celebrity

The other side of the Kim Kardashian Met Gala dress controversy.

This article deals with disordered eating and could be triggering for some readers. 

The most talked about dress to grace the red carpet at the 2022 Met Gala was also its worst kept secret.

For weeks, rumours had been swirling that Kim Kardashian would be wearing one of history's most infamous gowns, the glittering Jean-Louis crafted dress that Marilyn Monroe wore to serenade President John F. Kennedy on his 45th birthday in 1962. 

So there was a wave of awe and applause when The Kardashians star stepped onto the red carpet in Marilyn's gown, the original 'naked dress' taken for a spin on the Met Gala steps.

Watch the wildest Met Gala looks of all time. Post continues below.


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The dress occupies such an important place in fashion history, it's normally locked up tighter than Rapunzel in a tower. Understanding the significance of the moment, Vogue had timed an interview with Kardashian to go live the second she stepped onto the red carpet. 

According to Vogue, the multi-million dollar dress has rarely been separated from its muslin-covered dress form and worn by no one other than Marilyn herself, so Kardashian was first invited to try on a replica which Vogue says fit her perfectly.

Marilyn Monroe sings 'Happy Birthday' to President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden, for his upcoming 45th birthday in 1962. Image: Getty. 

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However, when the original dress made its way to Kardashian's home via private plane, she discovered she couldn't actually fit into it, saying "I always thought she was extremely curvy. I imagined I might be smaller in some places where she was bigger and bigger in places where she was smaller. So when it didn’t fit me I wanted to cry because it can’t be altered at all."

With only a few months to go before the gala, Kardashian told Vogue she only had two choices: "Slim down to fit into the dress or find something else to wear. In her mind, there was only one real option." 

“It was this or nothing,” she said, before going on to outline in detail the steps she had taken to fit into the dress. “I would wear a sauna suit twice a day, run on the treadmill, completely cut out all sugar and all carbs, and just eat the cleanest veggies and protein.

“I didn’t starve myself, but I was so strict.”

Since the Vogue interview went live, there have been valid concerns raised that sharing Kardashian's restrictive Met Gala preparation plan glorified a particularly toxic aspect of diet culture, and potentially triggered millions of readers who came across her words and felt this sentiment push them backward into dangerously unhealthy eating habits.

However, as with everything in life (and with the Kardashians in particular), multiple ideas can be true at once.

For example, it's true that there is a minuscule group of people who live their lives on an extreme level in order to excel in a certain field. Constantly pushing their bodies to a limit no human should ever really be expected to reach, and we in turn often praise the strict lengths they go to. 

In this case, Kardashian's job is to create an enduring fashion moment on a red carpet. And the Met Gala, as the biggest fashion event of the year, is her Olympics. 

Kim Kardashian at the Met Gala. Image: Getty. 

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As a society we've always condoned the idea that a gold medal will never get placed around your neck without going to extremes so intense your body is left near breaking point. 

When I first read the Vogue piece Kim Kardashian Takes Marilyn Monroe's “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” Dress Out for a Spin, part of my mind instantly likened the extreme methods she detailed as similar to an athlete preparing for a world championship.

Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Simone Biles pushed her body to the limit when it came to her physical training and the nutrition plan that goes with it, saying, "It feels weird if I'm not in pain. I joke to my friends a lot that I am going to be in a wheelchair at 30."

Serena Williams has talked about following a strict plant-based diet, with stints of controlled carb loading and a grueling exercise regime, in the lead up to winning her many Grand Slam titles, while Olympian Cate Campbell has said "I push my body to its limits. I reach the pain threshold and then push past it." 

Seven-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady has been publicly praised for sharing his restrictive diet before games, saying that he excludes sugar, dairy, and vegetables such as tomatoes, mushrooms, and eggplant.

In the lead up to the Olympics, multiple gold medal winner Stephanie Rice ate the same thing every day for four months, training seven hours a day, and cutting most carbs from her diet, along with sugar and alcohol. 

In the case of athletes at the height of their game, the world has a history of lavishing praise upon them for excessively restricting their diets and exercising their bodies in such an extreme way that it can often leave them with injury.

So, why is it we praise athletes for sharing these extreme diet stories but in the same breath hold a woman walking a red carpet accountable for promoting unhealthy eating habits? 

Is it because, at the end of the day, we value the ability to run and jump and throw more than we value the skill that goes into creating a red carpet look, which is its own unique and elite art form.

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Kim Kardashian at the Met Gala. Image: Getty. 

Both these practices exist for entertainment purposes, representing billion-dollar industries that employ millions of people.

You might not like what Kim Kardashian stands for but the truth is the Met Gala is her Super Bowl, and yesterday thousands of people cheered for her, with the same passion as sports fans as they watch their team score a victory.

Of course, there is the caveat that the diets of athletes are often not glamorised in the same way Kardashian's "win" to fit into Marilyn's dress was, but it's still important to examine the uneven way we treat public stories of body modification.

It is also true to say that the most problematic section of the Vogue interview is that it veered into instructional territory when discussing how Kardashian had lost weight over a short period, which we know has the power to cultivate and trigger disordered eating patterns.

On one hand, you can see why Vogue included her quotes, as much like an athlete preparing for a championship, they were attempting to build an extreme and hero-like narrative around her sacrifice for the big day. 

But as a publication (although not one with a history of sensitivity in this area) it's fair to say they could have shown better editorial judgment and withheld these particular quotes.

At the same time, due to the public cycle of body modification and praise she has been part of for decades, Kardashian was determined to get this narrative out into the news cycle on Met Gala day. Not only by giving quotes to Vogue but also by doubling down on her restrictive preparation story during her red carpet interview and likening her diet to an actor preparing for a role.

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History has taught her that nothing elicits a round of applause quite like a woman changing the size of her body, a dangerous truth driven home in recent years by the coverage around stars like Adele and Rebel Wilson. So it's easy to see why she was prepared to shrug off allegations of toxic diet culture in order to chase the praise of best dressed lists.

Listen to The Spill, Mamamia's entertainment podcast. Post continues after audio. 


There's also the other side of the Kim Kardashian Met Gala dress controversy, a dangerous truth that's hard to swallow, and that's the fact she simply articulated out loud a toxic cornerstone on which events like the Met Gala are built.

Restrictive diets bordering on starvation, punishing exercise regimes, and body modification have always been valued above all else in the entertainment and fashion industries. It's just in the last few years they've had to be more careful about hiding it from public view.

At least Kardashian's words allowed this ugliness to be placed under a public spotlight for the world to dissect. And while the fashion industry's reaction to her story was disheartening, the public sentiment calling out the problematic nature of her words was a step in the right direction.

For some people, including myself, what was more triggering than Kardashian's words was the Met Gala red carpet as a whole.

It's the world's most glamourous gathering of people who excel in movies, TV shows, music and the arts, yet out of the hundreds of people who walked that red carpet, you could barely count the number of plus-size bodies present on one hand.

Kim Kardashian may work in an elite world that exists outside our own, but her words still highlight this issue.

And even if we were to erase the Vogue article from existence, the same problem would still stand. 

For help and support for eating disorders, contact the Butterfly Foundation‘s National Support line and online service on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or email [email protected] You can also visit their website, here.

Laura Brodnik is Mamamia's Entertainment Editor and host of The Spill podcast. You can follow her on Instagram here.

Feature image: Getty / Mamamia.

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