4min readCulture 22 May 2020
Love her or hate her, there's no denying that Kim Kardashian is a force to be reckoned with. From Paris Hilton's paparazzi partner to a global icon, Kardashian has redefined the term “celebrity" and profited off it--in a major way. But what is the secret sauce behind her fame? What makes her resonate so widely and so deeply? According to Jeetendr Sehdev, the author of The Kim Kardashian Principle: Why Shameless Sells (and How to Do It Right), it's a mix of vulnerability and blatant audacity.
“There is no doubt that Kim is a new world leader," says Sehdev, whose book serves as a part manual for fame, part thoughtful analysis of today's media landscape. “She is a cultural force. She is a phenomenon. We cannot ignore that or deny that."
With a focus on uncovering specific strategies behind her mass appeal, Sehdev, a celebrity expert and television personality, provides a roadmap for both individuals and brands on how to achieve relevancy and influence via the social waves. Spoiler: it has a lot to do with putting yourself out there.
“Kim Kardashian is one of the most desirable women in the world," says Sehdev. “She's busted down stereotypes, taken all elements of her personality and used them to her advantage," says Sehdev, underscoring Kim's unique ability celebrate flaws and promote a new paradigm of beauty. “She's not ashamed of herself or her body. She's not looking to conform. That attitude is especially pioneering in a place like Hollywood where you are told if you acquire a certain look you can be [famous]. She's shaping the culture. Many people think she has no talent but by whose criteria?"
"She's busted down stereotypes, taken all elements of her personality and used them to her advantage. She's not ashamed of herself or her body. She's not looking to conform."
Sehdev, who believes corporations have a thing or two to learn about personal branding from the reality star in terms of how to be authentic and vulnerable, says that one of his main points is that consumers of today are attracted to realness, rather than glossy perfection.
“I think perfection is passé," says Sehdev. “Kim allowing us in on her life creates a greater level of intimacy with her audiences and that transparency is what newer generations require today. You see that with YouTube stars. They are letting people in and being candid. Gone are the days where people are creating images [and advertising with them]."
He goes on to say that the move towards authenticity is a reaction to what Millennials are being conditioned to crave, thanks to a culture that thrives on “reality" thanks to social media. In addition, they've come to distain any form of blatant selling agenda, including product placement and pop up ads. What they do value is honesty and transparency from brands and even celebrities.
“There is a level of savviness among today's audience, so the best thing brands can do is show who they really are, and allow audiences to decide whether they want to engage or not, says Sehdev. “It's a liberating message, and today people want to be liberated."
Through a lens that focuses on brand-building, Sehdev says he was particularly fascinated with Kim's ability to polarize audiences with a non-apologetic approach to her public persona. He goes on to explain that without having "haters," you really don't have a brand, as strong emotions, and bring recognition, are tied to a fearlessness approach.
“Don't look to hide your differences, amplify them, because they are what makes your brand unique and that uniqueness will set you apart more than ever before," says Sehdev. “There is power around overexposure and transparency. Don't look to create contrived messages, instead let people into your brand, motives and intentions. That level of self-belief is contagious. Remember, all organizations are flawed in one way or another, so don't look to create perfection. Too many people have said all the right things in front of the camera then been caught behind closed doors saying another."
When asked why it was Kim who he chose to become the heralded protagonist of his book, Sehdev is frank. “Why not Kim?," he says.
“First and foremost, it was the fact that she has shaped our culture," he says. “There's the social following, but also there's a vulnerability, narcissism and sheer audaciousness that has propelled her from reality show laughing stock to cover girl and social media superstar. She is self-made and that is enormously powerful. The new breed of celebrity is not [thanks to] a talent agent from the old school world. She has promoted herself."
"There's the social following, but also there's a vulnerability, narcissism and sheer audaciousness that has propelled her from reality show laughing stock to cover girl and social media superstar."
According to Sehdev, his decision to write the book came from his own realization that the world was changing in terms of who was holding the influence over the masses, and just how they achieved that status. He especially found this relevant in terms of Hollywood.
“I was born and raised in the UK, and it was fascinating to me when I moved to Hollywood that there was this massive shift in the way people were thinking," said Sehdev, who began his career in investment banking. “It made me realize it's not about one culture being better than another or having higher moral ground, and it's not about values or being good or bad, it's just a different way [of achieving influence]."
