Instagram stars are the latest incarnation of Superbloggers, following the trail of “real-life” people who have skillfully cracked the visual code, affording them a the leap into stardom, and public fame.
She’s young (20 years old), beautiful (her pout is perfectly rounded, her cheeks plump), wealthy (she frequents Chateau Marmont, and even featured on Rich Kids of Instagram), and white. Her name is Eileen Kelly, aka Killerandasweetthang. She has 306,000 followers on Instagram to date. Kelly curates her images in a way that is not intended to arouse, but rather to project an image of “self-love,” following on the trail of empowerment narratives of unmediated, total body positivity and confidence. Fortunately for Kelly, she was gifted with an almost unfaultable appearance, sliding perfectly into beauty standards and norms of ideal femininity. Her waist is perfectly synched, her bum toned, with no visible signs of cellulite or stretch marks. Although Nabokov’s Lolita comes to minds, Kelly negates such distinctions, instead asserts, “I’m relatable. I’m human!” (Refinery29).
I started this blog post while reading The Taste and Aftertaste of Asian Superbloggers, and found myself recalling a girl who I stumbled over on Instagram, a girl who conveniently stole (coded: bought) the jacket I’ve been wanting for the past 2 months— a baby pink version of a jacket I’ve been wanting for a longer 2 or so years (the jacket was being sold at a vintage store specializing in goods sourced in Japan. It was retailing for $500). The jacket, a Sukajan, is fittingly an Asian-commodity now being mass consumed by a predominately (white) U.S. market. Like Japanese Net Idols, who “produce their own websites that feature personal photos and narratives characterized by cute aesthetics and practices” (47), Kelly relies on the production of “cuteness” to create her soft image, which although is constructed for a largely young female teen audience, is none the less scripted specifically for a male audience and gaze.
Her aesthetic, which projects a devilish, flirtatious, youthfulness co-opts similar visual codes reminiscent of Asian cuteness. In this way, Kelly (along with her counterparts see: @babegal.lee @arvidabystrom) can be read as the aftertaste of Asian cute productions.
Image: google images
As pointed to in The Taste and Aftertaste of Asian Superbloggers, cute culture was previously consumed by a predominately American audience. In its “aftertaste,” the original producers (predominately young, Asian females) have been replaced by white bodies. More specifically, the producers are seemingly always white females, who appear to be of middle to upper-class America. While Kelly’s own sexuality appears fluid (I can’t account for how she would identify herself, except for conclusions drawn by her multiple mentions of past “bad-boyfriends”), on occasion posting sexually suggestive images of her with other females, it is always conditioned by an absent, yet supposed male audience.
Kelly relies on her ability to perform “cute work” for a wanting (imagined) audience, and similar to both Net Idols, and Superbloggers, concedes she does not get paid for any of her work online. Rather, sees it as an investment in building her own personal brand and image for the future.
Earlier in January, Kelly was featured in an article for the New York Post. The title of the article “I fuel fantasies of men who want sex with young girls, and I’m fine with it,” left Kelly feeling exploited and used. The problems I similarly have with Kelly is that she makes claims to subverting an oppressive (white) heteropatriarchy, while failing to account for the fact that these same hegemonic structures enable figures such as her to reach such wide-spread attention (and “success”). Her image is not an inclusive one, and relatable to a small few. Her overly publicized sexuality induces a sentiment of inferiority amongst her female audiences as they are made aware of their own body anxieties, which disable them from expressing, and accessing their own sexuality so liberally.
Image: @killerandasweetthang. Jacket being fought over.
*See: her recent twitter posts calling out U.S. clothing brand Brandy Melville for their narrow, and “racist” depiction of women, who she states “is literally what’s wrong w this culture,” twitter.com/eileezy
…Now I’m just waiting for Kelly to out herself with the headline “20 year-old performance artist creates fictitious character on Instagram.”
Sidenote: a really interesting (and well written) article speaking on Kelly, titled “My Kind of Porn,” (see link under further reading) goes into the fetishization of Kelly’s online person, and the dialectics of female anxieties being scripted on and against the idealized images of Kelly’s prescriptive beauty. It wasn’t until reading that I was able to implicate my own repulsion, and intrigue that has enthralled part of me to constantly pull me back to stalking Kelly’s Instagram. A space where I can implant my own desires and read my personal bodily aesthetics against (something that, like the consumption of pornography, is always done in private).