This video is a really good example of the problem with Kendall Jenner.
She’s … game, insomuch as someone wearing a pink satin bathrobe singing Rihanna karaoke can be game, but it’s clear she doesn’t want to be there. She’s just doing it for the camera, and the only time she starts to come into her own is when the breakdown happens and she and Olivier Rousteing ham-dance and she can perform her perfectly practiced dance moves. Rousteing is out there for the “yellow diamonds in the light,” and Jenner is worried if her makeup looks OK.
The best supermodels truly DGAF, and it translates on camera. These are the supermodels of yesteryear, the Naomi Campbells and Cindy Crawfords, the models who came to slay all day and didn’t appear slightly uncomfortable in their own skin. Perhaps the best example of this we have in the present-day, new wave of young models is Lily-Rose Depp, who always appears at once perfectly composed and also a little messy before the camera.
Another good illustration of the problem with Jenner is this cover of V magazine, which Kenny just dropped on Instagram last week. She’s shot by Mario Testino, pantomiming receiving a huge snake tattoo slithering up her thigh. But there’s something missing from the shot—there’s no spark. The final image is one that registers as lackluster, rather than reading dangerous or edgy.
Sure, you can hate on Jenner for doing that Pepsi commercial (or that ballet shoot for Spanish Vogue), but that’s not even the main problem (though both are certainly problematic). The issue lies more within the look on her face for most of the accompanying video—tentative, tiptoeing, as though she weren’t really sure if this was the right thing to do, or if perhaps it should be this. Does Kendall Jenner ever think for herself? I’m not sure.
I will say, though, that her decision to ignore the soda controversy altogether is appalling. After she deleted everything on social media with mention of the commercial, Jenner went dark for nine days—only to reappear today to tweet about her forthcoming Harper’s Bazaar cover, on which she’s quoted as saying, “I’m more of a Jenner than a Kardashian.” OK, Kendall. Sit down.
Also, just to further drive the nail in the coffin, she (a.k.a. a ghostwriter) published a post on her app today titled, “Where I Go to Get My Grilled Cheese On.” Um, not now Kendall. Actually, how about never? Sorry, but literally no one cares where you get your grilled cheese sandwiches.
Where is the apology? Even Pepsi issued one, and though it doesn’t excuse them from making light of police brutality, social justice, racial tension, troubling issues of class and wealth, and a whole host of other problems that I don’t have the time nor the energy to mention here, at least they acknowledged that they were wrong (and took some responsibility). You can’t watch the Pepsi commercial on any of their channels anymore, but you can catch it on the Kendall and Kylie YouTube channel, right alongside a video featuring Jenner dolled up like Marilyn Monroe (but, once again, not quite selling it—and why is she so terrible at lip-synching?!).
And then, of course, there’s the question of pedigree. Lots of people have said Jenner isn’t a “true supermodel,” including, famously, Rebecca Romijn. But then again, no one seems to have issue with models like Kaia Gerber or Georgia May Jagger, and they certainly didn’t wander in off the street.
Don’t get me wrong: At one time, I was a fan of Jenner’s. I really liked that weird neckline she tried to make a thing last year. I oohed and aahed alongside the best of them when she came out on the red carpet a few years ago in a dress with double slits up to there. I was rooting for her.
Jenner is only 21; she has plenty of time to find a way to telegraph something more than tentative on camera (and in life). Certainly, she’s still considered a rising star. But it’s no coincidence that we’ve found people are less and less interested in her antics of late, and her decision to be part of that Pepsi commercial was ignorant and tone-deaf at very best. The outrage about that commercial is already dying down, and she’ll go back to being largely forgettable—though she’ll definitely be wandering around with a scarlet “P” where’er she goes for a while. But, with time, people will forget, just like those lip injection rumors or her comment that she’d had an entire wall painted pink because, in part, the hue is said to suppress appetite.
Ahead, we track Jenner’s career from when it really started taking off through the present. It’s clear her look has changed, and it’s obvious that she’s trying to stay relevant. But in a world where spontaneity is valued and authenticity is key, Jenner may be falling behind—surpassed even by pals Gigi and Bella Hadid. It’s too soon to tell what’s next for Jenner, and it’s clear we’ll be seeing plenty more of her in the future. But as to whether anyone musters up any deep excitement about it, well—that’s up for debate.