Kim Kardashian is the modern equivalent to historical figures of beauty and glamour like Marilyn Monroe and Jackie O. So understandably when she alters the traditionally sexy look that made her famous, it can be somewhat of a shock. However, regardless of her bombshell beauty, Kardashian is rarely kept to the confines of an aesthetic box. Instead, the modern icon of the American dream boasts an almost chameleonic quality that allows her to inhibit the skin of caricature personalities that often reflect and provide commentary on the current cultural zeitgeist. Yes, she’s sported a f**k *ss bob and Draco Malfoy blonde locks, but she’s also been able to assume whole new identities with clever hair, makeup and costuming.
Some of her most remarkable transformations have been recorded in the pages of Carine Roitfeld’s CR magazine. She became one-third of an all-female ‘60s biker gang alongside Naomi Campbell and Cher in CR’s 16th issue in 2020, and in 2018 she assumed the role of a pastoral, pioneer woman for a cover shoot, captured by photographer Jackie Nickerson.
The braided hair, bare face and modest garments of a female frontier were a far cry from the figure-hugging gold ball gown and full beat she wore to the Met Gala the very same year, but it’s this conscious juxtaposition that makes Kardashian such a compelling subject and clothes hanger for haute couture moments in beauty and fashion alike.
Cut to 2023 and CR have partnered with Kardashian again, this time employing fashion photographer Nadia Lee Cohen to capture a fresh angle of the reality star and business mogul. Cohen (who is responsible for some of SKIMS’ most outlandish campaigns) is notorious for transforming her subjects using prosthetics, pan makeup and wigs. Cohen typically works in the medium of portraiture photography, creating elaborate back stories for the characters she creates on film, and often presents herself as the subject of her own art.
For CR’s 10 year anniversary issue titled ‘Muses’, Cohen has pared back Kardashian’s hair and makeup with a fuzzy buzzcut and pencil thin brows, and captured the beauty on black and white film. “In Greek and Roman mythology there are nine muses—goddesses who preside over the arts and sciences. Later, the term muse became a catchall for any person who provided creative and artistic inspiration,” says CR. “If there was a goddess who presided over social media, reality television, fashion, or entrepreneurship, Kim Kardashian could arguably hold any and all of those titles.”
The transformation is so successful, it’s impossible to not forget who it is you’re looking at. Kardashian has assumed an energy of hardworn, feminine strength that illuminates an unexplored depth we, as an audience, would have failed to perceive without the careful articulation of Cohen’s masterful eye as a photographer.
There are many who would argue that Kardashian’s look is the product of the person styling her and that without the help of professionals, she has no one personal aesthetic. But considering we’re living in an age where reality stars and influencers have assumed the role of supermodels, Kardashian’s ability to transform herself so seamlessly can’t be labelled as anything but a positive quality.
Image credit: @kimkardashian
Briar is the Beauty Editor at BEAUTYcrew. Her 'down for anything' attitude has resulted in more than a handful of hair transformations, and she doesn't mind being used as a guinea pig for the industry's most unusual products and treatments. Her work has also appeared on Refinery29, Girlfriend and beautyheaven.