A recent incident, where an unfiltered bikini shot of Khloé Kardashian was accidentally leaked to her Instagram account, sparked some interesting conversations in the media about whether celebrities should reserve the right to filter or edit their photos without disclosing this to their followers. The leaked image, which showed a candid pool-side image of the 36-year-old ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ star, was promptly deleted and quick to be addressed by Ms Kardashian, via a statement posted to her Instagram page. In the statement, Khloé states that ‘when someone takes a photo of you that isn’t flattering … you have every right to ask for it to not be shared’.
It is understandable if Khloé’s removal of the photo from her feed made you feel conflicted. Khloé discussed her right to repossess the image as a symbol of agency over her own body. Spending years in the public eye doesn’t mean that the general public has a right to every part of a celebrity’s life, especially if it is shared without their knowledge. She posted screenshots and live footage from an Instagram Live to show what her body looks like unfiltered and unedited, to show her true self, on her terms. Khloé has to be commended for revealing these images after highlighting in her statement how vulnerable this makes her feel, hence she deleted the initial image. She says that she ‘has struggled with her body image [her] whole life’. This shows how the glossy, confident image, that has become synonymous with the Kardashian brand, is only surface deep. Khloé highlights the pressure that the media puts on her to maintain a flawless public image, especially when it comes to her figure. She discusses how she has been compared to her sisters her whole life and made to feel like the ugly duckling. Khloé anticipated a tidal wave of unsolicited comments on her body and she makes a statement about her right to portray herself in a way that makes her feel confident and, on this occasion, that meant deleting the initial image.
Many people, both men and womxn edit and filter their Instagram photos, and their followers don’t bat an eyelid. The key distinction, however, between the average Instagram user and Ms Kardashian, is the number of followers and in turn, the amount of influence over one’s followers. Some critics of the post’s removal have stated that Khloé’s impressionable young fans should have been allowed the opportunity to view the photo, in order to encourage the normalisation of a more realistic body image, and that this should take place without becoming the subject of public ridicule. For many, Khloé’s assertion that ‘we cannot continue to live life trying to fit into the perfect mould of what others have set for us’ feels redundant and contradictory, as she claims that she will continue to filter her images ‘unapologetically’.
Ultimately, Khloé alters her images because she struggles ‘trying to live up to the impossible standards that the public have set for [her]’, as she discloses on Instagram.
The most important takeaway from this incident is that womxn really can’t win when it comes to their public image. As Khloé explains in her statement: if she filters her images, she is accused of misleading her followers and projecting an unattainable image of beauty. But if she doesn’t filter her images, she is fat-shamed and mocked which, given the scale of this trolling, has become ‘unbearable’ for Khloé.
You may be thinking ‘but Khloé has put herself in the limelight, now she has to accept that people will hold an opinion on her’. But as Khloé herself highlights, she is still human, even if she lives an extremely privileged lifestyle, and the pressure to maintain an image of perfection, which is dictated by how others wish her to look, is an unjust weight to bear. We should take off our rose-tinted glasses when it comes to becoming invested in celebrity culture. You may enjoy viewing their Instagram content or watching a TV show about them, but that doesn’t mean that we should project an expectation of perfection onto them, especially if we expect them to be real and relatable at the same time.
This will resonate with womxn with significantly fewer followers, who don’t live under the lens of constant public scrutiny but still feel the pressure to present the best version of themselves online. Lots of womxn also feel inadequate in themselves when viewing pictures of celebrities online, even if these images are deceptive in failing to disclose that they have been retouched or edited. Khloé also states in her Instagram post, that she deleted the image as she has been working hard on trying to get fit and healthy, and she felt her progress wasn’t demonstrated in the photo. Although critics of Khloé will probably argue that the natural way her body looked in the initial photo should have been portrayed to her followers, she has to be given some credit for trying to show a physically healthy body to her fans in the screenshots in her ‘clap-back’ post, which encourages equally healthy attitudes towards fitness, body image and wellbeing.
What this really shows is that womxn are scrutinised however they portray themselves and their appearances online. Khloé reserves the right to edit her photos if this makes her feel comfortable in her own skin. Whether she should disclose if they have been edited, is another matter. She should also be able to inject unedited photos into her feed, without receiving a barrage of trolling and spiteful criticism. The most important message to take from this is that the followers of high-profile celebrities, such as the Kardashians, can’t stop them from editing or filtering their Instagram photos. But we can all be vigilant in viewing these images with a pinch of salt. Photos of celebrities are fun to gain outfit inspiration from, but it is important to remember that if your body doesn’t look like theirs, it doesn’t invalidate your right to accept it the way it is.