How many of us have gotten into an argument or little tiff over a misconstrued text message? At least 70% of millennials prefer texting to in-person communication, so I would assume at least 70% of us know that feeling of reading a text and immediately thinking, “Wow chill out,” because we’ve read the message in a certain tone in our own minds. Or that feeling of sending a harmless text and then discovering our few words have really offended the person on the receiving end. That’s the thing about written communication—it will never convey the actual tone that it was intended to be said in (no matter how many ?emojis you use).
So isn’t that what happened with Kendall Jenner this week? Discussing her modeling career, the 22-year-old said to LOVE Magazine, “Since the beginning we’ve been super selective about what shows I would do. I was never one of those girls who would do, like, 30 shows a season or whatever the fuck those girls do. More power to ’em.” And her comment was immediately interpreted by just about the entire modeling industry as a remark of entitlement.
Whether or not the Kardashian-Jenner clan is self-made or wholly privileged has been the topic of debate for quite a bit this summer, but what isn’t debatable is the fact that Kendall Jenner has the opportunity to pick and choose what jobs she takes. Unlike other models, she hasn’t had to rely on modeling to bring her fame or pay the bills.
Kendall’s quote was shared in a post on LOVE‘s Instagram, which has since been removed, but now fellow models have still been voicing their responses to the comment. Model Jac Jagaciak wrote, “This makes me so angry. So disrespectful to literally 99% of people in the industry—yes, they had to work their way up. Please get in touch with the real world!”
“Maybe ‘those girls’ need to pay their bills that’s why they are doing 30 shows? No words …” wrote model Vita Sidorkina. And Peyton Knight shared, “This kinda disrespect towards other models who have NO NAME for themselves walking into the industry is disgusting. We don’t get to ‘choose’ which shows to do, and it’s an honour to do a lot … If we said no to multiple jobs we wouldn’t have a career. #ENDTHEPRIVILEGE.”
Kendall has responded to the backlash, explaining that her words were misrepresented. But before we get into that, let’s take a moment to perform a little dissection on the original quote, taking it apart and looking at it from every angle. Pretend we’re in a survey of English literature and the excerpt is from a Wordsworth poem, okay?
Since the beginning we’ve been super selective about what shows I would do. I was never one of those girls who would do, like, 30 shows a season or whatever the fuck those girls do. More power to ’em.
Okay, the first line is easy. Since the beginning we’ve been super selective about what shows I would do. Kendall and her team have been selective. Using what I know about her, I would infer that as part of a high profile family that is associated with several fashion lines, a television network, and whatnot, the Kardashian-Jenner clan publicity team would need to make sure that whatever Kendall supported also represented the family’s values (yes, all families have values, even Kardashians).
Also, high fashion modeling is an on-the-go career, with countless runway shows crammed into short periods of time and demanding photo shoots. Kendall has other obligations; even before this remark, I wouldn’t assume modeling was her full-time career.
I see two possible interpretations to line two. I was never one of those girls who would do, like, 30 shows a season or whatever the fuck those girls do. The initial reaction to this sentence is the one that most people had when they read it: “those girls” is a derogatory connotation of models who are “below” the speaker, “whatever the fuck…” is dismissive of the obligations of the models. This interpretation deems the speaker a holier-than-thou, uppity model who believes that her colleagues are all below her.
The alternative reading to this line takes a contradictory stance. In this perspective, the term “those girls” means nothing deeper than a reference to girls who are not the speaker, and “whatever the fuck” is a vernacular way of saying that the speaker is not certain of the number of shows and workload. If we are to believe this interpretation of Kendall’s quote, she meant that she couldn’t take on or handle the amount of work other models were capable of.
The third and final line is by far the simplest. More power to ’em. This sentence defends the second interpretation of line two, as the speaker is commending “those girls.” But of course, if we are to agree with the first interpretation of line two, this line could be seen as sarcastic.
Personally, I agree with the interpretation that sees Kendall as intending the comment as an endorsement to her fellow models. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, and I have been on the sending end of that misinterpreted text message far too many times. Sure, Kendall has privileges that other models don’t experience, allowing her to be more selective with the work she picks up. But I don’t think her comment was spoken from a place of malice.
In clarifying the quote yesterday evening, she defended my interpretation, tweeting: “I was misrepresented in a recent interview over the wknd [sic] & it’s important to clarify the meaning. It was intended to be entirely complimentary but unfortunately, my words were twisted & taken out of context. I want to be clear. The respect that I have for my peers is immeasurable!”