By now Paper Magazine and Kim Kardashian are probably proudly observing the responses to what was supposed to be the post that would #BreaktheInternet. Kim’s much lauded backside presented as a creatively manipulated caricature by a famed photographer who has been down this road before. No, the images that are currently inspiring a plethora of analytical essays are not groundbreaking or innovative. The man behind the lenses – French photographer Jean-Paul Goude captured similar portraits with other models in the past and decided along with Paper Magazine that using Kim K to recreate his blueprint would be an awesome idea, considering her still soaring popularity and immense contribution to pop culture.
There is no doubt that the Reality TV empress is the best choice for this particular project. But there are other serious implications that accompany her ambitious spread. The historical references stem from what the author at The Grio accurately pointed when she described her reaction when she saw the infamous layout. Centuries ago, a Black women named Sarah “Saartijie” Baartman (her last name boasted many variations), spent majority of her life being mocked and subjected to forms of sexual abuse due to her enlarged buttocks. She was known as the Hottentot Venus from Namibia and was forced to parade around as the freak of nature she was deemed to be. Not so funny now – is it? Kim Kardashian’s attempt at something artfully radical is actually a pathetic representation of a time when being a Black woman with an obviously generous derriere was used as a tool to once again downgrade her worth as a human being.
Jean-Paul Goude who also dated and photographed Grace Jones, admitted his fascination with “Black girls” to People Magazine back in 1978. “I had jungle fever”. “Blacks are the premise of my work”. Ironically the original picture that Kim K expertly replicates shows a Black woman standing in front of a blue wall as she balances a glass on her butt while popping a bottle of champagne. Jean-Paul’s apparent “fetish” for black woman has had the potential to slide into muddy waters. He has been vocal about his outrageous treatment of Black women, including referring to his girlfriends as “schizo…outrageous bitches”. The pictures he took of then girlfriend Grace Jones illustrated his penchant for humiliating his subjects for his pleasure. In one of the shots – she is in a cage, raging like an animal.
This latest reincarnation may be deemed as an innocent collaborative effort, but it should also be recognized as another resurgence of Black women being exploited at the expense of those who either choose to ignore the repercussions or are too jaded to care.