Keeping up with the Kardashians unleashed upon the world not just the success and impact of reality TV - it also brought several spin-offs, some of which have influenced the next generation of young girls, not always in a positive manner. Today, as the Jenner girls have grown their business empires largely based on the social media success, there is an entire generation of young girls whose only inspiration is a teenager whose credentials can be listed as marketing success on social media.
Not that Kylie and Kendall Jenner have got it wrong; they have been in the spotlight from a relatively young age and have perfected the art of marketing themselves with very little talent. Kylie has built a cosmetic empire worth millions of dollars – she is among the Forbes top entrepreneurs under 30. Credit their success to hard work and good planning but they are not what you want your daughter to aspire to be.
When you have young girls whose marketing tools are putting their surgically enhanced bodies on display, from enhanced lips to other parts of the body, you need to worry. Because to the millions of impressionable young girls who connect on social media, the Instagram pictures of Kylie pouting with her Kylie Jenner Lip Kit, hanging out with her live-in boyfriend or posing in the bathroom for selfies, become a symbol. Many are already aspiring to be like her; it could be a bathroom selfie in nothing more than underwear, WhatsApped to a boyfriend. It might surface to haunt her for life. That’s one dangerous side of the picture.
On the other hand, young girls are growing up with the false notion that anyone can become successful like the Jenner girls, using the same mantra – show your body, get on social media, do a few tricks and whoa, you have a brand that millions will see. They do not know that even in the case of the Jenners, it is all very carefully planned marketing courtesy momager Kris Jenner who overlooks the entire Kardashian empire. Every photo on Instagram is a marketing opportunity. Every move is meticulously planned and positioned so that sales registers will ring for the brands they market.
Not the best idol
Yet, that’s not the path we want for our daughters. We want them to learn the values of hard work, ethics and value of a good education. We want them to take the long route – although the Jenners seem to have taken the shorter one. It isn’t easy telling the young women that Kylie is not what you want her to be. There’s nothing wrong with the Jenner girls; it is just that in today’s tech-savvy, media-driven world of smartphones, one of the most impressionable opinion leaders for young girls is not the best idol to be thus looked up to.
The Kardashians taught the rest of the world that it is OK to market your bodies – if you’ve got ‘em, get ‘em surgically enhanced and then flaunt them so that you can gather one of the biggest social media followings in the world – Kim K has 165.6 million followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Through which she can sell and endorse brands that will earn her a cool US $ 51 million annually. This is the stark reality today; one we need to be mindful of, when we take into consideration the future aspirations of our
So how do we deal with it and how can we tell the young girls – the next generation – that Jenner lip enhancements and bathroom selfies are not the best path to finding success? I personally believe that the initiatives must come from us; if they see, experience and can relate to the tried and tested ethics of hard work, educational aspirations and success linked to such values then they too would be exposed to the right combination. They would then be able to see that there are other, better formulas that work in everyday life. But in order to do that, we must be able to form the connections and make inroads into their territory. We need to be able to understand how they connect and what makes them tick.
Which is why there needs to be conversations, discussions and frank opinion sharing platforms for parents of the next generation of young women. Platforms on which they can start finding ways of relating to these young girls. They could probably be the most disconnected generation ever, from their parents and the world around them. They have access to WhatsApp, Instagram and Snapchat. They don’t even need to type words sometimes; the emojis would do the job.
I too get occasional emojis from my 10-year-old daughter, which tells me exactly what her current mood is, without saying a single word. We need to be able to make the connections that can assure the young girls that we care for them – we certainly have better options for them than aspiring to be the next KJ.
So next time you have the opportunity to reach out to an impressionable young lady of the Snapchat generation, send an emoji – and share with her that there are Malalas, Sheryl Sandbergs and Theresa Mays in the world. Plenty to look up to.
(Nayomini Weerasooriya, a senior journalist, writer and a PR professional, can be contacted at email@example.com)