Race, stereotypes, and Kim Kardashian


By now, people may have seen the cover for the winter issue of Paper Magazine which features Kim Kardashian nude, oiled up and proudly on display. The highly sexual picture features Kardashian balancing a champagne glass on her rear end and was shot by photographer Jean Paul Goude. Goude is famous for dating singer Grace Jones and for the highly sexualized nature of his work. The scene that Kardashian is posing in is popularly known as “Champagne Incident” and was previously used for a 1976 photo called “Carolina Beaumont.” In the original photo, Beaumont is fully nude, with her hair pulled into a single ponytail, pointing straight up on top of her head.

The image that Goude is trying to invoke is one of a submissive, primitive and highly sexual African female. In 1983 he released his pictorial autobiography which was titled Jungle Fever. In a interview with People magazine done in 1979, he is quoted as saying, “blacks are the premise of my work … I have jungle fever.” However in the 2014 Kim Kardashian photo, Kardashian is fully clothed in a glittering evening dress and wearing expensive jewelry. Looking at the pictures side-by-side, there is a stark racial and sexual contrast. While Beaumont seems ready to serve in the fullest sense of the word in the 1976 photo, Kardashian, being fully clothed, implies that she is in control and is not a submissive servant to be used. It is as if she is saying “Look at me. Do I look like that old picture with the naked black woman?” And that is the problem. Somehow, even though she is not black, Kardashian has opened up a discussion on black female sexual imagery.

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