When asked if he thinks that traditional advertising still can have sway over consumers, Sehdev remains optimistic.
“Every [advertising] medium has its role today; one medium isn't dead," he says. “Traditional advertising is great for raising awareness and social media for having a conversation. [Both are important]. Consumers are consuming content in very different ways and that has to be taken into account. "
Sehdev adds that traditional TV advertising needs to continue to become more dynamic and more focused on selling reality with all its flaws. "It's still a very curated forum; very stylized, the messaging is still overly researched, and that can often come through," he says. "At one point traditional advertisers will benefit from the tenants of overexposure to become more real and authentic."
This article was originally published on May 15th, 2017
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5 Min Read
You may recognize Judge, Tanya Acker, from her political and legal commentary on different networks and shows like Good Morning America, The Talk, Wendy Williams, CNN Reports or The Insider. Acker is more than an experienced commentator. She is also a Judge on the fifth season of Emmy nominated CBS show, Hot Bench.
The show, created by Judge Judy, is a new take on the court genre. Alongside Acker, are two other judges: Patricia DiMango and Michael Corriero. Together the three-panel judges take viewers inside the courtroom and into their chambers. “I feel like my responsibility on the show is, to be honest, fair, [and] to try and give people a just and equitable result," Acker says. She is accomplished, honest and especially passionate about her career. In fact, Acker likes the fact that she is able to help people solve problems. “I think that efficient ways of solving disputes are really at the core of modern life.
“We are a very diverse community [with] different values, backgrounds [and] beliefs. It's inevitable that we're going to find ourselves in some conflicts. I enjoy being a part of a process where you can help resolve the conflicts and diffuse them," she explains.
Acker's career has been built around key moments and professional experiences in her life. Particularly, her time working right after college impacted the type of legal work she takes on now.
Shaping Her Career
Acker didn't foresee doing this kind of work on television when she was in college at either Howard University or Yale Law. “I was really open in college about what would happen next," Acker comments. “In fact, I deliberately chose a major (English) that wouldn't lock me into anything [because] I wanted to keep all of my options open." Her inevitable success on the show and throughout her career is an example of that. In fact, after graduating from Yale, Acker served as a judicial law clerk to Judge Dorothy Nelson who sits on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
It was not only her first job out of law school but also one of the formative experiences of her professional life. “[Judge Nelson is] certainly, if not my most important professional influence," Acker says. “She is really the living embodiment of justice, fairness, and believes in being faithful to the letter and the spirit of the law," she exclaims. “She delivers it all with a lot of love." Judge Nelson is still on the bench and is continuing to work through her Foundation: The Western Justice Center in Pasadena, California, where Acker serves on the board. The foundation helps people seeking alternative ways of resolving their disputes instead of going to court.
"I enjoy being a part of a process where you can help resolve the conflicts and diffuse them," she explains.
“It was important to her to try and create platforms for people to resolve conflict outside of court because court takes a long time," Acker explains. “I'm proud to be a part of that work and to sit on that board."
After her clerkship, she was awarded a Bristow Fellowship and continued building her career. Outside of the fellowship, Acker's legal work incorporated a broad variety of matters from civil litigation, constitutional cases, business counseling, and advising. One of her most memorable moments was representing a group of homeless people against the city. “They were being fought for vagrancy and our defense was, they had no place to go," she shares.
As part of her pro bono work, Acker was awarded the ACLU's First Amendment Award for her success with the case. Though, she has a hard time choosing from one of many memorable moments on Hot Bench. Acker does share a few of the things that matter to her. “Our show is really drawn from a cross-section of courtrooms across America and the chance to engage with such a diverse group of people really means a lot to me," she discusses.
How Did Acker Become A Judge?
In addition to Judge Nelson, Judge Judy is certainly among her top professional influences. “I think it's incredible [and] I feel very lucky that my professional career has been bookended by these incredible judges," she acclaims. “I've really learned a lot from Judy about this job, doing this kind of job on television." Before Acker was selected for Hot Bench, she hadn't been a judge. It was Judge Judy who recommended that she get some experience. Acker briefly comments on her first experience as a temporary judge on a volunteer basis in traffic court. “I was happy to be able to have the chance to kind of get a feel for it before we started doing the show," she comments. “Judy is a wonderful, kind, generous person [and] she's taught me quite a lot. I feel lucky."
