If I were to tell a story about a girl who, at just nine years old, was thrust into the bright lights of Hollywood fame, who lived publicly through her parents’ divorce and father’s gender transition all in a matter of years – who can’t go outside on a whim, who lives in an alternate reality – I think perhaps you’d despair a little. I think you would carefully consider the chaos of her life and come to the conclusion it’s unnatural, and that it would stunt the growth of any living thing due to the suffocating poison of its surrounds.
If I went and told you it was Kylie Jenner, you’d laugh and move on with your day.
Kylie Jenner is not living in the depths of poverty, nor is is she living on the streets without family and food and love. To suggest she’s more worthy of our sympathy than someone without any of the above would be irresponsible and deeply shallow. However, if Kylie Jenner was a woman by any other name, her story probably wouldn’t be one we snicker at.
Just over a week ago, the youngest Kardashian/Jenner gave birth to a baby girl, Stormi.
While baby news is objectively happy news on all fronts – after all, what shakes your perspective more than a tiny human with tiny toes relying on you for life – there’s something curious about a 20-year-old having a child when she’s not yet been one herself.
When she was just nine years old, Kylie Jenner’s family became one of the most famous families in the entire world. Every detail of their lives became fodder for public consumption: Their love lives, their quarrels, their vices. The more detail, the better.
Kylie was a child. One who had no say in the matter.
Listen: Is it a bit rich for a family who’ve built their brand in the public eye to ask for privacy? The Mamamia Out Loud team discuss. Post continues after audio.
Her sisters, for reference (Kourtney, Kim and Khloe) were 28, 27 and 23 respectively when Keeping Up With The Kardashians first aired. Their childhoods were largely private, their teen years ones that were lived behind closed doors. As adults with agency and more than two decades of relative (‘relative’ being the operative word in that sentence) anonymity under their belts, they took hold of their own narrative and made that narrative their job.
Kylie Jenner, along with her sister Kendall, wasn’t afforded such luxury. As children they grew up in a prism of fame and vanity and money, the scaffolding of which had been made for them to grow in, exist in and work in.
She was never given a choice, and we never gave her a chance.
At 16, she began playing with her face, willing it to change through cosmetic procedures.
Speaking to her therapist on Life of Kylie in 2017 – because if you’re a Jenner, not even a therapist session is sacred – she explained why she began getting lip fillers as a teenager: “I was 15 and I was insecure about my lips. I had really small lips, and it was, like, one of my first kisses, and a guy was like, ‘I didn’t think you’d be a good kisser because you have such small lips’.
“I took that really hard.
“I would overline my lips with the lip liner to create the illusion of bigger lips and then, finally, I was like, this lip liner isn’t doing it and ended up getting my lips done.
“It sticks with you – it just got in there.”
Kylie Jenner is no anomaly when it comes to teenage insecurity, but she is the anomaly when it comes to the ease at which such insecurities are “fixed”.
In 2015, she wrote on Instagram: “My every move has been documented for the whole world and its been a nightmare trying to find myself through all of this. And I’ve absolutely lost a part of myself.”
That same year, and at the age of just 17, she told Interview Magazine her biggest fear is waking up to mountains of online hate.
“I wake up every morning with the worst anxiety,” she said. “I wake up every morning at, like, seven or eight because I think that there’s a bad story about me, and I have to check. My worst fear is waking up and finding something bad about me on the internet.”
In Life of Kylie, she called herself an outcast in her own life because of her distinct inability to relate to "normal" people.
There's a strange resentment we have for people who are perceived to be piggy-backing off stupidity to make a career. A certain eye-roll we reserve for the famous without reason for fame, the rich without talent to boot. And so, in the case of one Kylie Jenner, there's little space in our energy levels for empathy. She has hundreds of millions sitting idle in a bank, what is there to mope about?
Of course, to assume Kylie Jenner is fine would be to assume that both dollar bills and a big business nurtures the soul. As if the way to quantify happiness is by the figure in our bank accounts and the number of followers on Instagram. This, we know by now, is an equation that simply doesn't add up.
In fact, the things that make us resilient and good and happy people are the things that were stolen from Jenner before she hit double-figures: the ability to f*ck up and learn privately, the ability to roam free, the ability to create everyday bonds with the people with love, the ability to live free (at least for a little while) from public abuse, hate and criticism.
Last year, Rachel Simon wrote for Bustle that we shouldn't be espousing too much sympathy for Jenner:
"Despite what Jenner says, she isn't forced to live her life this way. At 19, with plenty of money and a massive business, the star is a bonafide adult who has the ability to make her own choices. No one — not Kris, not the paparazzi, not her fans — is holding her hostage and making her be 'Kylie F**king Jenner' at all times," she wrote.
But actually, they are. Decisions and life choices aren't made in a vacuum but instead with context and family and experience. Kylie Jenner can't give it all up, because Kylie Jenner doesn't know what she's giving it all up for.
There's almost nothing in this world that is a god-given right; not health or happiness or even falling in love. But being a child, living as a child, having the protection of your status as a child should be the one absolute in a world painted with grey.
It's interesting that despite never being one herself, Kylie Jenner is about to raise a child.
And we're just about falling over ourselves as a means of celebrating that fact.