Ever since she shot to fame in 2007, Kim Kardashian has always maintained tight control over her image by keeping her finger on the pulse of public perception.
It seemed that no matter how rich, famous, and successful that Kim became, she was always hyperaware of how her fans were receiving her and her family, and would adapt as necessary to stay in their good books.
This is arguably one of the things that has afforded the Kardashian/Jenners their longevity as celebrities — along with their reality TV show Keeping Up With the Kardashians, which provided fans with front-row seats as their star power grew.
While the glitz and glamour of Kim et al.’s social media pages may have made them appear more removed from their followers’ day-to-day lives, Keeping Up’s behind-the-scenes insight into their reality helped the family retain a sense of relatability that fueled their appeal.
After all, Keeping Up invited us to get to know the real people behind the celebrity facade, and proved that no matter how famous Kim became, underneath it all she was still a normal person who fights with her family, can be goofy, and has an infamously ugly crying face.
And over the years, Kim’s tried-and-tested formula of keeping tabs on public perception, while being sure to offer no-holds-barred glimpses into her personal life, proved to be a recipe for success.
In 15 years, the Kar/Jenners have gone from being a run-of-the-mill reality TV family to billionaire business moguls who have built empires that their dedicated following are always quick to throw their support behind.
However, in 2022 we’ve seen Kim’s carefully curated public image fall apart in her worst PR year yet after she appeared to become too out-of-touch for her own good, in a chain of uncharacteristic faux pas.
In fact, despite starting the year by winning over staunch critics thanks to her handling of her ex-husband’s online rants, Kim is closing out 2022 with even her most dedicated of fans switching off her reality show and calling her out for her repeated problematic behavior.
Let’s take a look back at how it all went wrong.
As mentioned, Kim had a pretty difficult start to the year when her ex Kanye West, who now goes by Ye, repeatedly lashed out at her and her then-boyfriend Pete Davidson on social media.
Throughout January, February, and March, Ye took very public aim at Kim’s parenting and even left her fearing for Pete’s safety due to the severity of his posts.
This was far from the first time that Ye has courted controversy, and in the past Kim has always managed to expertly toe the line of addressing his behavior on Keeping Up while keeping the true extent of the mess firmly under wraps.
But in 2022, Kim’s cool and calm public persona came tumbling down. Ye’s antics spiraled out of control and forced her to respond via an Instagram statement and comments on his posts that accused him of peddling a false narrative.
Despite this being an obviously trying time for Kim, she did end up winning praise and gaining newfound respect from people who admired the “dignified” way that she dealt with Ye’s constant attacks.
Although her public responses diverged from the way that Kim had dealt with Ye over the last few years, even people who admitted to being critics of hers in the past confessed to having “mad respect” for the smooth way that she handled such a messy situation.
This was arguably the peak of Kim's entire career in terms of public image, with fans and haters alike uniting to share their praise for her.
But in March, Kim managed to lose some people's respect just as quickly as she had gained it with an ill-fated interview with Variety magazine that marked the beginning of her 2022 downfall.
In the now-infamous profile, Kim sparked fury when she told the reporter: “I have the best advice for women in business. Get your fucking ass up and work. It seems like nobody wants to work these days.”
It didn’t take long for this video moment to go viral, with Kim being the subject of mass backlash as many questioned why she was turning on one of her fandom's biggest demographics.
And the questions just kept on coming, with Kim shown doubling down on what she’d said when the storyline aired on her family’s Hulu reality show, The Kardashians.
Despite witnessing the harsh criticism that her comments had triggered in real time, Kim refused to check her privilege and was instead filmed telling her sisters, Khloé Kardashian and Kendall Jenner: “People don’t know the story of your dad and Mom having to sell their house in Hidden Hills because they couldn’t afford it and they had to move to an apartment.”
In response, angry viewers accused Kim of “trying to gaslight” everybody by fabricating information about her upbringing to justify her comments instead of admitting that she’d gotten it wrong.
After all, her momager, Kris Jenner, painted a wildly different story about Kim’s upbringing in her 2011 memoir, which detailed the family temporarily moving out of Hidden Hills into a “decadent” townhouse while building a new house.
And Kim’s new attitude became a common theme this year, with the billionaire facing serious scrutiny for her repeated failure to acknowledge the wealth and connections that contributed to the rise of her empire.
Instead, Kim has become fixated on proving exactly how hard she works and championing her daily grind.
And at this point it’s probably worth mentioning that this “hard work” was once presented to fans as Kim sitting in a chair while her stylist bleached her hair blonde for the Met Gala.
In fact, in 2022 Kim ended up being branded “delusional” when she shot down the suggestion that her family have fueled body image insecurities among the general population.
Despite her and her family’s staggering wealth allowing them access to home gyms, personal trainers, personal chefs, nutritionists, and high-end cosmetic procedures — not to mention the fact that they are regularly called out for editing their social media photos — Kim vehemently insisted that everyday people could easily achieve her look.
