Kendall Jenner is proving one fashion show at a time that her modeling career should be taken seriously. In New York, she walked the Diane Von Furstenberg and Marc Jacobs shows, in Milan she appeared in Fendi and Dolce & Gabbana, and the burgeoning “it’ girl is sure to show up in shows at the upcoming Paris Fashion Week. But despite the fact that the fashion industry is viewing Jenner as a star on the rise, the media doesn’t seem to agree. The 18-year-old has been the subject of bullying claims and fat shaming in story after story, and the attention is not only damaging to the young adult herself, but also to her peers, admirers, and others, as well.
The latest issue of the Australian tabloid Famous magazine printed a cover story with a photo of Jenner in a bikini at the Tommy Hilfiger show, claiming that she’s been accused of being “too fat for runway,” and agents are pressuring her to lose 8 kilograms, or about 17 pounds. Images of the “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” cast member appear to be manipulated, adding cellulite where she clearly doesn’t have any. (But why would it matter even if she did?) Unfortunately, the media often irresponsibly covers matters related to women’s bodies, and it has the potential for serious harm. Sarah Jackson, a psychologist at University College London and a researcher for a recent fat-shaming study, tells Yahoo Style that weight-related teasing and stigmatization have been shown to have negative effects on well-being and can lead to psychological distress. She notes that Jenner is clearly very thin, and “calling her fat sends out a strong message to impressionable young readers that might inspire unhealthy aspirations for thinness and extreme dieting.” She explains that rather than the humiliating commentary acting as a form of encouragement to eat less and slim down, this type of conduct might actually have the opposite effect, with the targeted person comfort-eating as a way of coping with feelings of inadequacy.
Jason Seacat, a psychologist at Western New England University specializing in female weight stigmatization, agrees and says that “weight shaming also clearly sends a public message that overweight and obese individuals are less deserving of fair treatment and essentially gives the public permission to discriminate against these individuals.” He tells Yahoo Style that Famous’s mistreatment of Jenner also calls attention to the issue within the fashion industry that models are largely underweight and their public presence and adoration can negatively influence people’s perceptions of themselves. “Young women (and increasingly young men) are subject to brushed up, significantly modified, and unrealistic images and then become convinced that these are the ideal body standards in society,” Seacat says. “Striving to attain these thin standards is not at all healthy! Prominent media outlets need to be more responsible about the images they promote and counter these images with clear messaging that seeks to empower individuals to healthy lifestyles and not simply seek to shame them into submission.”
Jenner seems to be taking the talk following her every move in stride. (She has been in front of the camera since her preteen years, after all.) Last week, there were reports that she was the subject of backstage bullying. “Some [of the models] put out their cigarettes in Kendall’s drink!” a source told In Touch magazine. “They thought she was getting special treatment and just weren’t OK with it.” To dispel rumors, she posted a photo to Instagram of herself and a fellow model with the caption, “You can’t sit with us.” As for the Famous cover, perhaps showing up in Paris and acting professional is the best way to shut down her detractors.