’s show time; you’re finally going to debut everything you’ve worked so hard for. You get to prove to your family that you left everything behind for a great cause, and you can finally pay back all of your agency debt, not to mention the money your parents lent you to make ends meet.
It’s the morning of the show, and you’re up and ready, grab some fresh fruit to nibble on, pack your bag, and you’re out the door. The subway is packed with lots of models, agents, buyers and fashion people in general, all exhausted, but ready to work. You’ve been bumped/tripped by both a hairstylist’s travel kit and a makeup guys’ enormous Caboodles-like suitcase, all before 10 a.m. You walk into Lincoln Center, and it’s like magic … you can’t believe you’re here! You’ve finally made it!
Backstage is a commotion circus of clothes, hair, makeup, yelling, Fashion TV interviews … it’s an Instagram overload! All the big names are there, your personal heroes including Hanne Gaby Odiele, Karlie Kloss, Joan Smalls, Jamie Bochert, Anna Wintour, Marc Jacobs himself — the list goes on! You’ve really hit the big leagues!
But wait, isn’t that a reality TV star over there in hair and makeup? Yea, that’s definitely a Kardashian or something. What is she doing here? Did she take the subway? Was she at the casting? What agency is she with? I didn’t see her last season … Does she need MORE fame? MORE money? A green card perhaps? Doesn’t she get enough cash from that show that all of ignorant America glamorizes? Didn’t her sister have sex with someone on camera and profit from the video sales to get their family its new line of limelight? This girl didn’t do and doesn’t owe half of what you did (remember, you’re NOT “KJ” in this scenario) to get here today, that much is certain. Her mommy surely called a top agency, got her in the door and the design houses just chose to milk her fame like the cash cow that it is. One by one like dominos from Vogue to Givenchy, fashion is selling out to the ignorant masses for money. What happened to the art, the cerebral part of fashion? Did it really all die with Alexander McQueen?
Well, there goes the neighborhood, I guess. Gone is the prestige you once felt as a “chosen one” by Marc, Anna or Ricardo — this cheapens your entire experience. You thought you were special, that your hard work had finally paid off. You didn’t realize that these coveted spots were for sale. The cost? The soul and dignity of a fashion house. The clothes will still sell, and the players will still play, but the image will be forever tarnished by these real life Veruca Salts buying their way in with sleazy fame rights.
You’re on to walk in five, so you’re smoking to calm your nerves. You need to ash your cigarette, and there’s Kendall Jenner’s drink. You already feel a bit better.
Until next time, Ariscestocrats!

This letter is a missed opportunity for Arisce to show that the fashion world is moving forward and to show that it can be thoroughly enjoyable to be a part of the modelling world and wider fashion industry. As her career began, Arisce arguably had a turbulent journey to get to the level she is at now - as a transgender woman of colour from a small town, she faced setbacks the second she decided upon this trajectory. I take nothing away from the amount of hard work and determination it must have taken for her to forge her career and commend her tenacity and drive.

However, this letter is basically girl-bashing hate mail towards a young woman she has possibly never even had a conversation with. It has come across as pure jealousy and bitterness. There is no constructive advice and no suggestions of how to improve this situation she perceives, merely telling Kendall to quit and condoning bullying her whilst doing her job. Arisce's last comment about putting out your cigarette in her drink particularly fired me up. This is a disgusting act and can only ever be perceived as a physical bullying tactic. No matter what distaste you have for someone or how they affect you, actions like this are never acceptable to me. Personally, that statement instantly invalidated every argument she had made before. It struck me as a girl who is spitting her dummy out, not as a woman contributing towards positive change in the modelling industry. 

On to Kendall's career, it may wholly be the truth that Kendall and her family bought her place in the line-up of the Fashion Week show earlier in the year, but I believe she has now earned her place in modelling. If Kendall was not good at what she does then she wouldn't keep getting job after job. I believe that a designer would not discredit his hard work and designs by displaying them on someone who couldn't show them to their best potential. The castings that Kendall works on now, such as the Estee Lauder beauty campaign and the Chanel Metiers D'Art shows, are mostly due to her previous performance. 

Arisce's grievance with the fashion industry casting Kendall so frequently is the very definition of 'model-of-the-moment' - using a public figure who is massively socially relevant and present to promote their brand. By this argument, Arisce should be condemning Cara Delevigne and other newly-world famous models as well, but she isn't. Similarly, Arisce also condemns Kendall for getting "more fame" and "more money" since her family is already wealthy and well-known. Nowhere have I seen Arisce writing a scathing letter directed at Cara Delevigne for being rich and famous when she was born into a wealthy socialite family. Why is she not accusing Cara of simply using her older sister, Poppy, and her long-standing modelling to get her own foot in the door? These statements are big double standards, with no real thought behind them. 

By bringing up the Kardashian family's previously well-documented dramas, such as Kim's infamous sex tape, the disgruntled model is trying to discredit Kendall's success, and say she does not need fame due to this. Has it never occurred to her that perhaps Kendall, like many, many other people her age, wants to break away from her family and earn her own money in her own name? That perhaps she wants to be known for what she has achieved and not for how her family are portrayed in the media? Is this really such a wrong thing to want? I'm not even particularly a fan of the Kardashians, having only seen YouTube clips, but I am a fan of sisters doing it for themselves. There is enough female-bashing in the media already, and you shouldn't expect to be put down by a fellow woman, let alone anyone else.

Finally, the last point made by Arisce is that by casting someone like Kendall, "gone is the prestige" and she no longer feels like "the chosen one". She is choosing to be bitter over one girl's success instead of celebrating her own. Arisce was not shoved out of the show for Kendall, she was still chosen to walk among the hundreds of other girls who went along to the casting and were unsuccessful. She has achieved so much by being cast and I think she is focusing on the wrong situation in this whole letter. 

You aren't going to like everyone in the playground but hey, at least you still get to play. 

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