When asked by Allure magazine if she feels “responsible, even guilty, for setting an unrealistic, unattainable beauty standard,” Kim bluntly replied: “If I’m doing it, it’s attainable.”
Later in the same interview, she admitted to doing late-night laser treatments once her children have gone to bed.
Another slip-up that proves just how separated from reality the Kardashians have become this year is Kim and her sister Khloé’s preoccupation with weight loss and being as slim as possible.
While wider society has mostly evolved since the “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” days, the sisters have seemingly not gotten the memo, and this could actually end up being the biggest misstep of their careers — especially considering the role that the sisters played in normalizing curvier bodies when they first found fame.
The “irresponsible” approach to weight loss became noticeable when Kim attended the Met Gala in Marilyn Monroe’s 1962 dress and proceeded to detail exactly how she lost an extreme amount of weight in just three weeks to fit into it.
While Kim was undoubtedly hoping that this would serve as yet another example of that aforementioned “hard work” she is so devoted to, she was instead called out for the “triggering” and “dangerous” comments by fans, other celebrities, and even professional dieticians.
But despite the repeated calls for Kim to be more aware of her large platform of impressionable young people, she continued to boast about losing even more weight long after the gala.
In fact, Kim was later exposed for photoshopping an Instagram post to edit out crucial muscles in order to reduce the size of her neck and shoulders.
And highlighting the direct correlation between the images that celebrities put out into the world and everyday people’s sense of body image, many shared their relief at the photographer’s exposé as they admitted that Kim’s social media posts had started to make them self-conscious about their own “normal” body parts.
Kim and her sisters’ dated and concerning approach to their bodies also led to some viewers switching off Season 2 of The Kardashians after they noticed how much of each episode was dedicated to bragging about how “skinny” they are.
Many took to social media to chastise the family’s “disgusting and unhealthy” preoccupation with their weight, with some going so far as to stop watching the show because they found the content so “triggering.”
But that’s not the only reason why people were switching off Season 2 of The Kardashians, with the series as a whole being widely criticized as the family — especially Kim — seemingly forgot to include any of the magic that made their previous reality show a hit when they first found fame.
Despite owing her success to her willingness to be open and share her life with fans, this candid insight into Kim’s personal life is notably missing in the Hulu series.
Kim used to expertly utilize reality TV as her gateway to relatability; it was what bridged the gap between her and her fans amid the decidedly unrelatable aspects of her life, and she showed everything — weddings, births, and divorces — right until the show wrapped in 2021.
But in The Kardashians, Kim seized the opportunity to push her coveted “hardworking business mogul” narrative and repeatedly flaunt her exorbitant wealth while not actually sharing anything personal for fans to latch onto — even though it is public knowledge that she had a lot going on behind the scenes at the time of filming.
While Kim was more than happy to give viewers a tour of her cashmere-lined $150 million private jet, she refused to offer even a glimmer of the realness that made her famous.
In fact, some unimpressed viewers compared The Kardashians to “watching a press release” after they realized just how much of each episode was dedicated to promoting Kim and her sisters’ respective brands instead of showing any actual insight into their lives — perhaps under the belief that they are now established enough to keep their personal drama private.
But in response, viewers have actually ended up feeling incredibly shortchanged by the Hulu series and questioned whether this is evidence that the Kardashians have lost their touch when it comes to reality TV. Some have even questioned whether they're planning an exit from the genre entirely.
And in a final 2022 blow, Kim also courted controversy by association this year amid Balenciaga’s spring/summer 2023 campaign.
Just last month, a photo shoot for the brand went viral on Twitter for including two young children posing with teddy bears that were dressed in BDSM-style harnesses. Elsewhere, legal documents that referenced “child porn” were visible props.
Understandably, these images sparked huge outrage online, and with Kim one of the most recognizable faces of Balenciaga, she immediately faced pressure to comment on the scandal.
But despite an ill-timed episode of The Kardashians focusing on Kim walking for the designer label at Paris Fashion Week airing amid the furor, Kim did not issue a statement for a full week — and even then, many felt like what she said wasn’t good enough.
Kim started her social media statement by saying that she was “shaken” by the “disturbing images,” and later added that she appreciates Balenciaga’s “removal of the campaigns and apology.”
“As for my future with Balenciaga, I am currently re-evaluating my relationship with the brand,” she went on.
The statement ended up doing more harm than good, with people calling on Kim to commit to cutting ties with Balenciaga following the controversial campaign.
However, it seems that Kim has begun to show signs of understanding the extent to which the tide has turned against her. As the Balenciaga backlash and negative response to The Kardashians picked up steam online, she tweeted to ask fans what they'd like to see from Season 3 of the show.
It was reminiscent of the way Kim once used social media as a focus group, asking and listening to her followers as opposed to alienating them from her increasingly unrelatable existence.
It remains to be seen whether 2023 will see a return to form — and to the reliable business model that centers the wants and expectations of the fans, who are ultimately responsible for her empire, above all else.