I’m going to sound like a right nana here *pulls shawl closer round body, adjusts pince-nez*, but thank god I’m not young any more. Tinder and Snapchat, I could have dealt with, but Kylie Jenner? Nope. As a teen, I know I’d have looked at her cosmetically enhanced breasts and her cosmetically enhanced lips and felt inadequate. I would have tried to avoid her, but that would have been hard. Kylie is everywhere. Like Whac-A-Mole, she just keeps on popping up.
Nobody can knock her drive and determination, but the latest products to issue forth from her business empire are dubious, to say the least. I realise her new range of Matte Pressed Powder Blushes isn’t aimed at me, but that only makes it more dubious still. Of all the names in all the world, 19 year-old Kylie has chosen to give her blushers the monikers X Rated, Hot and Bothered, Virginity and Barely Legal. Because hey – why not make your blushers sound like porn films?
Here’s why: because a large chunk of Kylie’s 89.6 million Instagram fans and potential customers will be underage.
To be fair, Kylie is far from the first person to give a make-up product a dubious name. In this, the cosmetics industry has form. In 2013, Kat Von D debuted a nude-coloured lipstick called Celebutard (it was withdrawn) and another called Lolita (it’s still out there – so, too, is Von D’s Underage Red). MAC did a nude Lipglass called Underage, while Nars has a blusher called Orgasm and a lipstick called G Spot.
Gen X is supposed to be shocked and appalled by Gen Z, after all – until you catch your own tween pouting away on Snapchat in lipgloss she nicked from your make-up bag
These products aren’t aimed at teenagers, and while teenagers will inevitably buy them, I find most of these names daft rather than offensive – bar the Underage and Barely Legal ones. They’re just not funny at all. Every day there’s a new story about young girls being “groomed”; meanwhile, on social media, trading sexual images and comments is now the norm for teens. Revenge porn is on the rise; so too is cyberbullying and sexual harassment. In an article for Time magazine last year, the author Nancy Jo Sales noted that: “Accompanying the boom in selfie culture is a rise in competitive spirit, as well as a disturbing trend of sexualisation. Likes, hearts, swipes – validation is only a tap away. And one of the easiest ways to get that validation is by looking hot. Sex sells, whether you’re 13 or 35.”
Which may sound overly dramatic – Gen X is supposed to be shocked and appalled by Gen Z, after all – until you catch your own tween pouting away on Snapchat in lipgloss she nicked from your make-up bag, lamenting to her friends that her lips aren’t bigger. All teenagers seem to want bigger lips. But while being dissatisfied with your appearance is nothing new –it’s part of being a teenager – what is new is the very real idea that you can do something about it. The trailblazer for this? Kylie Jenner. Aged 17, she had her lips injected with Juvederm, then denied it with a tweet saying “those plastic surgery rumours hurt my feelings, and are kinda insulting”. That was in April 2014: in May 2015, on an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, she then confessed: “I have temporary lip fillers. It’s just an insecurity of mine, and it’s what I wanted to do.”
With big sister Kendall now a bona fide model, it falls to Kylie to be the relatable one; the Jenner who, with a slick of Kylie’s Metal Matte lipstick ($18), other girls can aspire to be. This, at least, is the narrative which “momager” Kris Jenner doubtlessly constructed as part of her ten year plan for the Jenner/Kardashian empire. And it’s going well. Kylie only launched her first make-up product in November 2015, yet already it has netted her millions ($8.7 million within the first 12 months, according to Money Nation). Her first $29 lip kit sold out within minutes, with many going for ten times that price on Ebay.
It can’t be easy being a Jenner, growing up with a camera thrust in your face. And while I don’t find anything “relatable” about a rich and famous 17-year-old getting her lips filled, just like her Barely Legal blush, she’s a product of her time; a time when sex sells more than ever.