Love her or hate her, there's no denying that Kim Kardashian is 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?"
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."
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."
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.