The Kylie Jenner Project

Areeta Shah

Prof. Marc Bousquet

Digital Media and Culture

Fall 2016


            When I took this class, I started to notice how interested I was how people portray themselves in the media. What particularly interested me was how celebrities maintain their status and who is in the fan base. When we were told to make a midterm website, I automatically knew who would be the best person to focus on when it comes to social media. Kylie Jenner, famous for not a lot other than that family she was born into, has become one of the socialites of our generation. I think that she has really struggled opening up to people all around the world and was constantly ridiculed for anything she did. She spent a lot of time away from cameras until the cameras started to find her. The attention really switched from the older Kardashians’ to the younger Jenner’s and I was interested in seeing how Kylie marketed herself to stay on top. The question that I decided to study was: How does Kylie Jenner use marketing strategies to portray the idealized self?

            There has been a recent interest in how Kylie Jenner has become one of the greatest sensations in cosmetics, television, and social media. She constantly flaunts her wealth, body and celebrities friends. The interesting question is what exactly is she trying to portray with all her posts and how exactly is she influencing adolescents? 

Adolescents who used social media more – both overall and at night – and those who were more emotionally invested in social media experienced poorer sleep quality, lower self-esteem and higher levels of anxiety and depression. Nighttime-specific social media use predicted poorer sleep quality after controlling for anxiety, depression and self-esteem. These findings contribute to the growing body of evidence that social media use is related to various aspects of wellbeing in adolescents. 

This also leads into another question for why Kylie flaunts her materialistic belongings? Research findings show that celebrities on Instagram are influential in the purchase behavior of young female users. This makes me believe that most of her posts are really to sell her items, like her cosmetics, or to watch her family’s reality TV show to make sure that their income only increases. 

Lastly, why is it that Kylie particularly uses Instagram for most of her rather risky posts? Another study found the main reasons for Instagram use are “Surveillance,” “Documentation,” “Coolness,” and “Creativity.” Another interesting aspect of Instagram is that interpersonal interaction and narcissism are positively related to most motives for Instagram use. 

This concludes all of Kylie’s posts on her social media’s – it can be shown that she uses images to portray her wealth, her beauty, and her coolness factor to get her massive fan base. She constantly makes sure that they’re all updates with things that you can’t really find on other celebrity pages because he knows exactly what her fan base is interested in seeing. 

I sent out an anonymous survey of undergraduate men and women at any college in the United States. My sample was 103 respondents, and heavily female (84) to male (19). However, this provided an interesting mix of students that perceive Kylie Jenner in all different ways. The data shows the different questions I focused on the responses I collected. All of the students were between 18-22, which kept consistency.

  1. Do you like Kylie Jenner?

Most of the respondents said that yes, they do like Kylie Jenner. Although many conclusions can’t come out of this, I looked more into which genders favored her and all the males that participated in the survey said they liked her or that they were indifferent towards her while the 12 females that said they didn’t like her still followed her on social medias and have bought her products. This just proves that although someone may not like her doesn’t mean she’s not successfully marketing herself. 

  1. Which Kylie Jenner social media accounts do you follow?

I found this question to be very important when focuses how well she markets herself. 58% of the 103 participants in my survey answered that they followed at least on of her accounts. This included males and females of all ages. Out of the 58%, 44 participants followed her on Instagram, 39 on Snapchat, and 9 on Twitter. Out of the people that said they bought one of her products from Kylie Cosmetics, only 2 responded saying that they didn’t follow her on any social media. This lead me to the conclusion that the people that follow her on social media, are more likely to buy one of her products. 

  1. Have you ever bought one of her products or tried to dress/look similar to her?

I found this question to be important to ask because it really proves her success rate. Out of the 103, 30 people said that they try to look/dress like her, have bought something from her cosmetic line, or try to dress like her. For this question, it’s important to exclude the men from the participant group, which leaves 84 participants and 36% of people that are buying into her marketing. From this small survey, I would conclude that she is doing a great job marketing her image. 

  1. When you see this picture what comes first to mind?

I asked my participants about a picture that I specifically picked out because it includes all the aspects of Kylie Jenner that I think embody her persona. It showed her lip kit, her way of dressing, her body, and her cool factor all on her instagram. I thought it was a good picture for people to have an opinion on her with. 33 of the people that took the survey responded saying that they think that she’s fake – although this was the leading opinion on the picture, I noticed that in fact more people had something positive to say about the picture. Most people answered saying that they think she’s rich, cool and has sex appeal. To me those are all positive responses and make me believe that people aren’t bothered by her vision of beauty and what she wears and promotes. 

  1. After looking through her social media accounts I feel ______ by her fame

After going through the responses, the majority responded saying that they feel indifferent. This makes me believe that no one is strongly bothered by her presence. Those that responded saying they felt “angered/mad” about her fame also don’t follow her on social media accounts so they’re just uninterested. The second most popular response was jealousy. I found that to be very interesting because those who were jealous, often did respond saying that they did try to look or dress like her. Overall, those who like Kylie Jenner tend to follow her on social media, try to look/dress like her, and are jealous of her lifestyle. 

If I could conclude what these results show, I would say that she does a great job marketing herself and has appeal to those that buy into her image on social media. She’s not necessarily hated, but rather fake and those people are uninterested in her image and products.  I then relate that into the ideal self-principle that I think Kylie Jenner uses to brand her. Carl Rogers is the psychologist that invented the terms real self and ideal self and the differences between them. To get a deeper understanding of what exactly social media and filtering does to pictures, specifically Kylie’s pictures, here are some definitions: 

“It is healthy to some extent to have what we envision as an ideal self.  It is something that we all strive for; to be the best that we can be.  Who doesn’t want that?  The problem arises when our ideal selves are too far removed from what we really are.  When there is a huge discrepancy between what we are, and what we think we should be, we begin to experience a dissonance, a lack of resonance within our true selves, and a gap, sometimes huge, between what we sense as our real self compared to what we feel compelled to aspire to (our ideal self).  When the discrepancy is huge, the resulting incongruence can lead us to become demoralized and discouraged because we have in fact set ourselves up for failure. This discrepancy can lead to stress and anxiety because the real self never seems good enough and the ideal self seems impossible to attain.”

I found this to be particularly interesting because almost ALL of Kylie’s pictures on her social media pages are not the original picture or anything close to it. It seems like she’s aspiring to be a girl without freckles, long lashes, and big lips but in reality she isn’t. Roger’s considers that she may have anxiety and other self-esteem issues because of it, which is probably true.

However, although she may have some psychological issues that tend to come from fame, she’s the only one that’s been able to turn her insecurities into a brand and market her ways of changing her look.