Though I admire the Kardashians’ business savvy and am intrigued by their power to command so much attention, they also, pretty frequently, pluck at my cynicism strings — which is why I was surprised by how I felt after watching Kylie Jenner’s baby announcement video yesterday: touched.
Maybe I felt that way because it contained a poetic arc, beginning with the birth of Kylie, Kris’s last daughter, ending with the birth of the Kardashian-Jenner clan’s newest addition, Kylie’s first daughter. Maybe because it was filmed with the slightly corny aesthetic of a home movie. Maybe because it felt like a triumph that Kylie’s first act as a mother was to write the first chapter of her child’s story exactly as she saw it. Maybe because it felt genuine, and I’m not sure I’ve seen that side of Kylie before, a side in which her fame does not take center-stage: responsibility does.
When I saw it, I clicked the designated link in Kylie’s bio immediately and watched all 11 minutes and 32 seconds of the video entitled “To Our Daughter.” I did this even though I was walking in the rain to an appointment. I bumped into a few passersby staring down at their phones underneath a rainbow of umbrellas, and I wondered if they, too, were eyeballs-deep in the teaser trailer for could have been the most lucrative episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians to date.
But there was no episode. As Kylie put it in her Instagram announcement, “there was no gotcha moment, no big paid reveal [she] had planned.” While the reverberation of the news was entirely outside of her control, she was the sole architect of how it was constructed and launched into the world — not E!, not Ryan Seacrest, not even Kris Jenner. Nope: 20-year-old Kylie.
Her age has been a point of contention since the pregnancy rumors first started to swirl, but “To Our Daughter,” though addressed to the newest Kardashian-Jenner family member, seemed to respond indirectly to any negativity that might surround the child post-birth. Look at how well this child will be taken care of emotionally, the video seemed to say as each of Kylie’s friends and extended family members expressed how happy and excited they were to be a part of the baby’s life. Look at how well this child will be taken care of financially, it seemed to say as Kylie flitted through racks of perfect onesies arranged by color and shelves of tiny shoes in an enormous walk-in closet worthy of its own Pinterest board.
Even though the story of Kylie’s pregnancy will be retold, picked apart and written up ten times over, those 11 minutes and 32 seconds will always be hers. That security is a testament to the agency celebrities gain when they cut out the middleman (i.e. gossip magazines or television) and deliver their own version of the story. It is also a significant example of someone who has been extraordinarily famous since her youth, giving birth to someone who will be also be extraordinarily famous since birth, deciding how to share all of this with the world. Whether the touching baby announcement was truly, 100% genuine or a genuine, well-crafted press release, it is an interesting lens through which to examine humanity in the age of mega-fandom. I wonder if it will force us to confront what we mean when we engage with the ideas of celebrity, authenticity, and identity.
Kylie knows exactly how it feels to have 102 million Instagram followers and a net worth of $50 million before she’s old enough to legally drink in America while still maintaining the mushy, unavoidable vulnerability inherent to every human being, no matter how famous. I wonder how that knowledge will inform the way she raises her daughter, especially in an age when people are so eager to attach narratives, even jokingly, to celebrity children (remember Suri’s Burn Book?).
I wonder if it already has. I wonder if that’s what this video was all about.
What do you think?
Photo by Jerod Harris/WireImage via Getty Images.