Photo Courtesy of Annie Shak.
Acker's Time Away From Home
Outside of Hot Bench, Acker took recent trips to Haiti and Alabama. They were memorable and meaningful.
Haiti, in particular, was the first trip she excitedly talks about. She did some work there in an orphanage as part of LOVE Takes Root, an organization that is driven to help children around the world whether it's basic aid or education. “Haiti has a special place in my heart," she began. “As a person who's descended from enslaved people, I have a lot of honor and reverence for a country that threw off the shackles of slavery."
She was intrigued by the history of Haiti. Especially regarding the communities, corrupt government and natural disasters. “They really had to endure a lot, but I tell you this when I was there, I saw people who were more elegant, dignified, gracious and generous as any group of people I've ever met anywhere in the world," she goes on. “I think it left me with was a strong sense of how you can be graceful and elegant under fire." Acker is optimistic about the country's overall growth and success.
“[Judge Nelson is] certainly, if not my most important professional influence," Acker says. “She is really the living embodiment of justice, fairness, and believes in being faithful to the letter and the spirit of the law."
“There are certainly times when people treated me differently or made assumptions about me because I was a black woman," Acker says. “I've got it much better, but that doesn't mean it's perfect...it certainly isn't, but you just have to keep it moving."
Her other trip was different in more ways than one. She traveled there for the first time with her mother as part of a get out to vote effort, that Alabama's First black House Minority Leader, Anthony Daniels was organizing. “It was incredible to take that trip with her [and] I've got to tell you, the South of today is not the South of my mother's upbringing," she explains. Originally from Mississippi, Acker's mother hasn't been back in the South since 1952. “Every place has a ways to go, but it was a really exciting trip [and] it was nice for me to connect with that part of the country and that part of my history."
Overcoming Racial Barriers
As a black woman, Acker has certainly faced challenges based on her race and gender. But it doesn't define who she is or what she can accomplish. “There are certainly times when people treated me differently or made assumptions about me because I was a black woman," she says. “There's no sort of barrier that someone would attempt to impose upon me that they didn't attempt to impose on my mother, grandmother or great-grandmother." In a space where disparity is sometimes apparent, she recognizes that there is no barrier someone would try to impose on her that they didn't attempt to impose on her mother or grandmothers. “I've got it much better, but that doesn't mean it's perfect...it certainly isn't, but you just have to keep it moving," Acker states. The conversation continues truthfully and seriously. Acker shares what it can be like for black women, specifically. “I think we're underestimated and we can be disrespected, whereas other folks are allowed the freedom to enjoy a full range of emotions and feelings," she articulates.
At times black women are often restricted from expressing themselves. “If someone wants to make an assumption or jump to a conclusion about me because of my race or gender, that's on them, but their assumptions aren't going to define me," Acker declares. “If something makes me angry or happy I will express that and if someone wants to caricature me, that's their pigeonholing; that's not my problem." A lifelong lesson she learned and shared is to not let other people define who you are. It is one of three bits of wisdom.
Three Pieces Of Advice From Judge Acker
The Power Of Self-awareness
“It's really important that you have a really firm sense of what you want to do and be, and how you're moving in the world because when people try to sway you, judge you or steer you off course you've got to have some basis for getting back on track."
Know Your Support System
“Have a strong community of people who you trust, love and who love you," she advises. “But also learn to love and trust yourself because sometimes it's your own voice that can provide you the most comfort or solace in something."
Learn From Your Experiences
“Trust yourself. Take care of yourself. Don't be too hard on yourself. Be honest with yourself.
“There are times when it's not enough to say this is who I am. Take it or leave it. Sometimes we've got things that we need to work on, change or improve upon," she concludes.
Acker stands out not only because of her accomplishments, but the way she views certain aspects of her life. These days, she's comfortable accepting what makes her different. “I think there's a time when you're younger when conformity feels comfortable, [but] I'm comfortable these days not conforming," she laughs. She enjoys being a decision maker and helping people work through it on Hot Bench.
This article was originally published May 15, 2019.