The Kardashian sisters' look: A pop culture phenomenon with a dark side

Calabasas, California – What started as a reality show in 2007 has become an everyday reality for a generation of hopefuls aspiring to look like the world-famous Kardashian family. Yet, keeping up with the Kardashian sisters is not an easy feat when it comes to the looks department.

The Kardashian sisters have made careers off of their full-figured sex appeal.
The Kardashian sisters have made careers off of their full-figured sex appeal.  © Collage: IMAGO/APress & Screenshot/Instagram/@kimkardashian

Last week, Detroit Pistons rookie Luka Garza said he dropped 30 pounds in anticipation of the NBA Draft by cutting out carbs and wearing "a waist-trainer, like the Kardashians."

The professional athlete is just one of millions worldwide, from TikTok teens to celebrities, who have looked to the Calabasas clan for everything from contouring tips to workout programs.

The Kardashian sisters have inspired a generation to buy billions of dollars worth of their cosmetic products and clothing lines, in hopes of emulating the famous family's fabulous look and lifestyle.

The Kardashian sisters reach their influential hype via social media

Kim, Kourtney, Khloé, Kendall, and Kylie are the salespeople for their own products, selling their various goods through the free marketing offered by a vast TikTok and Instagram following, which numbers in the hundreds of millions.

Yet, as the Kardashians' full-featured beauty and hourglass-figured obsession has reached an all-time high, thanks to social media's growth and more daily use than ever before, young women in particular have begun to alter their appearances to look more like the sisters.

The "Kardashian Look" has inspired notorious internet challenges, like the Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge, for instance. The world's youngest billionaire has made her fortune selling makeup, most prominently lip kits and plumping serums.

Those who can't afford to splash the cash have resorted to household items like shot glasses instead, creating suction and making their lips swell. Sometimes, it has been known to cause serious adverse effects, like facial bruising and broken blood vessels.

Yet, the impact of the Kardashian sisters' look is not all positive

One parenting site mocked the Kardashians for having motivated teen girls to do just about anything, including holding "butt suck parties" where they attempted to shape Kim Kardashian-like posteriors with vacuum cleaner attachments and toilet plungers.

Of course, the jury is still out on how many such parties occurred, but it is clear that the Kardashian's influence has a negative impact on many young women.

The pop culture phenomenon is a full-glam, tanned-skin, ultra-curvy ideal that has young women engaging in sometimes expensive and painful regimens. The problem is that this standard is often unattainable or difficult to maintain without the cash flow for procedures, personal stylists, on-call makeup artists, hand-selected diet plans, and daily fitness trainers.

Yet the online facade, and the family's success, make the style seem like it's the norm – and for many, the ultimate goal.

How the Kardashian sisters have influenced mainstream culture

The Kardashian sisters have shaped an industry, and reinforced unrealistic body expectations.
The Kardashian sisters have shaped an industry, and reinforced unrealistic body expectations.  © Screenshot/Instagram/@khloékardashian

As much as you might try, though, without the cash flow and time that the Kardashian sisters have in droves, it's truly unlikely that you or anyone you know will properly look like a Kardashian.

One young influencer named Chaly said that she has spent as much as $1.3 million trying to embrace Kim's look, between buying designer fashion and maintaining regular upkeep of salon services.

"I'm ready to find my Kanye," she said, in a nod to how deeply the Kardashian women have pervaded rap and hip-hop culture as well, with Kim and Kylie's romantic links to rap moguls Kanye West and Travis Scott, respectively.

Ben Affleck ditches Jennifer Lopez for Jennifer Garner on Father's Day
Jennifer Lopez Ben Affleck ditches Jennifer Lopez for Jennifer Garner on Father's Day

A hip hop artist's camp recently searched for talent for a music video by saying it was "casting the Kardashian look" exclusively, its only criteria being "Must look like a Kardashian."

Kardashian sisters accused of "whitewashing" and cultural appropriation

It would be remiss of us to not mention the widespread criticism of the Kardashians' "whitewashing" and their past use of cultural appropriation for profit.

Such behaviors have truly shown and displayed just how deep their influence has seeped – and how polarizing public opinion of them can be.

Yet, their constant promotion of smooth skin and perfect pouts have continued to dominate the mainstream aesthetic for young women, securing them deals with major companies like Disney, Pepsi, and even the Olympic Games.

Kardashian's convince teens to get lip fillers and plastic surgery

Kylie Jenner is well known for her unique look, which has been assisted with procedures.
Kylie Jenner is well known for her unique look, which has been assisted with procedures.  © Collage: Screenshots/Instagram/@kyliejenner

Then, there is the glaring assistance of pokes, procedures, and plastic in the Kardashian sisters' look. Part of the $1.3 million influencer Chaly has shelled out is for professional enhancements. She is just one of many young women who have gotten lip fillers and Botox at an increasingly young age.

Kylie Jenner herself reluctantly admitted to getting lip fillers at as young as 17 on an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, though it is hard to draw a direct correlation between the reality royals and fans they may have inspired to get work done.

The Kardashians have kept mum, for the most part, about their plastic surgery, with rumors of their butt-lifts, implants, and facial procedures abounding.

Weak laws make it easy for teens to get modifications

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), teens can legally go under the knife, so long as they have the go-ahead from their guardians.

"Parental consent is required for all plastic surgery procedures performed on teens younger than 18 years old," the ASPS stated.

The association has reported a key difference between the reason teens have cosmetic surgeries vs. adults: Teenagers often view surgeries as a way to fit in, while adults most often seek procedures as a way to stand out from the crowd.

Often, the Kardashian sisters' look is simply too much, too young

The desire to fit in has no doubt been exacerbated by the use of the internet during preteens' developmental stage, and the ever-influential selfie shot. After all, young Millennials and Gen Z-ers are the first generation in history to have cell phones and social media accounts in middle school, some even earlier.

Although the Kardashian sisters themselves are now in their late-thirties and early-forties, they still have a knack for mobilizing their young fan base. Perhaps it's because their half-sisters, the Jenners, are much younger.

Last week, for example, Kylie launched her 24k-gold cosmetic line, packaged with glam photos of herself dripping in gold paint, in honor of her 24th birthday.

For this reason, there seems to be a different standard and often stigma for older adults and celebrities who mirror the Kardashians' trends.

Other celebrities face backlash for the Kardashian look

Jennifer Lopez has been criticized for her new "Kardashianized" look.
Jennifer Lopez has been criticized for her new "Kardashianized" look.  © Screenshot/Instagram/@chrisappleton1

Jennifer Lopez, for example, was slammed last month for her "Kardashianized looks" after using the same hairstylist and makeup artist as the Kardashians. She was ironically called out by many followers for appearing "too Kardashian."

Where, then, is the line between those who think the Kardashian look is trying-too-hard, and those who see it as the crème de la crème? Is it a fuzzy generational divide, or one lying somewhere between extreme fandom and those who just have no interest in keeping up with them?

Like with all trends, time will tell when this one will go out of style, and how long-lasting its effect will be on pop culture. And if the Kardashians have anything to say about it, they will keep creating TV programming, selling products, and lining their pockets until the tide turns.

Cover photo: Collage: IMAGO/APress & Screenshot/Instagram/@kimkardashian

More on Kim Kardashian: